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had intended. "You have formally called the Senate together," said he,
"and they are now assembling. They are all prepared to confer upon you
the rank and title of king, not only in Parthia, while you are
conducting this war but every where, by sea and land, except in Italy.
And now, while they are all in their places, waiting to consummate the
great act, how absurd will it be for you to send them word to go home
again, and come back some other day, when Calpurnia shall have had
better dreams!"

[Sidenote: He persuades him to go.]

He urged, too, that, even if Caesar was determined to put off the action
of the Senate to another day, he was imperiously bound to go himself and
adjourn the session in person. So saying, he took the hesitating
potentate by the arm, and adding to his arguments a little gentle force,
conducted him along.

[Sidenote: Artemidorus discovers the plot.]
[Sidenote: He warns Caesar.]

The conspirators supposed that all was safe The fact was, however, that
all had been discovered. There was a certain Greek, a teacher of
oratory, named Artemidorus. He had contrived to learn something of the
plot from some of the conspirators who were his pupils. He wrote a brief
statement of the leading particulars, and, having no other mode of
access to Caesar, he determined to hand it to him on the way as he went
to the senate-house. Of course, the occasion was one of great public
interest, and crowds had assembled in the streets to see the great
conqueror as he went along. As usual at such times, when powerful
officers of state appear in public, many people came up to present
petitions to him as he passed. These he received, and handed them,
without reading, to his secretary who attended him, as if to have them
preserved for future examination. Artemidorus, who was waiting for his
opportunity, when he perceived what disposition Caesar made of the
papers which were given to him, began to be afraid that his own
communication would not be attended to until it was too late. He
accordingly pressed up near to Caesar, refusing to allow any one else to
pass the paper in; and when, at last, he obtained an opportunity, he
gave it directly into Caesar's hands saying to him, "Read this
immediately: it concerns yourself, and is of the utmost importance"

Caesar took the paper and attempted to read it, but new petitions and
other interruptions constantly prevented him; finally he gave up the
attempt, and went on his way, receiving and passing to his secretary all
other papers, but retaining this paper of Artemidorus in his hand.

[Sidenote: Caesar and Spurinna.]

Caesar passed Spurinna on his way to the senate-house - the soothsayer
who had predicted some great danger connected with the Ides of March. As
soon as he recognized him, he accosted him with the words, "Well,
Spurinna, the Ides of March have come, and I am safe." "Yes," replied
Spurinna, "they have come, but they are not yet over."

[Sidenote: Caesar arrives at the senate house.]

At length he arrived at the senate-house, with the paper of Artemidorus
still unread in his hand. The senators were all convened, the leading
conspirators among them. They all rose to receive Caesar as he entered.
Caesar advanced to the seat provided for him, and, when he was seated,
the senators themselves sat down. The moment had now arrived, and the
conspirators, with pale looks and beating hearts, felt that now or never
the deed was to be done.

[Sidenote: Resolution of the Conspirators.]

It requires a very considerable degree of physical courage and
hardihood for men to come to a calm and deliberate decision that they
will kill one whom they hate, and, still more, actually to strike the
blow, even when under the immediate impulse of passion. But men who are
perfectly capable of either of these often find their resolution fail
them as the time comes for striking a dagger into the living flesh of
their victim, when he sits at ease and unconcerned before them, unarmed
and defenseless, and doing nothing to excite those feelings of
irritation and anger which are generally found so necessary to nerve the
human arm to such deeds. Utter defenselessness is accordingly,
sometimes, a greater protection than an armor of steel.

[Sidenote: Caesar and Pompey's statue.]

Even Cassius himself, the originator and the soul of the whole
enterprise, found his courage hardly adequate to the work now that the
moment had arrived; and, in order to arouse the necessary excitement in
his soul, he looked up to the statue of Pompey, Caesar's ancient and
most formidable enemy, and invoked its aid. It gave him its aid. It
inspired him with some portion of the enmity with which the soul of its
great original had burned; and thus the soul of the living assassin was
nerved to its work by a sort of sympathy with a block of stone.

[Sidenote: Plan of the conspirators.]

Foreseeing the necessity of something like a stimulus to action when the
immediate moment for action should arrive, the conspirators had agreed
that, as soon as Caesar was seated, they would approach him with a
petition, which he would probably refuse, and then, gathering around
him, they would urge him with their importunities, so as to produce, in
the confusion, a sort of excitement that would make it easier for them
to strike the blow.

[Sidenote: Marc Antony.]

There was one person, a relative and friend of Caesar's, named Marcus
Antonius, called commonly, however, in English narratives, Marc Antony,
the same who has been already mentioned as having been subsequently
connected with Cleopatra. He was a very energetic and determined man,
who, they thought, might possibly attempt to defend him. To prevent
this, one of the conspirators had been designated to take him aside, and
occupy his attention with some pretended subject of discourse, ready, at
the same time, to resist and prevent his interference if he should show
himself inclined to offer any.

[Sidenote: The petition.]
[Sidenote: Caesar assaulted.]

Things being thus arranged, the petitioner, as had been agreed, advanced
to Caesar with his petition, others coming up at the same time as if to
second the request. The object of the petition was to ask for the pardon
of the brother of one of the conspirators. Caesar declined granting it.
The others then crowded around him, urging him to grant the request with
pressing importunities, all apparently reluctant to strike the first
blow. Caesar began to be alarmed, and attempted to repel them. One of
them then pulled down his robe from his neck to lay it bare. Caesar
arose, exclaiming, "But this is violence." At the same instant, one of
the conspirators struck at him with his sword, and wounded him slightly
in the neck.

[Sidenote: He resists.]

All was now terror, outcry, and confusion Caesar had no time to draw his
sword, but fought a moment with his style, a sharp instrument of iron
with which they wrote, in those days, on waxen tablets, and which he
happened then to have in his hand. With this instrument he ran one of
his enemies through the arm.

[Illustration: POMPEY'S STATUE.]

[Sidenote: Caesar is overcome.]
[Sidenote: Pompey's statue.]
[Sidenote: Caesar's death.]

This resistance was just what was necessary to excite the conspirators,
and give them the requisite resolution to finish their work. Caesar soon
saw the swords, accordingly, gleaming all around him, and thrusting
themselves at him on every side. The senators rose in confusion and
dismay, perfectly thunderstruck at the scene, and not knowing what to
do. Antony perceived that all resistance on his part would be
unavailing, and accordingly did not attempt any. Caesar defended himself
alone for a few minutes as well as he could, looking all around him in
vain for help, and retreating at the same time toward the pedestal of
Pompey's statue. At length, when he saw Brutus among his murderers, he
exclaimed, "And you too, Brutus?" and seemed from that moment to give up
in despair. He drew his robe over his face, and soon fell under the
wounds which he received. His blood ran out upon the pavement at the
foot of Pompey's statue, as if his death were a sacrifice offered to
appease his ancient enemy's revenge.

[Sidenote: Flight of the senators.]
[Sidenote: Great commotion.]

In the midst of the scene Brutus made an attempt to address the
senators, and to vindicate what they had done, but the confusion and
excitement were so great that it was impossible that any thing could be
heard. The senators were, in fact, rapidly leaving the place, going off
in every direction, and spreading the tidings over the city. The event,
of course, produced universal commotion. The citizens began to close
their shops, and some to barricade their houses, while others hurried to
and fro about the streets, anxiously inquiring for intelligence, and
wondering what dreadful event was next to be expected. Antony and
Lepidus, who were Caesar's two most faithful and influential friends,
not knowing how extensive the conspiracy might be, nor how far the
hostility to Caesar and his party might extend, fled, and, not daring to
go to their own houses, lest the assassins or their confederates might
pursue them there, sought concealment in the houses of friends on whom
they supposed they could rely and who were willing to receive them.

[Sidenote: The Conspirators proceed to the Capitol.]
[Sidenote: They glory in their deed.]

