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Mar 15

Beware the Ides of March

Today I am launching a series entitled Travel Back in Time that will examine events from the past with a view to assessing their impact on today’s world.

caesar assassination

The Death of Julius Caesar by Vincenzo Camuccini Wikipedia Commons

If Julius Caesar hadn’t been assassinated on the 15th of March in 44 BC, it’s debatable anyone would know what the word “ides” meant!

There would be no Shakespearean tragedy entitled Julius Caesar, no famous, “Et tu, Brute?” What a loss!

Caesar’s name itself became a title, adopted by his successor Octavian; it was promulgated by the Bible, by the famous verse, “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s”. The title became the German Kaiser and Slavic Tsar/Czar.

The murder itself had far reaching effects on the Roman Empire. The assassins did not foresee that Caesar’s death would precipitate the end of the 500 year old Roman Republic. The Roman middle and lower classes, with whom Caesar was immensely popular and had been since before Gaul, became enraged that a small group of aristocrats had killed their champion.

Antony, who had been drifting apart from Caesar, capitalized on the grief of the Roman mob and threatened to unleash them on the guilty, perhaps with the intent of taking control of Rome himself. To his surprise and chagrin, Caesar had named his grandnephew Gaius Octavian his sole heir, bequeathing him the immensely potent Caesar name and making him one of the wealthiest citizens in the Republic.

The crowd at the funeral boiled over, throwing dry branches, furniture and even clothing on to Caesar’s pyre, causing the flames to spin out of control, seriously damaging the Forum. The mob then attacked the houses of Brutus and Cassius, two of the assassins, where they were repelled only with considerable difficulty, ultimately providing the spark for the civil war, fulfilling at least in part Antony’s threat against the aristocrats.

Antony did not foresee the ultimate outcome of the next series of civil wars, particularly with regard to Caesar’s adopted heir. Octavian, aged only 18 when Caesar died, proved to have considerable political skills, and while Antony dealt with Decimus Brutus in the first round of the new civil wars, Octavian consolidated his tenuous position.

To combat Brutus and Cassius, who were massing an enormous army in Greece, Antony needed soldiers, the cash from Caesar’s war chests, and the legitimacy that Caesar’s name would provide for any action he took against them. In November 43 BC, the Second Triumvirate was officially formed, composed of Antony, Octavian, and Caesar’s loyal cavalry commander Lepidus. Because Caesar’s clemency had resulted in his murder, the Second Triumvirate reinstated the practice of proscription, abandoned since Sulla. It engaged in the legally sanctioned murder of a large number of its opponents to secure funding for its forty-five legions in the second civil war against Brutus and Cassius. Antony and Octavius defeated them at Philippi.

JuliuscaesarAfterward, Mark Antony formed an alliance with Caesar’s lover, Cleopatra, intending to use the fabulously wealthy Egypt as a base to dominate Rome. A third civil war broke out between Octavian on one hand and Antony and Cleopatra on the other. This final civil war, culminating in the latter’s defeat at Actium, resulted in the permanent ascendancy of Octavian, who became the first Roman Emperor, under the name Caesar Augustus, a name that raised him to the status of a deity.

The effects on modern day life of the expansion of the Roman Empire begun under Augustus cannot be overstated. Because of the Empire’s vast extent and long endurance, the institutions and culture of Rome had a profound and lasting influence on the development of language, religion, architecture, philosophy, law, and forms of government in the territory it governed, particularly Europe, and by means of European expansionism throughout the modern world.

BTW I’ve just released a boxed set of The Montbryce Legacy Series. Four books at significant savings.

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20 comments

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  1. Sydney

    Great post. Love to learn more about history.
    Thanks!

    1. Anna Markland

      Thanks for stopping by, Sydney. I know you’re as fascinated by history as I am. Good to know a kindred spirit.

  2. Rose Anderson

    Fabulous post, Anna. I look forward to the next. 🙂

    1. Anna Markland

      Good to see you. I have a series of great guest writers lined up.

  3. Sylvia

    Hi Anna, I agree about the effect of the Roman empire in North Africa, Europe and into Great Britain. It’s amazing what one country can do, the power and force of individual people can have. Great post, Sylvia

    1. Anna Markland

      Hi Sylvia,
      It is interesting how countries rise to greatness and dominate for a while. However, history has shown us that dominance can be fleeting.

  4. Victoria Adams

    Oooh – you made me do math to comment – ack!!
    I love history. Great post.
    Tweeted.

    1. Anna Markland

      I know. I’m numerically challenged! Thanks for persevering.

  5. Lana Williams

    Love the idea for your series of posts! Fascinating stuff, Anna! Looking forward to the next!

    1. Anna Markland

      Thanks, Lana
      I think it will be a good series. Laurel is next.

  6. Anne Stratton

    Thanks for the beautiful website and perfect setting for retelling the history that changed the world. I enjoyed your post very much and already put it on my Facebook page.

    1. Anna Markland

      Thanks, Anne
      I’m very pleased with the way the site turned out. Thanks for the FB nod.

  7. Melissa Keir

    Most people don’t think about the far reaching events that their actions will set in place. It’s interesting to think about what might have happened differently had Ceasar not been murdered. Would Rome have been as big and powerful?

    tweeted.

    1. Anna Markland

      I think Rome would have been a different place if Caesar had continued as dictator, possibly more powerful, or perhaps it would have imploded long before it did.

  8. Reggi

    Hi Anna,
    Great post! I look forward to reading more. Reggi

    1. Anna Markland

      Thanks for stopping by, Reggi.

  9. Jacqui Nelson

    Great topic, Anna. I think I’m going to love your “travel back in time” series. Looking forward to learning more about history through your eyes!

    1. Anna Markland

      I’m looking forward to it too. Thanks for stopping by.

  10. Gemma Juliana

    Anna,

    You have a way of making me love history. I can’t wait for your next post. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and wisdom so generously.

    1. Anna Markland

      Good to see you here, Gemma. It seems the older I get the more interested I become in history! Funny how that works!

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