Roman politician, military general and historian who was at the helm of the rise of the Roman Empire and the demise of the Roman Republic. What can we learn from Caesar? Part of the Immortals leadership series.
THE IDES OF MARCH
The Ides of March (/aɪdz/; Latin: Idus Martiae, Late Latin: Idus Martii) is a day on the Roman calendar that corresponds to March 15th. In 44 BC, it became notorious as the date of the assassination of Julius Caesar which made the Ides of March a turning point in Roman history.
- The African War
- The Alexandrian War
- The Civil War
- The Gallic War
- The Spanish War
- The Complete Works of Julius Caesar
- Masters of Rome Series
- Caesar at the Rubicon
- Shakespeare: Julius Caesar
- Caesar: Life of a Colossus
- Ambition without Boundaries: How Julius Caesar’s Thirst for Conquest Shaped the Ancient World, and Impacted the Modern One
- Who was Julius Caesar?
- Roman Site Where Julius Caesar Was Murdered Set To Open To The Public
- Archaeologists Discover Where Julius Caesar Landed in Britain
- How Julius Caesar Lost Power, Yet Held Favor In The Masses
RUBICON RIVER, ITALY
The Rubicon River was the boundary of Rome during Caesar’s time.
Newt’s World Podcast
Episode 175: 5 Days of Christmas Immortals – Julius Caesar
Description: Roman politician, military general and historian who was at the helm of the rise of the Roman Empire and the demise of Roman Republic. What can we learn from Caesar? Part of the Immortals leadership series.
Newt Gingrich: In this episode of Newt’s World, The ides of March is a day on the Roman calendar that corresponds to March 15th in 44 BC. March 15th became notorious as the date of the assassination of Julius Caesar, which made the ides of March a turning point in Roman history. So on this episode, I’m telling the story of Julius Caesar‘s remarkable life and death. If you doubt Caesar, impact on our lives, have a look at a calendar. There’s a month called July, that month was named for Julius Caesar. The following month is August, named after Caesar’s nephew, the first Roman Emperor Augustus. The calendar we use today was named after these two men who lived 2000 years ago. The modern calendar is actually Caesar’s calendar. He added the number of days necessary to actually fit how often the earth goes around the sun and the 365 day calendar, including adjusting it every four years for leap, is Caesar’s invention. So Caesar is in your life, whether you know it or not, he’s in your life every year and he’s part of the calendar. But what you live
Newt Gingrich: the term Caesar, which became in a German, Kaiser Kaiser Wilhelm, we came in Russian czar is today still a term that describes a centralized dictatorial power 2000 years after he died. So we’re dealing with somebody whose impact shook our part of the world, the Western world so profoundly that even to this day, he is in many ways and an unknown and nine on studied with very real presence. If you look at Latin, you’ll find that among the most elegant books ever written in Latin was Caesar’s Gallic Wars and Caesar’s Civil Wars. Caesar was not just a great military general and an amazing politician. He was also a remarkable good writer and a remarkably good orator. His reputation for using language brilliantly made him one of the leading people in Rome for much of his life, just because of his sheer talent. Because the Roman republic got too big, too militaristic was too much.
Newt Gingrich: to center of power, and as a result, money poured in from all over to corrupt the Roman system. So if you were in Greece, so you were in Spain or you were in North Africa and you wanted to get goodies, the most efficient way to get goodies was to have a lobbyist in Rome, bribe somebody. And there are a lot of to be learned by what happens when your system gets to be bigger than you can maintain. And when the breakdown of the traditional order leads to the rise of tyrants, and that’s literally what was happening in Caesar’s lifetime. If you don’t understand the Rome of his time, you can’t understand him. This is his uncle Marius is around 100 BC and a, he’s the best general of his generation, but he is politically on the losing side of a power struggle. And so his, he sort of is pushed off to one side and he’s not very important.
