July Fast Track 2010/2011
“Were The Conspirators Right to Murder Julius Caesar?”
Julius Caesar (100-44 BC) was one of the greatest men in history and is very infamous (Barlow in Julius Caesar Extracts “introduction”). Caesar’s rise of power began in 60 BC when he was included in the triumvirate, together with Crassus and Pompey. He gained popularity because of his victories in Mytilene, his conquest in Gaul and invasion of Britain, which proved his admirable leadership and military talent; and also his capability as an orator. However, the Senate was alarmed because of his rising fame and power (Perry et al. 2009: 135). This caused the conspiracy that ended with Caesar’s assassination. This essay discusses why the conspirators were wrong to murder Julius Caesar based on the main reasons of the conspiracy, Caesar’s achievements and qualities as a leader and the chaos after the assassination.
The conspirators’ claimed that the main reason to kill Caesar is his intention to become a king, a person that held absolute monarchic power, or was often connoted as a tyrant. It is believed that “[h]e was accused of attempting to make himself king (rex) of Rome” (Barlow in Julius Caesar Extracts “introduction”). In fact, it was Caesar himself who forbade the name “King” (Appian Civil Wars Ex. 107). He was a humble person who was afraid of getting carried away by lust of power. Although he seemed too ambitious and hunger for respect, it was just natural because “[e]xcess in honours and praise makes even the most modest man proud, especially if such honours appear to have been given with sincerity.” (Dio Roman History Ex.). All in all, Rome itself would be destroyed even faster in its republic system because of the civil wars if Caesar hadn’t taken action and ceased the wars.
The conspiracy to kill Caesar was actually based on the conspirators’ jealousy of Caesar’s power. It began when the Senate, which was made cautious by Caesar’s triumphs, feared that he would use his military power and his popularity to take control over Rome. Soon after, the Senate was approached by Pompey, who was jealous of Caesar and wanted to increase his power. Afterwards, the Senate ordered him to surrender his men. Caesar, who didn’t want to be without protection, persisted and continued marching into Rome; crossing the Rubicon River (Perry et al. 2009: 135-6). This justified the reason why Caesar led his army crossing the Rubicon, thus violating the rule. The aristocrats consider Caesar’s life-long dictatorship as the end point of their rule, their liberty, and a beginning of a Hellenistic monarchy (Perry et al. 2009: 136). They hated his dictatorial deeds and considered him a tyrant and that tyrannicide is an essential duty for the Liberty and the Republic (Scullard 1988: 151).Moreover, Caesar’s enemies proposed excessive honours to flatter him and defame him among the citizens. This was initiated by Cicero himself (Plutarch Caesar Ex. 57). Scullard (1988: 149, 151) argues that some honours were just empty flattery from the submissive Senate and that his enemies tried to defame him by spreading bad rumours about his suspected intentions. It is also said that “[a] vindictive frenzy fell upon certain men through jealousy of Caesar’s progress and hatred of his success, ... more blameworthy are those people who, after beginning to honour him as he deserved, led him on and blamed him for the honours as they voted him.” (Dio Roman History Ex.). The evidence shows that the conspirators were only seeking personal advantage. Their true aim was not for the sake of the people of Rome but for their own ambition and satisfaction.
In fact, Julius Caesar was an honourable, qualified and influential leader who had achieved many achievements. The temple of Clemency was dedicated for his benevolent conduct. Furthermore, he forgave his enemies; even gave to them honours and political office (Plutarch