What does the saying "Beware the Ides of March!" mean? It refers to the day - March 15, 44 BCE - on which Gaius Julius Caesar, one-time dictator of ancient Rome, was murdered. His grisly assassination was legendary. But just as infamous were the conspirators behind one of the most well-known deaths in history. So just who had Julius Caesar killed?
The assassins who killed Julius Caesar (Roman senators, in large part) were an aristocratic bunch that was infuriated with the dictator's seizure of power. From his very, very close pals - like his mentees Brutus and Decimus - to his former brother-in-law and just generally discontented senators, everybody had a reason to want Caesar six feet under. And they got their wish, although they segmented an already fractured Republic into a gazillion more pieces, brought about another civil war, and ultimately helped create the Roman Empire.
Learn all about Brutus, Cassius, Decimus, and their cohorts here, and vote up the nuttiest of the Romans who killed Julius Caesar.
Servilius Casca, the One Who Struck FirstPhoto: Vincenzo Camuccini/Public Domain / via Wikimedia Commons
Amidst the dozens of men who were lined up to kill Caesar, Publius Servilius Casca was first in line to stab him. He aimed for Caesar's throat, according to Appian, but "swerved and wounded him in the breast.” Caesar managed to throw Casca off, but everyone else then attacked. Plutarch recorded a heartbreaking moment between Casca, his brother, and Caesar: “At almost the same instant both cried out, the smitten man in Latin: 'Accursed Casca, what does thou?' and the smiter, in Greek, to his brother: 'Brother, help!'"
Casca went on to become Tribune of the People, but like many other conspirators, he didn't thrive for long. He committed suicide with his brother after Philippi.Was he the craziest?
Gaius Casca, Who Delivered the Second Blow
Brother of Servilius, who hit Caesar first, Gaius Casca was the second to stab Julius. According to Nicolaus of Damascus, Servilius "called to his brother, speaking in Greek in his excitement," asking him to get in on the "fun." Gaius "obeyed him and drove his sword into Caesar's side," striking another blow. That one, which hit Caesar in the ribs, might've been the one to kill him.Was he the craziest?
Gaius Cassius Parmensis, Who Survived the Longest
Of all the conspirators, this Cassius may have had the happiest ending. After Brutus and Cassius Longinus's death, says Appian, Parmensis still had a command from his dead friends to “[gather a] fleet and an army to collect money” in Asia. He kept thirty of the ships from Rhodes and burned the rest, but two guys named Clodius and Turulius (who was super-rich) joined him. Says Appian, “To this fleet, which was now quite powerful, flocked those who were rendering service in various parts of Asia, and they manned the ships with soldiers as well as they could, and with slaves, prisoners, and inhabitants of the islands where they touched, as rowers.” They sailed to the Adriatic and met up with some more friends there.
Later, he allied himself with Sextus Pompey, son of Pompey the Great… another bad idea. After the Battle of Actium in 31 BCE, Octavian had him killed. Concludes Velleius, “The last of Caesar's assassins to pay the penalty of death was Cassius of Parma, as Trebonius had been the first.” According to Valerius Maximus, Cassius had a bad dream about a demon; shortly after, Augustus sent men to kill him.
Still, Cassius Parmensis survived thirteen years after Caesar’s assassination, and his reputation as a writer lives on. He wrote two tragedies we know of, called Thyestes and Brutus (awkward!). No wonder Octavian didn’t like him – Suetonius says he once called Octavian bad names, taunting Augustus "with being the grandson both of a baker and of a money-changer, saying in one of his letters: 'Your mother's meal came from a vulgar bakeshop of Aricia; this a money-changer from Nerulum kneaded into shape with hands stained with filthy lucre."'Was he the craziest?
Decimus Turullius, Who Committed Sacrilege
This Decimus had fought alongside Caesar's BFF Antony, of all people, at Actium, where they were defeated by Caesar's heir Octavian. That came back to bite him, though.
Augustus (f.k.a. Octavian) had one of his adoptive father's assassins killed on a religious pretext, but he also avenged Caesar in the process. While building Antony’s fleet, Turullius cut down parts of a grove sacred to the god Aesculapius, says Valerius Maximus. At the very same time as this happened, Antony was beaten in battle, Maximus says. “Augustus commanded that Turullius be put to death,” and Maximus states Aesculapius dragged the sacrilegious man into the very grove he’d desecrated. To fit the punishment to the crime, Maximus states, “The god made sure that Augustus' soldiers killed him there rather than anywhere else.”Was he the craziest?