Caesar's Body: How to Turn Victory into Defeat

Edited by Luciano Canfora and Julian Stringer

in Julius Caesar

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print February 2007 | ISBN: 9780748619368
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748670734 | DOI:
Caesar's Body: How to Turn Victory into Defeat

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The conspirators lost everything in the moment when they left the body of the dictator unattended and abandoned the idea of getting rid of it by throwing it into the Tiber. The Caesarians begin to regain ground when they were able to make political and emotional capital out of the corpse, whose cumbrous presence weighed increasingly heavily, and in the end decisively, on Roman politics. In the very first moments after the murder, Brutus and the others make every possible effort to get the situation under control. Their efforts were mostly doomed to failure. The fact that for a brief moment they seemed to have succeeded is demonstrated by Antony's panic: he dressed as a plebeian and fled. Brutus tried to talk to the senators, but they were bent on fleeing with all speed from the scene of the attack they witnessed. Neglecting to dispose of the body and proceeding to a renunciation of all Caesar's works, they could think of nothing better than to go to the Capitol, waving their daggers and calling on imaginary citizens to ‘make the most of their freedom’. In the space of a few hours the conspirators lost all the advantages of surprise and the confusion of their opponents, by trying to present to the people some abstract ‘freedom’.

Keywords: Julius Caesar; corpse; dictator; Brutus; Antony; Roman politics; freedom

Chapter.  3223 words. 

Subjects: Greek and Roman Archaeology

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