Caesar’s Assassination @ Youtube

Interesting stuff to be gleaned at Youtube (besides the Wayne and Schuster sketch) … here’s a talk by Michael Parenti on the assassination (written for a general audience, it seems):

Here’s the version from Joseph Mankiewicz’ 1953 film version of Shakespeare’s play:

This one’s from a 1979 version of the play directed by Herbert Wise of ‘I Claudius’ fame:

Here’s the version from HBO’s Rome:

Here’s ‘History Bites’ take on it (I love this show):

… that should keep y’all busy for a while.

d.m. Kathryn Thomas

Kathryn Thomas was the person to go to if you ever needed an ancient recipe, a translation of a Roman tomb inscription or a tour of Grecian antiquities.

Thomas, an associate professor at Creighton University, spent a lifetime studying and teaching the classics to students young and old.

She died of cancer Wednesday at a hospice home, said her friend Rita Ryan, a Latin teacher at Central High School. Thomas was 62.

A service will be at 1 p.m. Monday at the Greek Orthodox Church of Greater Omaha, 9012 Q St.

Thomas, who received her bachelor’s degree from Creighton, had been teaching there since 1974. She was known for taking groups of students on overseas trips, especially to Greece, said Rose Hill, assistant dean of the university’s College of Arts & Sciences.

“Alumni will come back and talk about ‘the year I went to Greece with Dr. Thomas,’” Hill said.

William J. Napiwocki, an adjunct professor of Latin at St. Joseph College Seminary in Illinois and a longtime friend of Thomas’, said she had wanted to retire in Greece. “It was just a shame she died so young,” Napiwocki said.

Ryan said Thomas was diagnosed with cancer in May 2009 and had to stop teaching last fall.

Thomas, who grew up in Omaha, earned her master’s degree and doctorate from Loyola University in Chicago.

She was associate vice president of academic affairs at Creighton from 1993 to 1996. Thomas was active in numerous national organizations related to the study of classics and received many fellowships, honors and grants for her studies.

Omaha schools and organizations often tapped her expertise. She taught minicourses on subjects like ancient foods and medicine for the Catholic Archdiocese of Omaha, helped high school classes with the nuances of Latin, organized state high school Latin conventions and hosted prominent archaeologists who visited Nebraska for speaking engagements.

Her broad knowledge allowed her to teach world literature at Creighton and medical terminology to pre-med students there.

Thomas had been active at her Greek Orthodox church, running the church’s bookstore after services, Ryan said.

Survivors include her brothers, Joseph Thomas of Hancock, Iowa, and John Thomas of Verdigre, Neb.

via Omaha World Herald.

Caesar’s Last Day

Not sure why I’ve never done this before, but here’s Suetonius’ account of Caesar’s assassination (via Lacus Curtius):

More than sixty joined the conspiracy against him, led by Gaius Cassius and Marcus and Decimus Brutus. At first they hesitated whether to form two divisions at the elections in the Campus Martius, so that while some hurled him from the bridge as he summoned the tribes to vote, the rest might wait below and slay him; or to set upon him in the Sacred Way or at the entrance to the theatre. When, however, a meeting of the Senate was called for the Ides of March in the Hall of Pompey, they readily gave that time and place the preference.

