10Julius Caesar

Otherwise known as the Ides of March, this was the day that the self-declared dictator Julius Caesar was murdered, set upon by a group of senators in the newly constructed meeting house of the Theatre of Pompey, and stabbed 23 times in the name of preserving the Roman Republic.

Suetonius tells us that a senator named Lucius Tillius Cimber approached Caesar, petitioning for his brother’s recall from exile, but Caesar brushed him away. Cimber then made a grab for his toga, pulling it down and causing Caesar to cry out that he was being attacked. Another senator then lunged at Caesar’s neck with his dagger, and although Caesar caught the dagger in his hand, this only delayed the inevitable. Within seconds, dozens of senators were hacking away at the dictator with daggers drawn from beneath their togas. The most famous part of Caesar’s death is the dying dictator looking upon his former friend and uttering the immortal words, Et tu Brute? But this is entirely fictitious. This line was Elizabethan in origin, written by William Shakespeare for his eponymous play Julius Caesar. According to ancient sources, Caesar either said nothing or, as some suggested, uttered the Greek phrase καὶ σὺ τἐκνον which sounds a bit like “kai say teknon” and means “you too, young man?” Although most aristocratic Romans were bilingual, it’s hard to believe that a man who’d been stabbed two dozen times out of nowhere would have produced a Greek quip as he lay bleeding to death.