Tuesday, November 01, 2011

The Twelve Caesars - page 51, Julius Caesar

The entire Senate then dispersed in confusion, and Caesar was left lying dead for some time until three slave boys carried him home in a litter, with one arm hanging over the side. The physician Antistius conducted the post mortem and came to the conclusion that none of the wounds had been mortal except the second one, in the chest. It had been decided to drag the dead man down to the Tiber, confiscate his property, and revoke all his edicts; but fear of Mark Antony, the Consul, and Lepidus, the Master of Horse, kept the assassins from making their plans good.

This, of course, is the assassination of Julius Caesar, rendered most famously by Shakespeare in the play of the same name that actually focused on one of the conspirators, Marcus Brutus. What I like in particular about this passage is the bit about the removal of the body, another example of Suetonius's penchant for curious detail.

In talking about the aftermath of the assassination, Suetonius takes the time and space to record not just that Caesar's body was carried away but that it was carried away by slaves. Boy slaves. And there were three of them. And one of the arms was hanging off the side of the stretcher, perhaps left there due to the carelessness of the boys. There's no explanation of why the boys were there or who prompted them to collect the body of the Emperor of Rome and carry it away, but there they were. Curious bits of detail, and it's writing like this that grabs my attention, holds my interest, and makes me keep reading works like The Twelve Caesars.

No comments: