Documents for the Study of the Gospels

By David R. Cartlidge; David L. Dungan | Go to book overview

The Murder of Julius Caesar

Introduction: Julius Caesar was assassinated in 44 B.C. by men who bitterly resented his flagrant trampling upon the Senate’s authority. But none of the following accounts of miraculous signs of the Gods’ sorrow at Caesar’s death were written by those men. Virgil and Suetonius, in particular, belonged to the circle of writers dedicated to embellishing the rising glory of Octavian, Caesar’s nephew, and the Empire under his control.


Virgil, Georgies 1.463–468

… the Sun shall give you signs: the story told at evening,1 the clear skies from whence the wind drives the clouds, and what is the significance of the humid south wind. Who would dare to call the Sun a liar? He, in fact, warns that a secret insurrection is imminent and that deceit and furtive battles are swelling. He expressed mercy for Rome when Caesar was killed; he hid his shining head in gloom and the impious age feared eternal night.


Suetonius, The Lives of the Caesars 1.88–89

(Julius Caesar) died when he was fifty-six, and he was registered among the rank of the Gods, not only by means of (the Senate) decree, but also in the conviction of the common people. In fact, at the first games which were established for him by his heir Augustus, a comet shone for seven straight days, rising about the eleventh hour, and it was believed to be the soul of Caesar who had been received into Heaven. It is because of this that a star is placed on the crown of the head of his statue …

Hardly any of his murderers lived after him for more than three years, nor did they die a natural death. They were all damned, and they died in various ways, some by shipwreck, some in battle; some killed themselves by the same dagger with which they assassinated Caesar.


Plutarch, Caesar 69.3–5

(At Caesar’s death) the most astonishing event of human design concerned Cassius. After he was defeated at Philippi, he killed himself with the same

1. Prediction of the next day’s weather by the color of the sunset.

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