81 Now Caesar’s approaching murder was foretold to him by unmistakable signs. A few months before, when the settlers assigned to the colony at Capua by the Julian Law were demolishing some tombs of great antiquity, to build country houses, and plied their work with the greater vigour because as they rummaged about they found a quantity of vases of ancient workmanship, there was discovered in a tomb, which was said to be that of Capys, the founder of Capua, a bronze tablet, p109inscribed with Greek words and characters to this purport: “Whenever the bones of Capys shall be moved, it will come to pass that a son of Ilium shall be slain at the hands of his kindred, and presently avenged at heavy cost to Italy.” 2 And let no one think this tale a myth or a lie, for it is vouched for by Cornelius Balbus, an intimate friend of Caesar. Shortly before his death, as he was told, the herds of horses which he had dedicated to the river Rubicon when he crossed it, and had let loose without a keeper, stubbornly refused to graze and wept copiously. Again, when he was offering sacrifice, the soothsayer Spurinna warned him to beware of danger, which would come not later than the Ides of March; 3 and on the day before the Ides of that month a little bird called the king-bird flew into the Hall of Pompey with a sprig of laurel, pursued by others of various kinds from the grove hard by, which tore it to pieces in the hall. In fact the very night before his murder he dreamt now that he was flying above the clouds, and now that he was clasping the hand of Jupiter; and his wife Calpurnia thought that the pediment of their house fell, and that her husband was stabbed in her arms; and on a sudden the door of the room flew open of its own accord.

4 Both for these reasons and because of poor health he hesitated for a long time whether to stay at home and put off what he had planned to do in the senate; but at last, urged by Decimus Brutus not to disappoint the full meeting which had for some time been waiting for him, he went forth almost at the end of the fifth hour; and when a note revealing the plot was handed him by someone on the way, he put it with others which he held in his left hand, intending to read them presently. Then, after several victims had been slain, and he could not get favourable omens, he entered the House in defiance of portents, laughing at Spurinna and calling him a false prophet, because the Ides of March were come without bringing him harm; though Spurinna replied that they had of a truth come, but they had not gone.

82 As he took his seat, the conspirators gathered about him as if to pay their respects, and straightway Tillius Cimber, who had assumed the lead, came nearer as though to ask something; and when Caesar with a gesture put him off to another time, Cimber caught his toga by both shoulders; then as Caesar cried, “Why, this is violence!” one of the Cascas stabbed him from one side just below the throat. 2 Caesar caught Casca’s arm and ran it through with his stylus, but as he tried to leap to his feet, he was stopped by another wound. When he saw that he was beset on every side by drawn daggers, he muffled his head in his robe, and at the same time drew down its lap to his feet with his left hand, in order to fall more decently, with the lower part of his body also covered. And in this wise he was stabbed with three and twenty wounds, uttering not a word, but merely a groan at the first stroke, though some have written that when Marcus Brutus rushed at him, he said in Greek, “You too, my child?” 3 All the conspirators made off, and he lay there lifeless for some time, and finally three common slaves put him on a litter and carried him home, with one arm hanging down. And of so many wounds none turned out to be mortal, in the opinion of the physician Antistius, except the second one in the breast.

… and just for some additional detail, here’s a bit of Dio’s version (also from Lacus Curtius):

18 Caesar, accordingly, was so long in coming that the conspirators feared there might be a postponement,— indeed, a rumour got abroad that he would remain at home that day,— and that their plot would thus fall through and they themselves would be detected. Therefore they sent Decimus Brutus, as one supposed to be his devoted friend, to secure his attendance. 2 This man made light of Caesar’s scruples and by stating that the senate desired exceedingly to see him, persuaded him to proceed. At this an image of him, which he had set up in the vestibule, fell of its own accord and was shattered in pieces. 3 But, since it was fated that he should die at that time, he not only paid no attention to this but would not even listen to some one who was offering him information of the plot. He received from him a little roll in which all the preparations made for the attack were accurately recorded, but did not read it, thinking it contained some indifferent matter of no pressing importance. 4 In brief, he was so confident that to the soothsayer who had once warned him to beware of that day he jestingly remarked: “Where are your prophecies now? Do you not see that the day which you feared is come and that I am alive?” And the other, they say, answered merely: “Ay, it is come but is not yet past.”

