There must have been a lot of blood


The murder of Julius Caesar was a messy business. As with all assassinations, it was easier for the conspirators to plan the first blow than to predict what would happen next – never mind to have an exit strategy in reserve, should things go wrong. At a meeting of the Senate on the Ides of March in 44 BC, Tillius Cimber, a backbencher, gave the cue for the attack by kneeling at Caesar’s feet and grabbing his toga. Then Casca struck with his dagger; or tried to. Clumsily missing the target, he gave Caesar the chance to stand up and defend himself by driving his pen (the only instrument he had to hand) into Casca’s arm. This lasted just a few seconds, for at least twenty reinforcements were standing by, weapons at the ready, and quickly managed to dispatch their victim. But they had no time to take careful aim, and several of the assassins found themselves wounded by the ancient equivalent of friendly fire. According to the earliest surviving account, by the Syrian historian Nicolaus of Damascus, Cassius lunged at Caesar, but ended up gashing Brutus in the hand; Minucius missed too, and struck his ally Rubrius in the thigh instead. “There must have been a lot of blood”, as T. P. Wiseman crisply remarks in Remembering the Roman People.

more from the TLS here.