Newt Gingrich: And all of a sudden this huge Germanic tribe comes rolling down the Rome River valley and the Roman people get scared because they think these, this huge tribe is going to break through into Italy. And so they call him back and give them an army, goes north and he wipes out the German tribe and they now like Marius briefly, and then he is deposed and exiled and he is sent to a place that we don’t think of as a desert. But in his time, Sicily was considered a desert. It was not very heavily occupied. And, and as he recounts late in his life, uh, he survives only by imagining what he’s going to do to his enemies. When he gets back, he does get back and then he does what he said he would do. Now why does this matter? Because what’s beginning to happen
Newt Gingrich: The politics of personality and philosophy and policy are beginning to be replaced by violence, by, by poisonings, by assassinations, by crowds in the street, uh, and by intimidation. And in many ways, marriage is the beginning of that breakthrough. Uh, now in that period, the secondary rises of, of Sulla, who is a great general and Sulla, becomes the great competitor to Marius. And between them, they just start wiping people out. So if you’re on solid side, you’re in danger of Marius killing you. If you’re in Marius society in danger of Sulla killing it. One of the ways they finance what they’re doing is a look at the richest guys and they just steal their property and they say, you know, lucky you, you get to be exiled to Greece and I want all your money or you could stay here, I’ll kill you and then I’ll take all your money.
Newt Gingrich: Which, which one do you like better? And it was substantial number of Romans ended up going to Greece for long periods just in order to avoid being killed in that process. In that period, Julius Caesar doesn’t really exist yet. He’s a kid. His family is very old. In fact, they are among the oldest families. The Julia are among the oldest families in Roman history. They go all the way back in theory, a prince from Troy. And in fact they trace their mythical background to the goddess Venus. So Caesar at one level is born into a family which says to him, you are the descendent of God. And Caesar had the kind of personality that made sense to him. And so he, his whole life, he has this kind of inner arrogance inner certainty that you probably have to be a descendant of God. I mean, it’s all hard to imagine how any normal person could have been like Caesar, but he has no money and his father dies when he’s young.
Newt Gingrich: His mother actually takes the family’s relatively small holdings, invested in a high rise, which back then man, six or eight story apartment building in Sagura, which was a working class neighborhood. And so she and the family live on the top floor, which is also the healthiest, um, the cleanest. And they ran all the rest of the floors, which means that in his early 12 to 16 years of age period, Caesar’s wandering around among working class people, learning, working class, Latin, understanding how they think, what they do, how they negotiate and, and he is stunningly smart decision, maybe much like Napoleon, one of the smartest people ever to live. And so he could absorb information. He could learn things at enormous speeds.
Audio Clip: [inaudible]
Newt Gingrich: Caesar was ravenously ambitious. Uh, he thought he was descended from the gods. He thought he was descended from a family which had been cheated and which was socially worthy of dramatically greater assets than they actually had from the earliest time we encounter him. He is unendingly ambitious and he understands that in the Roman world, if you’re going to be ambitious, you gotta be physically capable of being a warrior because otherwise you can’t earn the level of respect. As it’s interesting to watch Cicero for example, who is probably Caesar’s equal as an orator and as a writer is not a great warrior and it cripples his career cause everybody knows it. But Caesar is somebody who could fight his way out of a room, could fight his way in a battle, could lead an army in the army, felt honored to follow him. And I think he acquired that. Uh, my guess is he acquired the core of that when he was like 13 or 14 or 15 years old because you looked around. He said, I’m Caesar.
Newt Gingrich: Caesar goes on to marry somebody who Sulla doesn’t like, and she goes, she belongs politically to the wrong side. And saw who was a dictator and who was she? And he, he’s really, he and marries her really beginning of the total breakdown of the republic as a system because now you have dictators, you have people who have real power and they’re prepared to kill you if you don’t do what they want. And sometimes they’ll kill you even if you do do what they want, cause they need your money. And so a saw basically says to him, you have to divorce your wife. And Caesar says, no, let’s just truly one of those things where you have to believe you have some kind of divine destiny. Oh, you’re just nuts. Because Caesar’s standing there is a very young man facing this dictator who’s a great general, has a huge force around him capable of have killing Cesar on the spot.