In the mean time, the conspirators, glorying In the deed which they had
perpetrated, and congratulating each other on the successful issue of
their enterprise, sallied forth together from the senate-house, leaving
the body of their victim weltering in its blood, and marched, with drawn
swords in their hands, along the streets from the senate-house to the
Capitol. Brutus went at the head of them, preceded by a liberty cap
borne upon the point of a spear, and with his bloody dagger in his hand.
The Capitol was the citadel, built magnificently upon the Capitoline
Hill, and surrounded by temples, and other sacred and civil edifices,
which made the spot the architectural wonder of the world. As Brutus and
his company proceeded thither, they announced to the citizens, as they
went along, the great deed of deliverance which they had wrought out for
the country. Instead of seeking concealment, they gloried in the work
which they had done, and they so far succeeded in inspiring others with
a portion of their enthusiasm, that some men who had really taken no
part in the deed joined Brutus and his company in their march, to obtain
by stealth a share in the glory.

[Sidenote: Number of Caesar's wounds.]

The body of Caesar lay for some time unheeded where it had fallen, the
attention of every one being turned to the excitement, which was
extending through the city, and to the expectation of other great events
which might suddenly develop themselves in other quarters of Rome. There
were left only three of Caesar's slaves, who gathered around the body to
look at the wounds. They counted them, and found the number
twenty-three. It shows, however, how strikingly, and with what
reluctance, the actors in this tragedy came up to their work at last,
that of all these twenty-three wounds only one was a mortal one. In
fact, it is probable that, while all of the conspirators struck the
victim in their turn, to fulfill the pledge which they had given to one
another that they would every one inflict a wound, each one hoped that
the fatal blow would be given, after all, by some other hand than
his own.

[Sidenote: His slaves convey his body home.]

At last the slaves decided to convey the body home. They obtained a sort
of chair, which was made to be borne by poles, and placed the body upon
it. Then, lifting at the three handles, and allowing the fourth to hang
unsupported for want of a man, they bore the ghastly remains home to the
distracted Calpurnia.

[Sidenote: Address of the conspirators.]

The next day Brutus and his associates called an assembly of the people
in the Forum, and made an address to them, explaining the motives which
had led them to the commission of the deed, and vindicating the
necessity and the justice of it. The people received these explanations
in silence. They expressed neither approbation nor displeasure. It was
not, in fact, to be expected that they would feel or evince any
satisfaction at the loss of their master. He had been their champion,
and, as they believed, their friend. The removal of Caesar brought no
accession of power nor increase of liberty to them. It might have been a
gain to ambitious senators, or powerful generals, or high officers of
state, by removing a successful rival out of their way, but it seemed to
promise little advantage to the community at large, other than the
changing of one despotism for another. Besides, a populace who know that
they mast be governed, prefer generally, if they must submit to some
control, to yield their submission to some one master spirit whom they
can look up to as a great and acknowledged superior. They had rather
have a Caesar than a Senate to command them.

[Sidenote: Feelings of the populace.]

The higher authorities, however, were, at might have been expected,
disposed to acquiesce in the removal of Caesar from his intended throne.
The Senate met, and passed an act of indemnity, to shield the
conspirators from all legal liability for the deed they had done. In
order, however, to satisfy the people too, as far as possible, they
decreed divine honors to Caesar, confirmed and ratified all that he had
done while in the exercise of supreme power, and appointed a time for
the funeral, ordering arrangements to be made for a very pompous
celebration of it.

[Sidenote: Caesar's will.]
[Sidenote: Its provisions.]

A will was soon found, which Caesar, it seems, had made some time
before. Calpurnia's father proposed that this will should be opened and
read in public at Antony's house; and this was accordingly done. The
provisions of the will were, many of them, of such a character as
renewed the feelings of interest and sympathy which the people of Rome
had begun to cherish for Caesar's memory. His vast estate was divided
chiefly among the children of his sister, as he had no children of his
own, while the very men who had been most prominent in his assassination
were named as trustees and guardians of the property; and one of them,
Decimus Brutus, the one who had been so urgent to conduct him to the
senate-house, was a second heir. He had some splendid gardens near the
Tiber, which he bequeathed to the citizens of Rome, and a large amount
of money also, to be divided among them, sufficient to give every man a
considerable sum.

