It's the Ides of March! And...what does that mean, exactly? Well, the ides of any month in Ancient Rome was the day in the middle of the month--the fifteenth day. The Ides of March is so important because in the year 44 BC, Julius Caesar, having been declared dictator of Rome for life just prior, was assassinated in a plot by some of the wealthiest and influential men of Rome--including a couple he considered his friends. He was stabbed twenty three times.
Caesar's assassination has been the inspiration behind prose and poetry for a couple thousand years, including a play by William Shakespeare. But why was he killed, and what really happened? Here are some books to show some different sides of the story:
1. The Assassination of Julius Caesar: A People's History of Ancient Rome, by Michael Parenti This is a great look at not only the assassination itself, but at the happenings in Rome around the time. It focuses on the people, plebs, and their situations, and asks questions not often seen in history text concerning this time. It's the story of the people of Rome, and the murder of a man who, in this book, is portrayed as a man for those people, pitted against rich and powerful men who only sought their own comfort and status at the expense of others. A really interesting take on things.
2. The Death of Caesar: The Story of History's Most Famous Assassination by Barry Strauss This book takes a look not only at the assassination and the people behind it, but also looks at the aftermath. The death of Caesar closed the book on one civil war only to open another. Friends become enemies, enemies friends, and speeches incite riots that take the city by storm and cause its leaders to flee. Strauss introduces the key players in the assassination from both sides, and shows history in a fresh way that reads almost like a novel.
3. Rubicon: The Last Years of the Roman Republic by Tom Holland Another book characterized by its passionate handling of the subject, reading like a novel rather than a nonfiction book, Rubicon tells of the years leading up to the assassination of Caesar. It's the portrayal of an era along with its major players, and is not just about the death of Caesar, but the death of the Roman Republic itself. It's a very readable book that will stay in the reader's thoughts.
4. Caesar: Life of a Colossus by Adrian Goldsworthy This huge book is a biography of Julius Caesar, looking at Caesar's life as a politician, soldier, husband, lover, and man. Ancient Rome comes to life in this book, a complex, power-hungry society. Goldsworthy portrays Caesar as a cunning military man, a charismatic speaker, a powerful ruler, and seducer of powerful women. He explores why Caesar still impacts us today as one of history's most important figures.
5. The Throne of Caesar: A Novel of Ancient Rome by Steven Saylor I couldn't resist throwing a novel in here, because Steven Saylor's Roma Sub Rosa mystery series is so rich in historical detail and also, so fun to read, that I think folks who find the nonfiction a bit much could easily lose themselves in Ancient Rome via these books. This is the newest book in the series, and can be read as a standalone. After you read it, however, you'll want to go back to read the others. This book has Gordianus the Finder, on the eve of his retirement, smack dab in the middle of the troubles and intrigue leading up to the Ides of March.
Do you have any favorite books on the subject? Let us know on social media or in the comments!
Melanie R. Meadors is the author of fantasy stories where heroes don't always carry swords and knights in shining armor often lose to nerds who study their weaknesses. She’s been known to befriend wandering garden gnomes, do battle with metal-eating squirrels, and has been called a superhero on more than one occasion. Her fiction has appeared in Circle Magazine, Prick of the Spindle, and in the anthology Champions of Aetaltis. She studied astronomy and physics at Northern Arizona University and has published some non-fiction in the field of astronomy and library sciences. She's the co-editor of the anthology MECH: Age of Steel and editor of Hath No Fury, and she is a blogger and general b*tch monkey at The Once and Future Podcast.