Newt Gingrich: And he says, I’m not doing it. And so Sulla says, okay, well then get it out of town. You know, I’m not going to, for some reason they decided not to kill Caesar. And it may have been, again, this magic touch that Caesar had that he could manipulate people at levels that are just astonishing. And so the dictator said, okay, I’m really, really mad at you, but I’m not gonna kill you right now. So Caesar goes up in the Appenines mountains with for three years hides because he knows that on a bad weekend, Sulla could wake up and decide, you know, Caesar doesn’t amuse me that much. Let’s kill him. Eventually he joins the army to get away from Rome cause he wants to get far enough away that a Sulla can easily kill him. And he doesn’t want to remind Sulla that he’s around. So he wanders off in the great action area at that time for the army is over in what they were considered the east, which is a long, what we now would say is the Turkish and Syrian coast over there, we’re constantly fighting with both pirates and with the local governments. Caesar turns out to be an amazingly courageous soldier. He wins the oak wreath, which is the highest in sort of the equivalent of our congressional medal of honor.
Newt Gingrich: There are many ways in which you can have authority or fame. You know, you can be rich, you can be good family, you can hold a high office if you’ve done something so heroic that you’re allowed to wear the oak wreath, you’re now in a unique category because no one can challenge your courage. And so it puts you in a very small league that it says, first of all, you’ve been in combat. You’ve done it so heroically that your peers awarded you this, this highest. And then the congressional medal of honor is the only thing that’s comparable. And if you’ve ever been in military environments, people walk in wearing the congressional medal of honor are by definition a different league because it’s something they earned. So I think in that sense it was one of the things early on that marked him off in the sort of said, this guy is special. You are to take him seriously. And, uh, he’s going to become somebody. The concept of wearing a wreath, which the Etruscans had done with the gold wreaths for their kings. And in Greek mythology, Apollo represents power and wears a Laurel wreath on his head. So in Caesar’s mind wearing the oak wreath would be a signal of his uniqueness and his near god-like importance. Again, it was an age when people started earlier because they died younger, but still that this is guy who, who is working really hard to rise as fast as he can.
Newt Gingrich: So Caesar is a very young guy, is working his way into being seen as a great soldier, a great general, great orator, a very, very clever politician. Caesar at one point gets captured by pirates. Now the pirates had operated off the coast of Syria and Turkey because they had found places where they could go in, where the passageways were so complicated that no one could find them. And what they didn’t realize was that Caesar had almost a perfect memory. So two things start out of this particular experience. One is his season by himself, surrounded by pirates, who are pretty tough people. And they want 20 units of silver for him. And he says, that’s really stupid. No, I’m a famous guy. I mean, you got to go for 50 if you don’t I mean, if you don’t go for 50 I will feel so insulted.
Newt Gingrich: And if you go for 50 they’ll pay you. And by the way, after they pay you and you release me, I want to come back and kill you and the pirates all things. This is just great. Here’s this guy, he’s not physically dominant, he’s fairly slender. My very muscled but very slender and um, he doesn’t look like he’s a guy who’s going to come back and kill all the pirates. And so they laugh and they think he’s just terrific, great personality, loved chatting with him, you know, so they get the ask for 50 cause he told them to, they get 50 they releasing, he organizes an army. He remembered exactly how to find them. He goes back, he crucifies all of them, but because he liked them, he cut their throats first. And then there’s a brief now trimmer about the Romans. Crucifixion in the Roman model is designed to be really painful.
Newt Gingrich: It’s not novel we see in the Christian image of Christ on the cross in the Roman model, you are tied up and you are hanging from a wooden cross and the goal is to allow you to hang there until the point where birds, for example, will come and peck your eyes out, um, and you will eventually die of dehydration. When the Romans put nails through Christ and poke him in the side with a spear, these are actually considered acts of kindness because they accelerate the rate at which you die. To understand the Roman world? You have to start with a really simple model. These were really tough ruthless people. For example, in Spartacus rebels, one of the great moments in Roman history, Spartacus has about 20,000 followers and he really scares the Romans because the idea of a slave rebellion would be genuinely frightening if you were a Roman aristocrat.