19 Now when he finally reached the senate, Trebonius kept Antony employed somewhere at a distance outside. 2 For, though they had planned to kill both him and Lepidus, they feared they might be maligned as a result of the number they destroyed, on the ground that they had slain Caesar to gain supreme power and not to set free the city, as they pretended; and therefore they did not wish Antony even to be present at the slaying. As for Lepidus, he had set out on a campaign and was in the suburbs. 3 When Trebonius, then, talked with Antony, the rest in a body surrounded Caesar, who was as easy of access and as affable as any one could be; and some conversed with him, while others made as if to present petitions to him, so that suspicion might be as far from his mind as possible. 4 And when the right moment came, one of them approached him, as if to express his thanks for some favour or other, and pulled his toga from his shoulder, thus giving the signal that had been agreed upon by the conspirators. Thereupon they attacked him from many sides at once and wounded him to death, 5 so that by reason of their numbers Caesar was unable to say or do anything, but veiling his face, was slain with many wounds. This is the truest account, though some have added that to Brutus, when he struck him a powerful blow, he said: “Thou, too, my son?”

… and just to fulfill the law of three, here’s Plutarch’s version:

4 Well, then, Antony, who was a friend of Caesar’s and a robust man, was detained outside by Brutus Albinus, who purposely engaged him in a lengthy conversation; 5 but Caesar went in, and the senate rose in his honour. Some of the partisans of Brutus took their places round the back of Caesar’s chair, while others went to meet him, as though they would support the petition which Tullius Cimber presented to Caesar in behalf of his exiled brother, and they joined their entreaties to his and accompanied Caesar up to his chair. 6 But when, after taking his seat, Caesar continued to repulse their petitions, and, as they pressed upon him with greater importunity, began to show anger towards one and another of them, Tullius seized his toga with both hands and pulled it down from his neck. This was the signal for the assault. 7 It was Casca who gave him the first blow with his dagger, in the neck, not a mortal would, nor even a deep one, for which he was too much confused, as was natural at the beginning of a deed of great daring; so that Caesar turned about, grasped the knife, and held it fast. At almost the same instant both cried out, the smitten man in Latin: “Accursed Casca, what does thou?” and the smiter, in Greek, to his brother: “Brother, help!”

9 So the affair began, and those who were not privy to the plot were filled with consternation and horror at what was going on; they dared not fly, nor go to Caesar’s help, nay, nor even utter a word. 10 But those who had prepared themselves for the murder bared each of them his dagger, and Caesar, hemmed in on all sides, whichever way he turned confronting blows of weapons aimed at his face and eyes, driven hither and thither like a wild beast, was entangled in the hands of all; 11 for all had to take part in the sacrifice and taste of the slaughter. Therefore Brutus also gave him one blow in the groin. 12 And it is said by some writers that although Caesar defended himself against the rest and darted this way and that and cried aloud, when he saw that Brutus had drawn his dagger, he pulled his toga down over his head and sank, either by chance or because pushed there by his murderers, against the pedestal on which the statue of Pompey stood. 13 And the pedestal was drenched with his blood, so that one might have thought that Pompey himself was presiding over this vengeance upon his enemy, who now lay prostrate at his feet, quivering from a multitude of wounds. 14 For it is said that he received twenty-three; and many of the conspirators were wounded by one another, as they struggled to plant all those blows in one body.

I’ve always been amazed — given the vagaries of ancient historiography — of how consistent the accounts seem to be, although they are all written several generations after the deed.

CFP: Atlantic Classical Association Annual Meeting

Seen in the Canadian Classical Bulletin:

Call for Papers for the 2010 Meeting of the Atlantic Classical Association
October 15-16, 2010 at Saint Mary’s University, Halifax NS

The Classics program at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax will be hosting the Annual Meeting of the Atlantic Classical Association on Friday October 15 and Saturday October 16, 2010.

Papers of 20 minutes duration are invited on any aspect of the Classical World (literature, history, archaeology, art history, philosophy, etc.). Please send an abstract of not more than 200 words and include your name and affiliation, the title of your paper and any A.V. requirements. Abstracts must be submitted by e-mail attachment to Alison Barclay (Alison.Barclay AT or Myles McCallum (Myles.McCallum AT by July 31, 2010.
Conference registration deadline is September 15th, 2010.

