44 BCE — Julius Caesar attends his final Lupercalia

The ancient feast of the god Lupercus, Lupercalia was an annual three day festival that ran from February 13 – 15 each year. It was intended to avert evil spirits and purify the city, releasing health and fertility. It is the ancient predecessor of the Christian festival of St Valentine, which is now better known as the more secular Valentine’s Day.

According to Shakespeare, when Julius Caesar attended this particular one, he was offered the crown of a monarch three times and refused it on each of those times. Nonetheless, the reason why he was stabbed to death a month later was apparently his limitless ambition.

Referenced in:

No Tears for Caesar — William Shatner & The Rated R

49 BCE — Julius Caesar becomes Dictator of the Roman Republic

To the modern mind, the word Dictator has all sorts of unpleasant associations, and it’s true that most of the ones you’re likely thinking of right now also applied to the rule of Gaius Julius Caesar over Rome and its empire. But that’s not to say that he didn’t achieve good things as well. His rewriting of the Roman constitution created a more unified empire and suppressed revolts in the provinces. On the other hand, it also decreased the power of most Roman institutions while increasing that of the dictator, creating an inherently unstable system – at least, when the dictator was himself unstable, as several of Julius’ successors were (like Nero or Caligula).

Referenced in:

Imperial Rome — Aska

44 BCE — Julius Caesar is assassinated

Shakespeare’s verion might be better known, but the best historical account of the death of Big Julie was written by imperial biographer (and obsequious toady) Seutonius. It is from Suetonius that we have Caesar’s famous last words (asking Brutus ‘even you, my child?’, which Shakespeare rendered as ‘et tu, Brute?’) – although curiously, Seutonius himself reports those words as claimed by others, and for himself believes that Caesar said nothing.

This is somewhat hard to believe, given that Seutonius also recounts that Caesar was attacked by 60 or more men, and received a total of 23 stab wounds from his assailants – it appears that the proximate cause of death was loss of blood. (Fun fact: Caesar’s autopsy report is the earliest one to have survived to the present day.) In a larger sense, the cause of the death of Gaius Julius Caesar was political ambition – his own, and that of others.

Referenced in:

Imperial Rome — Aska
No Tears for Caesar — William Shatner & The Rated R