Newt Gingrich: So when they finally defeat him, they crucify somebody about every 200 feet for 70 miles. So from Naples to Rome, you are riding down a road that has people crucified the entire distance and the goal And their goal was to sort of say to people, we’re really sincere and we want you to know you do this kind of stuff. We will relentlessly come and get you. This is also a country. Remember this before Caesar just to give you this flavor and often hits me as I walk around Rome, looking at the city and looking at the laws. The city which had during the Punic wars with Carthage, Hannibal is in, is in Italy for 17 years and they can’t beat him, but he can’t break through the city walls. And so for 17 years they just slug it out and they Romans at one point losing an entire army at a battle called Kenay torch.
Newt Gingrich: So attitude is, I guess we do, we have better than another alarming. They decided to beat the Carthaginians. They have to go to sea a and build a navy, which they had not gone up to them. They don’t. Entire Navy goes to see this, a huge hurricane, the navy sinks. And the Roman responses, I guess we need a new navy and they build another navy. I mean these are just relentless. This is the world. I’m giving this as background because understand Caesar, you have to understand this was accepted as normal. This level of toughness was where they started. It wasn’t what they got to. And so Caesar comes along and Caesar is of anything smarter, more personable, more ruthless and tougher than anybody else. Somebody once said that in the great fight between Pompei and Caesar, the the equivalent of two pirates when that they were both trying to win control of the empire of the republic, which became the empire and that it wasn’t like there was a good guy in a bad guy.
Newt Gingrich: These are, these are guys just slugging it out for power. And if they happened to kill you in the way through tough break cause what they were doing was important to them. So here’s Caesar comes back home, enters politics, becomes the high priest of the Roman religion, which gives them another source of authority and becomes an elected official. And the Roman system was very complicated. There’s a hierarchy you get into, you gradually rise in importance. It’s all designed to minimize the ability of any one person to be a dictator is what this word Marius and Sulla had broken out of. But after Sulla’s death, it begins to revert back towards the traditions. And the goal again, a little bit like the American constitution, the goal is to not have anybody concentrate power enough to be in charge, the whole thing. So they have two consoles every year.
Newt Gingrich: The two consoles can veto each other. They are people who are elected to lower office, they have various powers and Caesar’s gradually climbing this chain of authority. And at the same time he is becoming one of the most popular people in Rome. It’s in, it’s really interesting to watch. Caesar is instinctively what I would call a populist in the sense that having grown up in Sagura and having understood the working class Romans, she had concluded that the future of Rome was absorbing more and more people. So part of his career will be extending citizenship to more and more and more people, which builds a huge force of followers, uh, because they see Caesar as protecting them and as being their guy. She’s are all ultimately is given authority to go to Gaul. No, he’s already led several armies in, in Spain. These are that armies over in the east of what we would call Turkey or Syria.
Newt Gingrich: But now he has the big moment of his career and what people tend to forget is Caesars gone for seven years, about 3 million men in Gaul when he arrives. One estimate is a Roman historians, Tony is that he killed a million, sold a mine into slavery and there were a million left. By the time he wasn’t done, he destroyed probably a Historians, said he destroyed 800 towns. Uh, at one point, uh, he fights a particular tribe and they finally surrender. He surrounds their Ford. He fought, they finally surrender. I instead of killing them, he cuts off their right hands so that there are 5,000 men wandering around Gaul with one hand cause he wants to send a signal that you oppose me and it is going to be really bad for you. Finally, the tribes get together. They all rebel simultaneously. He’s in the fight of his life and in about a six month period he organizes his army, however, maneuvers them and wins. Now the Roman army is a great strength as engineering and logistics. They know how to have a seige. They know how to build a fort to protect themselves. They know how to sustain their army in the field or supplies in is a very well thought out are men and army, which had been practicing war for several hundred years, one on one. Um, the goals were probably as good or better than the Romans. The Germans were probably as good or better than the Romans problem was it in fight one-on-one Roman armies were very, very good armies.
Newt Gingrich: Caesar has tremendous instrument which he uses brilliantly and he uses it for seven years and support and understand this because when you watch what’s about to happen when he goes back to Rome, there’s only one person who has the level of military experience in the entire Roman world and that Caesar, and he has, he knows how to move. He knows how to organize nobody else’s in his league.
Audio Clip: [inaudible]
Newt Gingrich: After the break, Caesar returns to Rome and establishes his role as leader of the Roman republic.
