by Peter Stothard
Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2020. Pp. 186.
Personae, notes, biblio., index. $27.95. ISBN: 0197523358
The Hunt for Caesar’s Assassins
The assassination of Julius Caesar on the Ides of March in 44 BC led not, as his killers hoped, to the restoration of the Roman Republic, but to its final demise – and theirs – at the hands of the Dictator’s heirs.
Stothard, sometime editor of The Times and author of The Spartacus Road and other works in ancient history and modern politics, uses the fate of the assassins, and those closely identified with their cause, to give us a good history of the final years of the Republic. Retelling this story from an unusual angle, more or less through the perspective of the thirteen assassins and their allies, he illuminates events in a way quite different from the usual approach, which concentrates on Caesar’s avengers.
Stothard of course has a great cast with which to work. Naturally we read much about the still familiar principal actors, Cassius, Brutus, Cicero, Antony, and Octavian, the later Augustus. But Stothard devotes much attention to the far more numerous men and some women now largely forgotten who at the time often played major roles in these events, wielding daggers, ruling provinces, making deals, commanding fleets and armies, raising troops and cash, and more. In fact, Stothard begins and ends the book with one Gaius Cassius Parmensis (“Cassius of Parma”), a minor dramatist and poet, who took part in the assassination. Cassius Parmensis proved an able naval officer. On the defeat of the leaders of the conspiracy to murder Caesar, he sided with Antony in the final civil war and, after Actium, fled to Athens, where he was found and executed by Octavian’s agents, the last of the Assassins to die.
There’s a lot more in here, profiles of many people, troop movements, piracy, Parthian wars, Epicurean philosophy, and a good many observations about Roman life and culture.
The Last Assassin is a great read for anyone unfamiliar with these events and will also prove valuable for serious students of the period.
Note: The Last Assassin is also available in several e-editions.
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