Boris Johnson on the Utility of Learning Latin

The mayor of London pens a lengthy piece in the Telegraph:

Being an even-tempered fellow, and given that we have already put up with so much nonsense from the Labour Government, I find there are very few ministerial pronouncements that make me wild with anger. We have learnt to be phlegmatic about the mistakes of a government that has banned 4,300 courses of human conduct, plunged this country into the deepest recession in memory, and so skewed the economy that 70 per cent of the Newcastle workforce is in the pay of the state. But there are times when a minister says something so maddening, so death-defyingly stupid, that I am glad not to be in the same room in case I should reach out, grab his tie, and end what is left of my political career with one almighty head-butt.

Such were my feelings on reading Mr Ed Balls on the subject of teaching Latin in schools. Speaking on the radio, Spheroids dismissed the idea that Latin could inspire or motivate pupils. Head teachers often took him to see the benefits of dance, or technology, or sport, said this intergalactic ass, and continued: “No one has ever taken me to a Latin lesson to make the same point. Very few parents are pushing for it, very few pupils want to study it.”

It is nothing short of a disaster that this man is still nominally in charge of education, science, scholarship and learning in this country. He is in danger of undoing the excellent work of his predecessor, Andrew Adonis, and he is just wrong. Of course he doesn’t get taken round many Latin classes in the state sector. That is because only 15 per cent of maintained schools offer the subject, against 60 per cent of fee-paying schools. But to say that “very few” want to study the subject, to say that there is no demand for Latin – it makes me want to weep with rage. The demand is huge and it is growing, and I don’t just mean that the public is fascinated with the ancient world – though that is obviously true, and demonstrated, for instance, by the success of Robert Harris’s Cicero novels.

There is a hunger for the language itself and, thanks to the efforts of a small number of organisations and volunteers, Latin is fighting its way back on to the curriculum. The Cambridge Classics Project did a 2008 study that found that no fewer than 500 secondary schools had started teaching Latin in the past eight years. That is a fantastic thing. Those schools deserve support.

What do they get? The tragic and wilful ignorance of the Secretary of State – and in the face of such wrong-headedness it is hard to know where to begin. I suppose it is too much to hope that Balls would accept the argument from utility – passionately though I believe it to be true. Latin and Greek are great intellectual disciplines, forcing young minds to think in a logical and analytical way. They allow you to surprise your family and delight your friends by deciphering inscriptions.

They are also a giant universal spanner for other languages. Suppose your kid scrapes her knee on holiday in Italy. You are much more likely to administer the right first aid if you know that caldo means hot rather than cold – as you will, if you know Latin. Suppose you are captured by cannibals in the Mato Grosso, and you find a scrap of Portuguese newspaper in your hut revealing that there is about to be an eclipse; and suppose that by successfully prophesying this event you convince your captors that you are a god and secure your release – I reckon you would be thankful for your Latin, eh?

And even if you reject any such practical advantages (and, experto crede, they are huge), I don’t care, because they are not the point. The reason we should boost the study of Latin and Greek is that they are the key to a phenomenal and unsurpassed treasury of literature and history and philosophy, and we cannot possibly understand our modern world unless we understand the ancient world that made us all.

If Ed Balls is still unconvinced, then let me make one final point, and remind him that in his supposed anti-elitism he is being viciously elitist. Like me, Ed Balls was lucky to be educated at a wonderful fee-paying school where they taught us Latin. For the past 30 years children from such schools have dominated the study of classics at university. They have a ladder up to follow great courses, under brilliant men and women, at some of the best universities in the world – and to go on to good jobs. How mad, how infamous, that a Labour minister – a Labour minister – should seek to kick that ladder away for children less privileged than him.

Ed Balls should remember that some of the greatest socialists of the past 100 years were classicists, from Denis Healey to Geoffrey de Ste Croix, the formidable Marxist historian and author of The Class Struggle in the Ancient Greek World. What would Ste Croix have made of a government that actively tried to restrict the study of a great and profitable discipline to the bourgeoisie? He would have denounced it as an act of class war, and he would have been right.