Audio Clip: [inaudible]
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Audio Clip: [inaudible]
Speaker 5: she’s a returns to Rome after seven years at war in Gaul and he faces a problem. He’s got to cross the Rubicon River, which was the boundary of Rome at the time.
Newt Gingrich: Caesar builds a whole series of signifiers and he has his legions leaning forward. He comes down without his legions because he wants to be peaceful. He wants to send a signal. He’s, he’s written in Gallic wars, which are well worth reading and which essentially are, he wrote, he wrote a volume every year and essentially our, here’s how Caesar went and captured gaul and turned all these slaves into money and why you should love Caesar. Because look what he’s done for Rome. He also founds a daily newspaper to remind you that Caesar loves you and Caesar does good things for you. So his enemies who under Roman rule, if he gives up his governorship, they can try him. And it’s quite clear, given the last 40 years of Roman history, if they try him, they’re going to kill him. And that’s the only way they can contain him.
Newt Gingrich: And so he’s negotiating saying, oh, I want to be peaceful. I really want to work all this out and down here without my doing my army. You know, I’m your guy. Can we get something worked out? Well, when they finally figure out, no, we want going to kill you, we’re not going to accept the out. But they hadn’t recognized was he had already set his units in motion and the first legion could get to the Rubicon and days and they could send signal fires all the way through Gaul, so he’s mobilizing a force very fast. Meanwhile, his major opponent, poppy, was the great general before Caesar and sulla copies the dominant figure, very successful, very well organized, but a little slow and a little insecure where we’re seizure things. Look, I’m to send it from the gods. I might as well gamble because know the guys will be there for me. Pompey kind of things, you know, I’m just sending it from normal people on this guy. Caesar scares me.
Newt Gingrich: They asked Gnaeus Pompey Magnus who we would call Pompey the great came out of a provincial Italian background. It’s an interesting contrast, very competent man, very hardworking man. He actually cleans up all the pirates in the eastern Mediterranean and is widely seen as a tremendous organizer of military forces, but in the end he’s not descended from the gods. He doesn’t represent one of the oldest families in Rome. He doesn’t have this aristocratic sense of destiny, which is at the heart of what makes Caesar so remarkable. And so Pompey, who’s he’s proud, he’s competent, he’s powerful, but he’s normal and he’s trying to cope with somebody whose abnormal. Pompey was smart, but Pompey was not. He didn’t have that quickness, that sudden political skill that Caesar had, and he didn’t have the ability to plan at three or four or five levels simultaneously. And the resolve was, I think that Caesar always frightened him and always confused him.
Newt Gingrich: Every general I’ve ever studied, Caesar’s on the shortlist of people you cannot give spare time to because he will use it and he’ll use it better than you will. So Pompey leaves Italy. Now the reason this really matters, and this is why when you visit Rome and you look at the coliseum and you look at the forum and you’ll just just think to yourself, this was a city of over a million people at the time, we’re talking about it was the center of the Mediterranean world. It had the symbolism. It’s Rome. The guy who gives up wrong, he gives up symbolically all of the emotional and moral power. And as Caesar walks into Rome, he is acquiring all of the authority of being in Rome is also the center of money in the center of commerce. So Caesar overnight is able to start chasing Pompey’s forces everywhere and Caesar has better divisions.
Newt Gingrich: He has people who’ve been practicing warfare for seven years. They are loyal to him. Sadly for him, his top lieutenant actually leaves and joins Pompey. I think Cesar will lose and thinks that Caesar’s is breaking the rules and that makes you feel bad. But he sends all of his, all of his equipment to him and says, you know, quit a great seven years. Sorry his side of the other guy cause he’s gonna lose. And so Caesar wanders around the Mediterranean, defeating the various forces on the other side, ending up with chasing Pompey all the way to Egypt where the Egyptians haven’t figured out the Pompey is the loser. Decide they will cut off his head and give it to seizure because you know, they want to show, sees you how much they like him. Well then thought about the fact that Pompey was married to Caesar’s daughter pompey, and Caesar were friends while they happen to have this little disagreement which led to civil war, uh, it’s likely Caesar would not have killed pompey.