[Sidenote: Preparations for Caesar's funeral.]
[Sidenote: The Field of Mars.]

The time for the celebration of the funeral ceremonies was made known by
proclamation, and, as the concourse of strangers and citizens of Rome
was likely to be so great as to forbid the forming of all into one
procession without consuming more than one day, the various classes of
the community were invited to come, each in their own way, to the Field
of Mars, bringing with them such insignia, offerings, and oblations as
they pleased. The Field of Mars was an immense parade ground, reserved
for military reviews, spectacles, and shows. A funeral pile was erected
here for the burning of the body There was to be a funeral discourse
pronounced, and Marc Antony had been designated to perform this duty.
The body had been placed in a gilded bed, under a magnificent canopy in
the form of a temple, before the rostra where the funeral discourse was
to be pronounced. The bed was covered with scarlet and cloth of gold and
at the head of it was laid the robe in which Caesar had been slain. It
was stained with blood, and pierced with the holes that the swords and
daggers of the conspirators had made.

[Sidenote: Marc Antony's oration.]
[Sidenote: The funeral pile.]

Marc Antony, instead of pronouncing a formal panegyric upon his deceased
friend, ordered a crier to read the decrees of the Senate, in which all
honors, human and divine, had been ascribed to Caesar. He then added a
few words of his own. The bed was then taken up, with the body upon it,
and borne out into the Forum, preparatory to conveying it to the pile
which had been prepared for it upon the Field of Mars, A question,
however, here arose among the multitude assembled in respect to the
proper place for burning the body. The people seemed inclined to select
the most honorable place which could be found within the limits of the
city. Some proposed a beautiful temple on the Capitoline Hill. Others
wished to take it to the senate-house, where he had been slain. The
Senate, and those who were less inclined to pay extravagant honors to
the departed hero, were in favor of some more retired spot, under
pretense that the buildings of the city would be endangered by the fire.
This discussion was fast becoming a dispute, when it was suddenly ended
by two men, with swords at their sides and knees in their hands, forcing
their way through the crowd with lighted torches, and setting the bed
and its canopy on fire where it lay.


[Sidenote: The body burned in the Forum.]

This settled the question, and the whole company were soon in the
wildest excitement with the work of building up a funeral pile upon the
spot. At first they brought fagots and threw upon the fire, then benches
from the neighboring courts and porticoes, and then any thing
combustible which came to hand. The honor done to the memory of a
deceased hero was, in some sense, in proportion to the greatness of his
funeral pile, and all the populace on this occasion began soon to seize
every thing they could find, appropriate and unappropriate, provided
that it would increase the flame. The soldiers threw on their lances and
spears, the musicians their instruments, and others stripped off the
cloths and trappings from the furniture of the procession, and heaped
them upon the burning pile.

[Sidenote: The conflagration.]

So fierce and extensive was the fire, that it spread to some of the
neighboring houses, and required great efforts to prevent a general
conflagration. The people, too, became greatly excited by the scene.
They lighted torches by the fire, and went to the houses of Brutus and
Cassius, threatening vengeance upon them for the murder of Caesar. The
authorities succeeded though with infinite difficulty, in protecting
Brutus and Cassius from the violence of the mob, but they seized one
unfortunate citizen of the name of Cinna, thinking it a certain Cinna
who had been known as an enemy of Caesar. They cut off his head,
notwithstanding his shrieks and cries, and carried it about the city on
the tip of a pike, a dreadful symbol of their hostility to the enemies
of Caesar. As frequently happens, however, in such deeds of sudden
violence, these hasty and lawless avengers found afterward that they had
made a mistake, and beheaded the wrong man.

[Sidenote: Caesar's monument.]
[Sidenote: The comet.]

The Roman people erected a column to the memory of Caesar, on which they
placed the inscription, "To THE FATHER OF HIS COUNTRY." They fixed the
figure of a star upon the summit of it, and some time afterward, while
the people were celebrating some games in honor of his memory, a great
comet blazed for seven nights in the sky, which they recognized as the
mighty hero's soul reposing in heaven.


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Online LibraryJacob AbbottHistory of Julius Caesar → online text (page 13 of 13)