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Old 04-30-2001, 10:46 PM   #1
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Question Was Julius Caesar Assassinated?

Most people know the basics about the death of Julius Caesar. For simplicities sake, I am quoting the story as told by Britannica.com:

“He (Julius) had less than a year's grace for this huge task of reconstruction before his assassination in 44 in the Senate House at Rome on March 15 (the Ides of March).
Caesar's death was partly due to his clemency and impatience, which, in combination, were dangerous for his personal security. Caesar had not hesitated to commit atrocities against “barbarians” when it had suited him, but he was almost consistently magnanimous in his treatment of his defeated Roman opponents. Thus clemency was probably not just a matter of policy. Caesar's earliest experience in his political career had been Sulla's implacable persecution of his defeated domestic opponents. Caesar amnestied his opponents wholesale and gave a number of them responsible positions in his new regime. Gaius Cassius Longinus, who was the moving spirit in the plot to murder him, and Marcus Junius Brutus, the symbolic embodiment of Roman republicanism, were both former enemies. “Et tu, Brute” (“You too, Brutus”) was Caesar's expression of his particular anguish at being stabbed by a man whom he had forgiven, trusted, and loved.”


There were 60-80 conspirators in on the plot, some obviously amongst his best friends and most trusted companions. But there are a couple of problems.

First, while Britannica says that Julius was murdered in the Senate House, History of Rome Down to the Reign of Constantine (M. Cary, MacMillan Press, 1979) says that it was in a ”lounge attached to a stone theatre built by Pompey.” (pg. 281). Further, we see that Julius received several warnings, and ignored them (including one from a seer). Even his dying words, “et tu Brute?” strike me as too pat, or rehearsed to be real. Who recorded them? How sure can we be that they were reported to us properly. But worst of all, again according to Cary and Scullard'’ History of Rome:

… every educated Roman was familiar with the edifying stories of tyrannicide in Greek literature, and from the time of the Gracchi political murder had found practitioners and apologists at home. Further, Caesar almost invited attempts upon his own life by his deliberate refusal to protect it by special measures. Though rumours of conspiracies had reached him from time to time he disdained to surround himself with a service of spies, and shortly before his death he dismissed his personal bodyguard – a picked corps of Spanish horsemen.”
(M. Cary and H.H. Scullard, History of Rome Down to the Reign of Constantine, [MacMillan Press, London, 1979], pg. 281).


So we have an environment ripe for the belief that Caesar would or could be assassinated, coupled with the unlikely idea that he was so foolish as to not even bother to protect himself. Add to this the notion that some of those assassins were very close to him, and had a great deal to lose politically and financially by his death, and we have a pretty unlikely story.

Here’s what I would like to see:

What sources do we have that Julius Caesar really was assassinated? How reliable are they? How did they get their information? I think we can safely discount Cicero. He is already known to lie both before and after the assassination. Besides, he wasn’t a witness to the events themselves.

Again from Britannica.com:

“The letters (of Cicero) constitute a primary historical source such as exists for no other part of the ancient world. They often enable events to be dated with a precision that would not otherwise be possible, and they have been used, though with no very great success, to discredit the accuracy of Caesar's commentaries on the civil war. On the other hand, his reporting of events, naturally enough, is not objective, and he was capable of misremembering or misrepresenting past events so as to enhance his own credit.”

His campaign against Mark Antony is most revealing on this front:

“In attempting to convince his audiences that Antony was aiming at a military dictatorship he (Cicero) set himself the hardest task of his life, for he had scarcely any real evidence to support his case, and the Srenate ws as little disposed to quarrel with Antony in 44BC as to fix a war upon Caesar in 50. Yet by the cuumulative force of his invectives he carried his point and attained a power such as he had never wielded in the prime of his life.”
(Cary and Scullard, History of Rome, pg. 285)


So much for using him as a reliable source (except maybe for the date of Julius’ death). Clearly Cicero would have no problem in spreading lies about the enemies of Caesar (or Octavian), especially if he felt it would benefit him personally (or his ideal of Rome). Obviously, Mark Antony and Octavian (later Augustus) can also be discounted as sources, as can anyone connected to them. After all, they deified Julius, and were locked in a life and death power struggle with Brutus, Crassus and company. And as we know, the victors write the history. For whatever reasons, isn’t it possible that Cicero, Antony and Octavian conspired together to give Julius a (false) tragic, but politically useful death?

