Little Bits of History

October 23

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 23, 2017

42 BC: Marcus Junius Brutus (the Younger) commits suicide. Brutus had initially supported Julius Caesar but after assuming power and trying to gain even greater control, Brutus and his compatriots plotted to kill Caesar, and managed to do so in 44 BC. He and his partners thought of themselves as Liberators but immediately came into conflict with the supporters of Caesar, Marc Antony and Octavian. A Civil War ensued which culminated in the Battle of Philippi in Macedonia. The Second Triumvirate with Octavian and Antony faced Brutus’s forces on this day.

Earlier in the month, Antony had faced Cassius in the south while Octavian and Brutus clashed in the northern part of the island. After receiving the misinformation that Brutus’s forces had been defeated, Cassius committed suicide. His was the most severe loss of the day and otherwise the battles were a draw. Both sides disengaged and readied themselves for another meeting. That battle took place on this day after Octavian and Antony had been able to gather both their armies together and Brutus had been able to coalesce his own forces. The Triumvirate had 19 legions and 33,000 cavalry or over 100,000 men and up to 223,000 troops if auxiliary numbers were in line with legionary numbers. The Liberators had 17 legions and 17,000 cavalry or 100,000 men or 187,000 total troops – again that is if auxiliary numbers matched.

Brutus was not the same leader as Cassius had been and had to offer his men an extra 1,000 denarii for them to stay and fight. In the weeks between battles, Antony and Octavian had slowly moved their troops to attack Brutus, who still held higher ground. However, holding this position left him in danger of being surrounded by opposing troops. The combatants met in mostly hand to hand combat and little use of missiles was needed because of such close quarters. The body count for the day’s match was not given, but due to the type of fighting, it was probably high. Brutus lost the day and the war and so, committed suicide by running into his sword as it was held by two men.

His army was surrendered to Antony and Octavian. Antony, in a show of respect, covered Brutus’s body with his best purple cloak. The cloak was stolen and eventually the miscreant was captured and killed. Brutus’s body was cremated and the ashes sent back to his wife. The end of this battle marked the height of Antony’s own fame as a general, a leader, and a man of power. He would go on to make some of his own mistakes, leading to his own downfall dying twelve years later.

If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need. – Marcus Tullius Cicero

It is easier to find men who will volunteer to die, than to find those who are willing to endure pain with patience. – Julius Caesar

An angry man is again angry with himself when he returns to reason. – Publilius Syrus

Young men, hear an old man to whom old men hearkened when he was young. – Augustus



Ides of March

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 15, 2013

15 Julius Caesar15, 44 BC: Beware the Ides of March for Julius Caesar was assassinated on this day. The Ides of each month was originally the day of the full moon, a lucky omen. Each month began with Kalenda or the day of the new moon and also where we get the word “calendar.” It was the day interest on outstanding debt was due. Nones was the day of the half moon. The word “Ides” comes Latin and means “half division.” The Ides of March and May, July, and October falls on the 15th of the month. For the other eight months, the Ides falls on the 13th day.

Julius Caesar had been dictator of the Roman Republic for the previous four-and-a-half years and had spent the time instituting great change. After conquering regions in Britain and Gaul, Caesar returned to Rome and rose to power after a Civil War. He implemented various reforms for both society and government bodies. As he centralized his power base, Senators led by his old friend and half-brother Marcus Junius Brutus became increasingly disaffected.

Caesar was invited to the Forum on the Feast of Mars. He was to be presented with a petition from the Senators asking for a redistribution of power, essentially asking for power to be returned to the Senate. Marc Antony heard of a nefarious plot and went to Caesar to warn him. He was waylaid as he neared the Forum. Caesar was given a false petition and as he began to read, he was stabbed at without much effect. Caesar fought back but was overpowered by the angry men. Eutropius, a local historian, said around 60 men attacked Caesar and stabbed him 23 times. A doctor of the time said only one wound to the chest was lethal.