It is thanks to the efforts of hundreds of dedicated teachers and volunteers that the tide is now turning. This Government places insane obstacles in the path of all who want to teach Latin in the maintained sector. Labour refuses to recognise Latin as a language for Ofsted purposes, and even though 60 Latin teachers are retiring every year, the Government will find funding for only 27 teachers a year to graduate with a PGCE enabling them to teach classics. That is 27 for the entire country.

In spite of these restrictions, and in spite of all the snootiness of Ed Balls, the enthusiasts are winning. For the first time in decades there are now – in absolute numbers – more state schools than private schools that teach Latin. Ed Balls should be proud of that achievement. He should celebrate it, and encourage it in the name – if nothing else – of social justice.

Go Boris! Man it would be nice if high profile politicians in this country would get on the plaustrum …

via This lunacy about Latin makes me want to weep with rage | Telegraph.

‘Assassination Medal’

Obviously to coincide with the day, the British Museum is putting a gold ‘ides’ coin on display. For background, here’s the Guardian coverage:

A unique gold coin celebrating the assassination of Julius Caesar, which may have been worn as a boastful talisman by one of the emperor’s killers, will go on display at the British Museum tomorrow – the Ides of March, marking the 2,054th anniversary of his death.

The British Museum was first shown the coin in 1932 but couldn’t afford to buy it. Many private owners later, it has now been loaned to the museum, and will be displayed for the first time.

Caesar was struck down at the Senate, stabbed 23 times, in 44BC. The coin was among those issued by Caesar’s former friend and ally, Brutus, leader of the conspirators, after they fled to Greece.

Although 60 surviving examples of the silver version are known, including several in the museum’s coins and medals collection, there were only believed to be two in gold. Experts now believe one of those is a fake, making the newly displayed treasure unique.

The coin shows the head of Brutus on one side and, on the other, two daggers and the date, Eid Mar, the Ides of March, which would forever after be regarded as unlucky. The daggers flank a pileus, a freeman’s hat, symbolising the conspirators’ insistance that in killing Caesar they were toppling a tyrant who threatened the future of the Roman republic.

The coin was punched with a hole shortly after it was minted, probably so it could be worn – certainly by a supporter, conceivably by one of the conspirators.

The swaggering imagery displayed on the coin was already famous in antiquity. In the second century AD, the Roman historian Cassius Dio wrote: “Brutus stamped upon the coins which were being minted in his own likeness and a cap and two daggers, indicating by this and by the inscription that he and Cassius had liberated the fatherland.”

Here’s a photo of the coin itself (British Museum via the Guardian):

British Museum via the Guardian

Just to make things a bit more interesting, the Fitzwilliam has a very nice silver version of this coin in their collection and their description runs thusly:

The Ides of March denarius, struck by Brutus in 43/2 BC, is easily the most famous of Roman Republican coins. It was famous in antiquity — one of the few coin types mentioned in an ancient author (Dio Cassius), and imitated a century after its issue to celebrate the murder of Nero.

The reverse is the more striking face with the plain reference to Caesar’s assassination — the legend EID MAR with two daggers –, and the meaning of the assassination — the liberty cap, worn by slaves on the day of their manumission. The importance of the cap here derives from the Republican claim that Caesar was aiming at the kingship, since in Roman political terms the relation of king to subject was that of master to slave. The murder of Caesar has set the Roman people free; and the multiplicity of the heroic murderers is indicated by the daggers which are always unalike. When the type was copied after the murder of Nero the legend read LIBERTAS RESTITVTA.

But the later coin bore the head of Libertas on the obverse, where here we have a portrait of Brutus himself…

If you didn’t know there was a coin issued celebrating the assassination of Nero … here’s a photo via the Roman Numismatic Gallery (which is definitely worth checking out if you’ve never poked around there before):

from the Roman Numismatic Gallery

I’ve seen the coin credited to Galba and/or to the senate during the ‘interregnum’ …