Other sources like Plutarch (46-119AD) and Suetonius (69-122AD) are much too late, and clearly dependent upon sources controlled by the Caesars (all of whom would have a motive to conceal the truth). The papers from Cicero obviously must be rejected. And as for anything offered by the conspirators themselves, how do we know they weren’t forged by clever apologists for Augustus or Mark Antony? They had plenty of time to construct such documents. Julius died in 44BC, and one of these men, and descendents of Augustus ruled Rome until 69AD. Plutarch’s history of Pompey, Caesar and Crassus, for example, was written over a 100 years after the fact. The Caesars and their successors continued to regard Julius himself as divine, and would have had no motive to change the story that late.

So how can we know what happened that fateful day in march 44BC? Was Julius Caesar actually assassinated? If so, where? And by whom? Were there 60 or 80 conspirators? Do we have eye witness accounts, and can they be trusted?

I am curious to know if anyone has the answers.

Thanks,

Nomad
 
Old 04-30-2001, 10:52 PM   #2
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But Nomad, he was on the coins, so he must have been assasinated.

Well done, BTW. Ever since Dennis claimed that all of the sources about Ceasar's assasination agreed as to every detail, I wanted to check out these claims (since he never bothered to provide any of his sources).

But I suppose the response will be that since it doesn't really matter whether we beleive if Ceasar was assasinated or not, then ... um ... I'm not sure what the point will be. But I'm sure they will make it.
 
Old 04-30-2001, 11:12 PM   #3
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Nomad

You know, I hope by now, that I do not involve myself in fluff on the serious Boards, so I have a genuine, serious and honest question.

Does it really matter? My "eternal soul" does not depend on the death of Caeser so why should I care how or when he died?

I have said before that I have, a few times in my life been at events which eventually became "film at 11:00" (the Vietnam protests in the 60s spring to mind - this is only an eg, so please do not focus upon it) and the reality was on each occasion, that the report did not match the reality.

So, if you are trying to prove the "reality" of some ancient documents for, or against anything, to the "reality" of other ancient documents, are you really trying to suggest that the "film at 11:00" document, provides the actual truth of the event?

Norm
 
Old 05-01-2001, 06:06 AM   #4
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Nomad: I have to admit, that's pretty good.

However, there is just one little teeny difference.

Its entirely believable that a political leader would be assasinated, particularly in Rome at this time. To say that things were in turmoil is a bit of an understatement--and you're simplifying Roman history incredibly naively.

To put it in perspective, consider what would have happened in the US if President Clinton had seized power in this manner like some right-wingers feared? I don't think he would have lasted as long as Caesar did.

And lastly, consider the difference. An assasination is realistic possibility. A resurrection is mythic fantasy. BIG difference in believability.

Nice try though.
Lance is offline  
Old 05-01-2001, 08:30 AM   #5
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Hi Norm and Lance

Thanks for the replies.

First, I want to make clear that when we are talking about historical evidence, I do not think we should expect or be required to believe any miraculous or extraordinary claim on the basis of traditional levels of evidenciary support. At the same time, as you can see from my example, if we wanted to apply the standard levels of criticism and scepticism to other ancient events (like the assassination of Julius Caesar) that they do to the Bible,then we are going to end up not knowing anything at all about what happened in history.

While some may think that this is cool, I do not. I think that the methodology used by historians to establish whether or not a non-extraordinary historical event took place is pretty good, and can give us a high level of confidence about many of the things that took place in the past.

So, to connect this to the Bible, we can see that the reports of Julius Caesar's assassination cannot be considered to be 100% reliable. Yet no serious historian (or even non-serious historian) that I am aware of tells us that Julius didn't fall under a hail of dagger blows administered by many of the Roman elite on 15 March 44BC. The evidence is considered to be sufficient, and the reasons to doubt it lack substance.

In the Bible, we have a number of very ordinary events attributed to people. Jesus, John the Baptist, Peter, Paul, James, John, Judas, the various Mary's, ect. all lived. Jesus died on a cross, condemned as a criminal. He was a charismatic leader that inspired a lot of people, and was believed to have performed wonders. After he died, his family and friends built a relgion around him, and it was very successful.

None of these historical things need be doubted. The evidence we have for many of the events that have been listed on this and other threads is far greater than anything we have for Caesar's assassination. To reject them merely because we don't accept the miraculous and divine claims about Jesus is just plain daft in my view. At best, it is hyper sceptical, and betrays a desire to reject any and all evidence that does not meet some unstated level of plausibility for the sceptic.

As a final note, Julius was declared to be divine, and no doubt many Romans thought he could perform miracles (including after he was dead. After all, that is the nature of being a god.). If anyone here wants to claim that because of these claims, we should reject the known facts about his life, then I think they would look very odd indeed. And so they should.

That was the point of this thread.

Thanks again.

