The Death of Caesar: The Story of History's Most Famous Assassination

by Barry S. Strauss

Hardcover, 2015

Status

Available

Publication

New York : Simon & Schuster, 2015.

Description

Thanks to William Shakespeare, the death of Julius Caesar is the most famous assassination in history. But what actually happened on March 15, 44 BC is even more gripping than the play. Strauss shows Caesar's assassination was a carefully planned paramilitary operation, put together by disaffected officers and designed with precision. The assassins rallied support among the common people, but they underestimated Caesar's soldiers, who flooded Rome. The assassins were vanquished; their beloved Republic became the Roman Empire.

Media reviews

"The last bloody day of the Republic has never been painted so brilliantly."
2 more
"Strauss made his mark as a military historian in books like “The Battle of Salamis” and “The Spartacus War,” and he’s strongest here when tracking Caesar’s army units in the days after the assassination."
"In my view, Strauss creates a powerfully contextualized and historicized understanding of the assassination, with a somewhat greater focus on the military aspects of the conspiracy, including the role of Caesar’s general Decimus, than many earlier accounts, including ancient ones."

User reviews

LibraryThing member la2bkk
An informative and very well written account of Caesar's assassination. Mr. Strauss is a highly respected historian for good reason. His analysis of the various primary sources is thorough and balanced, and he adds fresh perspectives as to the possible motivations of the various assassins.

Simple yet powerful, this is clearly the best available analysis of this famous event.… (more)
LibraryThing member janerawoof
Very readable synopsis of the world's most famous assassination, written for the educated layperson.

First part: background information on Caesar, his career, personality and many people whose lives touch his for good or ill. While reading, remember all is, as the author says, "informed speculation." The author has melded all ancient writings on the event: from Cicero [contemporaneous] to Nicolaus of Damascus [several decades after] to Plutarch, Suetonius and the latest, Cassio Dio [late 100s A.D.]. The author considers Nicolaus the most reliable, even so not perfect. Much of the sources you have to take with a shakerful of salt. Three men possibly cooked up the conspiracy: Brutus, Cassius, AND Decimus, the last maybe the ringleader. None were shining lights: all were venal, greedy, opportunistic, self-serving.... In spite of his charisma, Caesar himself was a colossal egoist and master manipulator.

Part 2: the meat of the drama: 100 times more exciting than Shakespeare, who based his play only on Plutarch. This part set out criteria for other conspirators besides these three. There were a prediction, ill omens, and dreams beforehand that Caesar blithely ignored. It was fascinating to read how the assassination was carried out and where. The pugio [military dagger] pictured on the cover was the weapon used. It struck me the television potboiler "Rome" was very accurate in its portrayal of the murder and death of Caesar. This scene is worth watching to visualize what might have been the most likely scenario. No "Et tu, Brute" in sight!

Part 3: The conspirators did kill Caesar [Phase I of their plot] but made a botch of trying to restore the Republic and taking control of the legions. The funeral was much more theatrical and melodramatic than Shakespeare. After years of fighting, Octavian emerged on top; the last conspirator was killed by 30 BC. Author's conclusions seemed a bit rushed or maybe my eyes were glazing over by that time.

This is an excellent analysis, especially Part 2. Supplementary matter was complete and useful. Highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member muddyboy
A very well researched and detailed account of the events that led up to the assassination of Julius Caesar, the event itself and the power struggle that ensued for Rome after his death. You will learn about little known conspirators that had a major hand in the event and have been virtually forgotten over time. Also, find out what motivated Brutus and Cassius to orchestrate the event. The author's thesis was that they felt Julius was usurping power and they felt they could restore the Republic. I thought it was a solid piece of writing that well appeal to all history buffs.… (more)
LibraryThing member muddyboy
A very well researched and detailed account of the events that led up to the assassination of Julius Caesar, the event itself and the power struggle that ensued for Rome after his death. You will learn about little known conspirators that had a major hand in the event and have been virtually forgotten over time. Also, find out what motivated Brutus and Cassius to orchestrate the event. The author's thesis was that they felt Julius was usurping power and they felt they could restore the Republic. I thought it was a solid piece of writing that well appeal to all history buffs.… (more)
LibraryThing member delta351
This book is very peoplecentric, in that it is tightly structured around the the major players in the topic. Took a while for me to get used to. Starts a little slow too, but it is very thorough. Guess I would like to see a smoother narrative, but includes a lot of info on the aftermath of the incident. Never realized Brutus was such significant force after the murder of Caesar. Lots of moving about and fighting by him in the east Mediterranean area.

I liked the account of Caesar's funeral, and the comparison w the story line of Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar". Prob about as historically accurate as "MacBeth".
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LibraryThing member fhudnell
This was a very well written story of the assassination of Julius Caesar, the Dictator for Life. The motives of the conspirators included jealousy, honor, hatred, self interest and the desire to defend the republic. However, they were ultimately not able to contend with the combined powers of the legions loyal to Caesar, Marc Anthony and Octavian (the teenager who became Caesar's adopted son and successor).

Despite being ill and having been told of numerous bad omens, Caesar allowed himself to be persuaded by his old comrade Decimus to go to the senate house of Pompeii on the Ides of March. The author's description of that day was very exciting but the events both before and after that day were also related in a very compelling manner.

The book was informative, entertaining and easy to follow. However, I thought that the description of the period following the assassination felt a little rushed. The narration of the audiobook by Robertson Dean was very good.
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