STARRED REVIEW
March 2015

The beginning of the end of Rome

By Barry Strauss
Review by
The most notable assassination in history, of probably the single most influential man in European history, occurred in 44 B.C. The event changed the world, but not as the assassins had planned. Why and how did it happen? In The Death of Caesar, history and classics professor Barry Strauss offers both excellent historical detective work and riveting prose.
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The most notable assassination in history, of probably the single most influential man in European history, occurred in 44 B.C. The event changed the world, but not as the assassins had planned. Why and how did it happen? In The Death of Caesar, history and classics professor Barry Strauss offers both excellent historical detective work and riveting prose.

Strauss explains the historical context of Julius Caesar’s assassination and demonstrates how it became, for all practical purposes, the end of the Republic and the beginning of the Empire.

The three main conspirators—Cassius, Brutus and Decimus—said they acted to preserve the Republic, but the truth was more complicated. Ambition, greed and perhaps envy that Caesar had selected his grandnephew, Octavian, only 18 years old, to succeed him, were also motives. Cassius probably initiated the plot, but it was his brother-in-law, Brutus, who was essential to the murder. He had the authority and a reputation for ethical behavior; if he called Caesar a tyrant, his credibility would convince others and allow fellow conspirators to remain alive. Decimus, the closest to Caesar, served with him in the army for 10 years and played a crucial role in the plot. Caesar had made a decision to stay away from the Senate that day and was tricked by his good friend to go.

The Roman people and the conspirators both wanted peace and compromise. Caesar was dead, but Caesarism—the idea that a general and his legions could conquer the Republic—lived on. What the conspirators needed was a military coup. Instead, they committed murder and made speeches.

Meticulously researched and superbly written, The Death of Caesar is a vivid and readable exploration of a momentous event.

 

This article was originally published in the March 2015 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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The Death of Caesar

The Death of Caesar

By Barry Strauss
Simon & Schuster
ISBN 9781451668797

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