Nomad
 
Old 05-01-2001, 09:51 AM   #6
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Allow me to weigh in with a response, however non-substantive it might be.

Do we know the exact circumstances of Julius' death? I'd say, no... even though the most I've read on Julius death was by a certain british playwrite! Oh, and I don't think repeated watchings of Caligula give me much better insight into historical Rome, either.

However, this skepticism is healthy, and keeps us from accepting facts which are not in evidence. That Julius Caeser existed I do not doubt. That he was murdered due to treachery, I also think is pretty reasonable. How he exactly died, who cares? Those specifics do nothing to to confirm or deny any of his important contributions to history, except excite the imaginations of our poets and filmmakers.

So, in essence, I hold the same skeptical view of historical details concerning Caeser as I do Jesus. The main difference with how the two figures affect my life is in the missionary work and attempted law-changing of the Christians in this country. Nobody tries to convert me into a Caeser worshipper, or try and introduce Roman creation myths into my child's schools. Therefore, it's quite easy for me to not care about the specifics of Ceaser's death. It isn't, however, quite so easy to ignore the claims put forth by Christians, as in-my-face as they are in the U.S.

This might give you some insight into why there is a lack of response to this thread. I doubt too many athiests care that we can doubt the story of Caeser's death.
 
Old 05-01-2001, 10:12 AM   #7
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Nomad:
In the Bible, we have a number of very ordinary events attributed to people. Jesus, John the Baptist, Peter, Paul, James, John, Judas, the various Mary's, ect. all lived. Jesus died on a cross, condemned as a criminal. He was a charismatic leader that inspired a lot of people, and was believed to have performed wonders. After he died, his family and friends built a relgion around him, and it was very successful.

None of these historical things need be doubted. The evidence we have for many of the events that have been listed on this and other threads is far greater than anything we have for Caesar's assassination. To reject them merely because we don't accept the miraculous and divine claims about Jesus is just plain daft in my view. At best, it is hyper sceptical, and betrays a desire to reject any and all evidence that does not meet some unstated level of plausibility for the sceptic.
Quote:
</font>
Great topic, Nomad. The lack of substantive responses speaks volumes. I noticed a similar phenomenon when I brought up blatant contradictions in Josephus. Nobody would touch the topic with a ten-foot pole. You and I (and other Christians) have simply failed to grasp the fundamental principle underlying all historical criticism: If there are discrepancies (however minor) in Christian works, then we KNOW the events never happened. However, if the discrepancies occur in non-Christian writings, then we simply say the event still happened and the writer made a mistake in recording it. At which universities are they teaching this profound insight into the study of history?

Peace,

Polycarp
 
Old 05-01-2001, 12:30 PM   #8
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Congratulations Nomad,

You have confirmed my suspicions. Many skeptics are willing to flush down the toilet the study of history so long as it damages religion (and, more specifically, Christainity).

Many skeptics have said that the events of Jesus's life (if he even existed at all) are poorly supported by historical evidence. But when you show them that his life is as, if not more, supported than that of most other commonly accepted historical events, they readily and quickly admit that they are willing to doubt even the most widely accepted of historical accounts.

The justification, apparently, is that those other events don't have any impact on their lives, while Christianity does. Amazingly, this seems to be a statement that belief has nothing to do with the type or amount of evidence , but with how much that belief annoys them. In other words, if a historical event could even be remotely supportive of Christianity, we are justified in being "appropriately skeptical" of it no matter the amount of historical evidence.

My recent discussion about whether Paul founded the Rome in church is a good example. Although there is no evidence that Paul founded the Roman church, and first hand, second hand, and informative indirect evidence that he did not, the best I could get was that the entire history of early Christianity is "murky" and that I "may" be right. As far as I can tell, the only reason anyone would cling to the notion that Paul founded the church in Rome is that to admit that he did not is very damaging to some forms of the Jesus-Myth hypothesis or Paul-as-founder-of-Christianity theory.

So it seems we have a strange dichotomy. Even the most well-supported events regarding Jesus' life must be doubted (no matter the amount of historical evidence), while the most outlandish alternative theories must be accepted as very real possibilities (despite their scholarly rejection and lack of evidence). And the only rationale that I can determine? Christianity is annoying. Really annoying. People actually vote based on their religious beliefs.

 
Old 05-01-2001, 12:37 PM   #9
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Layman:
People actually vote based on their religious beliefs.
</font>
Well, it figures that in a post of that length, you would get one sentence correct.

Michael

 
Old 05-01-2001, 12:56 PM   #10
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Polycarp:

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> The lack of substantive responses speaks volumes. </font>
The lack continues.
 
 

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