Newt Gingrich: Yeah, Caesar’s genuinely deeply offended. They would have civil war in Egypt between Cleopatra and her brother and her brother’s the one who cut off pompey’s head. And so he’s, he sides with her fights. A civil war defeats the Egyptian army fight to civil war in Egypt. There’s a moment where the Romans are being sieged in Alexandria. And it’s true. During the siege, the acts, the great library of Alexandra is burned down, whether by Caesar’s people or by the Egyptians. We own a different side to that story was a great loss business, a huge collection of an Egyptian works that burned one night. But anyhow, they’re there and the regular rooms are getting very nervous. They’re really worried. And why is Caesar not worried? And he said, I’m waiting. And they go, well, what do you, what are you waiting for? He said, I’m waiting. They’re gone.
Newt Gingrich: And they go, whoa. What happens at dawn. The Sunrise? I thought you knew. Well what he didn’t tell him was that two months earlier, you know, he ordered his legions to come from Syria and he knew that they were a few miles outside of town and that’s very so much like Caesar, you can see Caesar’s ability to play seven games simultaneously. And I’ll tell you about any of them was amazing. And again, the main hand mean people. I think people at one level we’re all struck by awe and another level they were really frightened because the essence of the Roman model was to balance power. So nobody had too much power. And to have a system in which the very structure of the system or limited the ability to lead the dictators, and what had been happening was through this long hundred year period, dictators kept killing people. And had established a pattern.
Newt Gingrich: Now that you are on the losing side, it’s not as huge jump from one to jail to being killed. And that’s what was being happened to them. And so you saw this continuous process, even the people who were for Caesar were worried because Caesar ultimately represented the end of the republic. And he represented establishing, a new system of power they had had since the last to talk in king was kicked out in four 76 BC. The Romans had had a passion against kingship. I mean, it was a long stretch there where if anybody thought you were thinking you were going to become a king, you were gone. And now all of a sudden, here’s a guy who by sheer power and sheer brilliance is clearly the central figure, he becomes dictator for life. A not yet king doesn’t want to be king, just happen to be dictator. Uh, and so the group of people who begin to really worry that the system is right at tilt, and if they don’t do something,
Newt Gingrich: that in fact the republic will die. And that’s why you end up with the assassination in March of 44 BC.
Newt Gingrich: when we come back. Caesar faces a Senate who jealous of his power decides to murder him.
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Newt Gingrich: one of the fascinating aspects of Caesar’s life was the impact of his death because it became one of the most historic moments in all of western history, partially because of the brilliant portrait in Shakespeare’s play and the speech by Mark Antony and his funeral. Partially because she’s your had been such a life force. He had been so dominant. He strode a across the Roman empire in such a huge way that his disappearance through death left a vacuum that would take years to sort out because there was no natural ability for anyone to step in and become Caesar. And so there’ll be an entire civil war before he was replaced by his nephew who would actually found the empire itself Octavius who becomes Augustus and who’s the second month we name for one of the Caesar’s. So you had July and August Caesar himself. In a way, it almost sets a stage for his own killing.
Newt Gingrich: The Greeks had a concept they called Hubris. And hubris meant that you began to take on to yourself enormous power and enormous self affection. And as you became more and more filled with Hubris, you began to set yourself up for what the Greeks called Nemesis. And Nemesis was the destruction of the person who had hubris. Well, in a way Caesar is the perfect model of what the Greeks were trying to warn about. The bigger Caesar became, the more powerful Cesar became. The more people feared him and the more people envied him. And remember the of this isn’t the average Roman, the average Roman thought Caesar was fine. Caesar fed them Caesar entertain them. A Caesar conquered slaves that enriched them. So Caesar had a pretty big base among normal people. But if you’re an aristocrat and you had a great sense of self worth, and you thought your family had been around for hundreds of years, and here suddenly you’re in the shadow.