As the assassins fled the Forum they cried out, “People of Rome, we are once again free!” Caesar had been popular with the middle and lower classes and the general population was horrified by the acts of a few aristocrats. While Marc Antony eulogized his friend, it was not in the words of William Shakespeare and it may have had more to do with political gain than fealty. Instead of freeing Rome, they were once again plunged into a civil war. Gaius Octavianus, Caesar’s nephew and named heir, came to rule what was now the Roman Empire.

“We have to distrust each other. It’s our only defense against betrayal.” – Tennessee Williams

“Trust thyself only, and another shall not betray thee.” – Thomas Fuller

“If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country.” – E. M. Forster

“To be deceived by our enemies or betrayed by our friends in insupportable; yet by ourselves we are often content to be so treated.” – Francois De La Rochefoucauld

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: Marcus Junius Brutus was born in Rome in 85 BC. His father was killed in questionable circumstances by Pompey the Great (the man who led the opposition to Caesar’s rebellion in which he took over control of the Empire). Brutus’s  mother was the half-sister of Cato the Younger as well as one of Caesar’s mistresses. There is some speculation that Caesar may have been Brutus’s real father even though Caesar was only fifteen at the time. Brutus was adopted by Quintus Servilius Caepio in 59 BC and his name was officially changed for a short time, but he reverted to his birth name, although after this assassination, he once again reverted to using his adopted name.

Also on this day: Voting Booths – In 1892, Myers Voting Booths were introduced in New York.
The Ashes – In 1877, the first Test Cricket Match between England and Australia began.
Dot Com – In 1985, the first Internet domain name was registered.

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Point of No Return

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 10, 2013
Julius Caesar

Julius Caesar

January 10, 49 BC: Julius Caesar crosses the river from Gaul into Italy, towards Rome. This provocation was the deciding moment, the point of no return, the Crossing of the Rubicon. Gaius Julius Caesar was born into a patrician family with a moderate power base. His father rose as high as praetor, the second highest elected magistrate rank of the Republic. Young Gaius was born in turbulent times. The Social Wars raged from 91 BC to 88 BC (Julius was born either in 100 BC or 102 BC).

At age 16, when his father died suddenly, Gaius became the head of his family. He joined the army and served with distinction. He lost his fortune, lived with scandals, and even was kidnapped. He was a brilliant politician and made deals and persuaded those in power to pass some of that power to him. Caesar was elected as consul via bribes and dirty politics in 59 BC. Even as consul, Caesar had mounting debts and political intrigue dogging his every step.

As a provincial governor, money would surely flow in. Either extortion or military adventure would fill the coffers. Caesar went off to Gaul and defended the Republic against invasion and just happened to loot and pillage. Caesar is said to be one of the most brilliant strategists of all time, compared favorably with Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, and Napoleon. While he sometimes lost a battle, he was victorious frequently regardless of terrain or weather conditions.

In 50 BC, Caesar was ordered to return to Rome and disband his armies. His Proconsul term had ended. Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus accused Caesar of insubordination and treason. If he returned without an army or political immunity, he was powerless. Instead, he violated orders and brought one legion of battle-hardened warriors with him on his journey to Rome. Leaving the wilds of the territories, he brought his troops to the River. He crossed the Rubicon River saying, “The die is cast.” Civil War followed and Julius Caesar passed his point of no return and into history.

“I love the name of honor, more than I fear death.”

“Cowards die many times before their actual deaths.”

“As a rule, what is out of sight disturbs men’s minds more seriously than what they see.”

“If you must break the law, do it to seize power: in all other cases observe it.”

“I came, I saw, I conquered.” – all from Julius Caesar

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: Another famous sound byte we get from Caesar is the Ides of March, the date on which he was assassinated. March 15, 44 BC saw a cadre of enemies waylaying Caesar on his way to speak before the Senate. Mark Antony had learned of the assassination plot the night before and went to warn Caesar. However, Antony was intercepted and not given a chance to warn Caesar. On the steps, Tillius Cimber presented a petition and while Caesar stopped to look at it, the other conspirators crowded around. He was stabbed 23 times and died on the steps. 

Also on this day: No. 5 – In 1971, Coco Chanel died.
The Tube – In 1863, London’s Metropolitan Underground Railroad opened for business.
Uncommon Sense – In 1776, a pamphlet was published anonymously.