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She Done Him Wrong: Behind JULIUS CAESAR's Assassination

A Case of Murder Most Foul

What is true is that Gaius Julius Caesar, the legendary Roman General, statesman, was assassinated because "everyone" feared his insatiable lust for power and wealth.

What is false was that his wife, Calpurnia, depicted through the ages as being beyond reproach", had nothing to do with his murder.

History tells us that Calpurnia had tried to save Caesar when she had "implored her husband to cancel the meeting with the Senate" (where he was supposedly killed) because "in a dream, she had seen him streaming with blood". This and other sensible advice to "beware the ides of March", Caesar chose to ignore at his peril. And so, according to the official version, in broad daylight, his noble "friends" frontally stabbed Caesar, striking him down like the tyrant he was....

That is if you believe history. However, the truth was far ignobler than this historical fiction. Throughout his spectacularly successful military career, Caesar had taken great care to assure his personal safety. Of course, there were times when he failed to take with him enough legions to assure victory. Yet Caesar himself was never without his own ultra-loyal personal guard.

The only time Caesar relaxed his defenses was when he was in his own home... or in that of his mistress, the legendary Egyptian Queen Cleopatra. About two years before his death, Caesar summoned Cleopatra from Egypt to Rome. She brought her son with her and never stopped boasting that the boy, Caesarion, was the great general's child. Caesar installed his mistress in his mansion on the outskirts of the Tiber and soon openly acknowledged that the boy was his illegitimate son.

Worse, Caesar lavished money and slaves on this "alien queen, incurring the greatest wrath" of the Roman aristocracy. But the "Julius cared nothing for public opinion" and in "his arrogance... he enrolled her name among the friends of the Romans". As the final insult, Caesar commissioned a statue of Cleopatra and "placed it next to the image of the goddess in the temple of Venus Genetrix".

Caesar's love for Cleopatra and Caesarion was humiliating to Calpurnia. Not that she cared for Caesar the man at all. Theirs had been a highly political marriage of convenience from the start. What Calpurnia craved was the position in society that her marriage afforded her. As long as her position as the "first woman in Rome" was not threatened, Calpurnia chose to turn a blind eye to her husband's growing affection for his mistress. Her blindness came to an end when Caesar approached Calpurnia about getting a divorce. He wanted to have Cleopatra by his side all the time and was tired of "pretending" to be married to Calpurnia.

Caesar was prepared to be very generous. Calpurnia could have money, houses, jewels, whatever she wanted - everything except for being the "first woman in Rome". She was devastated and begged her husband to give her some time before going public with his decision. As there were many pressing matters of state requiring his attention, Caesar reluctantly agreed.

While he was busy ruling, Calpurnia was busy conspiring with other members of the aristocracy. At times, she had been useful to them in persuading Caesar to help their cause. Now she began feeding their fears of her husband. She told them a Caesar wed to a Cleopatra would be out of control. She told them he would have no need of the Senate and would install Caesarion as "Emperor". She told them whatever was needed to get them to convince them to murder Caesar.

Calpurnia would rather have Caesar dead than wed to Cleopatra. So one day she invited Caesar home to discuss their divorce. The Senators had kept him long at the business of state. When he arrived, Calpurnia was waiting for him. She fed him drugged wine and, as it was late, he retired to sleep, suspecting nothing.

When Caesar was unconscious, it was a simple matter for the coterie of assassins to plunge daggers into his back. As an after thought, they stabbed him in the front "in the breast" which his physician was terrified into pronouncing as the fatal wound. For multiple stab wounds in the back would have made the conspirators look cowardly. And, as history records, his body was cremated speedily, lest the actual physical evidence contradict the official version of Caesar's murder.

Credits: from a servant girl who witnessed the murder and was killed as a result.



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