Brilliant tactician, benevolent leader and first-degree murder victim - all of which, are diverse perceptions of Julius Caesar that elicit responses ranging from admiration and sympathy to spite. He’s mostly been painted as a tyrannical dictator and narcissist - which he well may have been, for starting the trend of printing one’s own face on national currency as a statement of power and legacy. But how much have we considered Caesar’s own perspectives through these third-person accounts?
Caesar’s rise and fall in power has always been a point of controversy. Back then, with his skills as an orator, politician, and general, he proved to be capable and made his way into power. On one hand, his sociopolitical success endeared him to the masses and served as proof of effective leadership. On the other hand, competing political stakeholders and the aristocracy saw his increasing insistence and ambition as a threat to Roman democracy.
When Caesar was first elected consul, he formed an alliance with a pair of powerful generals named Crassus and Pompey (known as the First Triumvirate). Shortly after consolidating his rule, he turned against his former allies to retain power that the latter was trying to wrest from him, and the Triumvirate fell apart. Caesar successfully felled them, but spared the life of one special person - Marcus Junius Brutus.
Brutus was not only defended by Caesar from accusations of treason as consul, he was later appointed to various important roles and honors that were unrivalled by anyone. According to several historical sources, Caesar had an affair with Brutus’ mother; and hence assumed the role of a father-figure. Because of his favoritism towards Brutus, Caesar treated Brutus like his own son, invested in nurturing his capabilities and regarded him highly both as a trusted civil servant and close friend.
In order to clamp down on what they perceived to be monarchic, a group of politicians including Brutus formed a secret group called the Liberators. With the expressed purpose of removing Caesar from power by force, their plans culminated in the infamous assassination of Caesar in 44 BC, on the 15th of March - stabbing Caesar twenty-three times to his death.
His famous last words to Brutus, “You too, my child?” (alternatively interpreted as, “You’re next, kid”) leaves us a sense of uncertainty and lack of closure that perhaps Caesar himself lived with as he neared his sudden and bitter end.
Our third and final blogpost serves as a creative interpretation of Caesar’s perspective on the Ides of March, through capturing his feelings of bitterness and resentment towards those who had betrayed him. With this practice of perspective-taking in mind, we hope to highlight the humanness of intrapersonal turmoil that even dictators like Caesar very possibly experienced, and to put forth themes of ambition and power struggles that also continue to resonate deeply in our lives today.
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Original Song: Caesar’s Plight
Boy, I raised you to be great;
I raised you like my own
And this is how you thank me
For all the love I’d shown
Conspiring with “fellow” men
Opposing me till bitter end
Your feigned and fragile honesty
Was hanging by a thread
You were the devil in sheep skin
Allegiance wearing paper thin
Not once, not twice but twenty-three
My wounds decry hypocrisy
Claimed it was the better thing
To question my authority
Thought you did so righteously
Where is your conscience now?
Don’t try to scour the bloodied scene
The carnage here is plain to see
Time will reveal your tragedy
And play death’s final symphony
The ides of March retells the tale
Of devastation and betrayal
How many times will history repeat itself?
Lyrics and music by Sarah Teh
Recorded and produced by Joshua Low