Newt Gingrich: No longer an equal, no longer a fellow Aristocrat, no longer a person who could look upon themselves as significant. But instead you were clearly weaker, lesser subordinate, smaller, and you hated every minute of it. And you thought, who this guy Caesar, that he’s flaunting his power, he’s flaunting his role in history because there was a sense that the bigger Caesar got the smaller the aristocrats got. So part of this, just pure, old fashioned jealousy. Well, Caesar had now accumulated a very substantial number of, of aristocrats who just loathed him. They couldn’t say that to his face because they were terrified of him cause he’d kill him. So they talked to each other and s with quiet, they met together. They began conspiring. There was a secondary part of this. There was a legitimate, honest, deep fear of kingship. Uh, it’s important. Remember that Rome really becomes Rome in 76 BC when they get rid of the last king, the last Archean king is replaced, and the Romans acquire this deep, passionate opposition to having a king.
Newt Gingrich: That’s why the Republic is so stable for such a long period, because in their mind, the alternative is to go back to kingship. Well, now here’s Caesar who says, every day, oh, I don’t really want to be a king. But in the last days before the, the Ides of March, uh, he and Mark Anthony began to play a game in which Mark Anthony, who’s his chief subordinate, starts to say, oh, well, wouldn’t you consider being a king? And Caesar says, no, no, no, no. Nothing’s further from my mind. I really, I can’t imagine why you had mentioned the word King and Julius Caesar in the same sentence while the other novels. No, this is the beginning of a setup. And that at some point that summer that a Caesar is very likely going to say, well, all right, if you really want me to be king, how can I turn you down?
Newt Gingrich: So you have both this fear that Caesar represents the end of the republic and the death of a system, which was, uh, almost 500 years old by that stage. And you had this personal level of just a really deeply disliking Caesar because he’s too big, too powerful, too arrogant, too smart, and they just want to get rid of him. Conspiracy begins to grow. And ironically, the Roman Senate itself was, uh, being refitted. And so they had to move the meeting. They trade shows a Papi city remembering of course that Pompey was the great leader who Caesar had defeated in the earlier civil war. So now they’re going down to Pompey’s theater, which was a quite spectacular place, uh, and had to meet the rumor comes supposedly from a soothsayer who could see the future. The Caesar should be aware, the ides of March. It was apparently real enough that his wife begged him not to go to that meeting.
Newt Gingrich: Of the Senate that day. Uh, and this apparently is not just a fiction of, of Shakespeare’s making, but actually at the time, uh, was a real event. Caesar of course, I think had two different things going on. One was he was very skeptical of these kinds of things. I mean, he, he didn’t particularly worry about soothsayers, uh, telling him he’s going to win or lose anything. But the other was I think that he had the sense of destiny. If it was his destiny to be killed, uh, then he would become a martyr for Rome. Uh, if it was his destiny to stay alive, then he would continue to be the leader who was a, had become dictator, which was a step below kingship. And he would continue simply to run wrong. And I think he sort of thought in that sense, there’s a fatalism in Caesar that runs through his entire life and you can see it over and over again where he risked death and he risked defeat because he just believes you have to roll the dice and see what’s gonna happen.
Newt Gingrich: Um, for virtually his entire life, he’d rolled the dice and he’d won. So he goes to Pompey’s theater that day and there were, there may have been up to 60 nobles who had gotten together, although the number who actually attack him as a much smaller number. He knew that a number of them disliked him, but part of the reason they disliked him was he had contempt for them. So since he had contempt for them, he wasn’t going to be afraid of them. And he deliberately dismisses his security force because he wants to communicate. I’m not afraid of you guys. I don’t need to be surrounded by police to protect me. Uh, cause none of you guys have the guts to do anything anyway. Well, that particular day he was wrong. When he goes in, the senators who hated him surround him, supposedly a Civilius Caska hits the strikes, the first blow, uh, hitting him in the neck and drawing blood.
Newt Gingrich: Other senators join in and he has a head again and again and again around the head and the neck. Marcus Brutus apparently wounds him in the groin. At least that’s the traditional legend. And Caesar said to her, said to him, you too, my child, or Et tu Brutai. As it became translated in later years, there was a rumor, which probably wasn’t true, but it was a really delicious rumor that Brutus in fact was his illegitimate son. And he certainly had had a long relationship with Brutus’, his mother. But given the relative ages, it’s unlikely that Brutus is really his son, but it’s clear that Brutus really dislikes Caesar probably in part because he objected to Caesar’s sleeping with his mother. And that was a habit decision had with substantial number of women around other Roman aristocracy, which probably further led to people being willing to kill him.
