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.
Simple yet powerful, this is clearly the best available analysis of this famous event.
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.
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".
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.