Chapter 1: Emperor AugustusGaius Julius Caesar Augustus Magnus was one of the three greatest founding fathers of the Roman Empire, a legendary Roman general and statesman who had been celebrated as a hero, a tyrant, and everything in between. Some saw him as a saviour who brought stability and prosperity to the troubled Roman Republic, while others viewed him as a power-hungry dictator who undermined the very foundations of the Roman Republic. Nevertheless, there was no denying his immense impact on Roman history, from his conquest of Gaul to his reforms of the Roman legal system, and his legacy continues to be felt today. Despite the controversy surrounding his rule, many continue to study his life and leadership for insights into the workings of power and the art of governance.
His rise to power had been a long and arduous journey, marked by conflict and controversy. Despite his many detractors, he had managed to maintain a firm grip on the reins of power, leveraging his immense wealth, charisma and military prowess to outmanoeuvre his rivals time and again. However, his opponents remained determined to bring him down, and their latest plot was the most daring yet. While Caesar was aware of the dangers that surrounded him, he remained confident in his popularity among the people and his ability to navigate the complex web of Roman politics. Little did he know that the events of Ides of March would change the course of Roman history forever.
On the morning of the Ides of March in 710 AUC Caesar made his way to the Curia of Pompey to attend a session of the Roman Senate.. As he made his way through the crowded streets of Rome, he was surrounded by a throng of admirers and supporters, all eager to catch a glimpse of the great man. However, amidst the crowds lurked a group of conspirators, who were determined to bring about Caesar's downfall. At the centre of the plot were two senators: Gaius Cassius Longinus and Marcus Junius Brutus. They and the rest of the conspirators believed Caesar had become too powerful and had undermined the Roman Republic.
The plot to assassinate Caesar had been in the works for weeks, and the conspirators had carefully planned every detail. They had chosen the Ides of March because Caesar would have departed Rome on his military campaign against Dacia and Parthia a few days later. The conspirators had also taken precautions to ensure that weapons were not brought into the sacred border of Rome and the senator meeting would by chance take place at the temporary Curia of Pompey outside the wall of the city. In addition, they had carefully selected which senators would be involved in the attack and had given them specific roles to play. Despite their meticulous planning, the success of their plot was far from certain, and the outcome would ultimately hinge on a few critical moments in the Senate chamber.
As Caesar took his seat in the Senate chamber, he was unaware that a few of senators around him were armed with concealed daggers, ready to strike. Before the meeting could formally begin, Lucius Tillius Cimber, one of the conspirators, approached Caesar, petitioned him to recall his brother from exile. As Cimber made his appeal, the rest of the conspirators slowly fanned out and surrendered Caesar. Still seated, Caesar, sensing that something was amiss, refused the request. Then suddenly Cimber grabbed him by the shoulder and pulled down his tunic, a signal for the others to begin their attack.
At this moment, Publius Servilius Casca, another conspirator, swiftly drew his dagger and lunged towards Caesar. However, in his agitated state, he missed his mark and only managed to graze Caesar's shoulder. Reacting quickly, Caesar managed to grab hold of Casca's dagger. With the dagger in his possession, he was able to skillfully deflect an attack aimed at his face by Cassius. As Caesar rose to his feet, he unknowingly backed into Titidieus, who was also a part of the conspiracy, and thrusted at him with a dagger. But, armed with his own dagger and alert from the earlier attack, Caesar was able to evade the potentially fatal blow from Titidieus.
The sudden violence had taken the other senators in the chamber aback, but they did not offer any help to the conspirators, as they had hoped. In a state of shock, Marcus Antonius pushed away Trebonius, another conspirator who was holding him back, and rushed inside the Senator chamber after hearing the news that Caesar was being attacked. He impulsively grabbed a dagger from Cimber unaware of his surroundings, and Antonius quickly joined forces with Caesar. With no support from the senators and caught between two skilled fighters, the conspirators realised they were doomed to failure and prayed for mercy.
Caesar accepted the surrender of the conspirators and ordered their imprisonment. Despite their past opposition to Caesar, many senators, including the staunch Republican Cicero, condemned the assassination plot. Cicero warned that the violent removal of a leader could set a dangerous precedent and lead to further instability and bloodshed. He drew parallels to the murder of the Gracchi Brothers less than one century ago, which had caused deep divisions among the Roman people, and argued that such acts could only further divide and weaken the state.
Caesar’s supporters hailed his survival as a sign of divine protection, but he was deeply shaken and betrayed some of his closest advisors and friends who had conspired against him. A treason court was set up to bring the conspirators to justice, and though the assassination plot was unpopular among both the Senate and the people, the verdict of the court was never in doubt. Caesar used the trials to reinforce his commitment to the principles of the Roman Republic, insisting that he was not a king or a tyrant and that no proscriptions would be declared.
Those who directly participated in the assassination attempt, including Brutus and Cassius, and those who had previously been pardoned were executed for high treason. Some conspirators were shown mercy and pardoned, while others were stripped of their citizenship and sent into exile. Only a small minority of the Senate was implicated in the purge, and they were replaced with senators loyal to Caesar. However, those who were pardoned had their political careers effectively ended. To let the situation cool down while he was away on his planned military campaign, Hirtius and Pansa were appointed as consuls, and Lepidus was appointed as Magister Equitum to oversee Rome in Caesar's absence.
Following the assassination attempt, Caesar realised that the Senate was too corrupt and ineffective to bring about meaningful change in Rome. Despite his previous efforts to work with the Senate, he believed that he was now the only one capable of restoring order and prosperity to the republic. He began to see himself as a necessary dictator, determined to save the republic from its downfall and become a benevolent ruler. His unwavering belief in his ability to rule and protect the republic ultimately drove him to take drastic measures, leading many historians to view his assassination attempt as the beginning of the Roman Empire in all but name.
Finally after one month of delay, Caesar left Rome for his military campaign in Dacia.