Newt Gingrich:So Caesar dies and it’s as though a great force has left the world. And I think at one level they’re all staring at each other going, oh my God, we really did it. And then they’re faced with, so how do we deal with the Roman crowd? Because the Roman crowd initially was very procedural. Caesar been very good to them and he had, uh, improved their lives. He paid attention to them. He was a popularist, he was interested in the people rather than the aristocracy. So they said basically we saved Rome from dictatorship. Marc Antony speaking at the funeral, it gives an oration. It’s pretty clear that when the assassins were done speaking, they were in pretty good shape. By the time Mark Antony was done speaking, they’re all sneaking out of town because the mob has turned and the mob clearly now will tear them apart. And this is apparently really an actual fact of that particular day that in one oration, Mark Anthony who had been Caesar’s deputy is able to convince people, oh, I could never speak well of Caesar because we’ve all been told by these honorable men how evil Caesar is.
Newt Gingrich: And we know these are honorable men and therefore I can’t say anything good about Caesar. And so I’m not even sure I should read you Caesar’s will, which Caesar, who you know loved you so much has written, but it would be wrong of me to read this well, and which Caesar loved you so much because we’ve all been told how Evil Caesar is by these honorable men. And this goes on and on a crowd after a little while other crowd begins to go. Well, read the will we want to hear the will. Well, of course the will is a perfectly political document in which Caesar is basically said, I love Rome so much that everything I have goes to you, the people of Rome. And then Anthony has to say, well, now we can’t be grateful to Caesar for having loved us so much because we’ve all been told by these honorable men that he was a tyrant, that he was a bad person.
Newt Gingrich: So I’m sure none of you would want us to execute his will and give everybody all the things Caesar who wants you to have. Because it’d be so wrong to do that when these honorable men have told you this, Caesar was bad. And of course, by this point, you have a combination of emotion and greed and memory. Uh, and frankly the aristocrats are not very, they’re not very nice people. And the average person in Rome knew that. And the average person in Rome knew that the number one reason the aristocrats didn’t like Caesar was because they were aristocrats. And by the way, they were aristocrats weren’t going to be nice to the people either. And it apparently is true historically that by the end of Anthony speaking, the aristocrats who killed Caesar had left Rome to get away before the crowd attacked them. A is truly a remarkable moment.
Newt Gingrich:And in that process, Caesar had set the stage by his death and by his will, by Anthony who understood him. And by his young nephew, Octavius, who had been an apprentice to Caesar Caesar, had brought him in. Cesar had had him travel with him and Caesar had taken him on the wars and Octavius learned an immense amount where Caesar’s shatters and ends the republic. He doesn’t actually create a stable system and that’s part of why he gets killed. But his nephew now, his nephew will come along, take over the family business, take over Caesar’s name and in the process establish an empire, which will last for 400 years. And it’s truly remarkable because nobody on the day Caesar was killed could have picked Octavius out as the longterm winner. He was totally underestimated by everyone, and yet he had learned so much from his uncle and he knew how to play being the nephew. The only person who could claim to be Julius Caesar’s heir was Octavius and that may have been what ultimately after death with Caesar’s last grade contribution to a, the history of Rome and the history of the Western world.
Audio Clip: [inaudible]
Newt Gingrich: if you’d like to know more about Julius Caesar, we’ve created a show page or some of my favorite books, plays and movies about him at newtsworld.com Newt’s World is produced by Westwood one, the executive producers, Debbie Meyers, our producers Garnsey Sloane. Our editor is Robert Barofsky. Our researcher is Rachel Peterson. The artwork for the show was created by Steve Penley. The music was composed by Joey Salvia special thanks to the team at Gingrich 360 and Westwood one, Tim Sabian and Robert Matthews. Please subscribe, the new twirled on apple podcast, Spotify, Google play, or wherever you get entertaining podcasts on the next episode of Newt’s world five g technology is going to fundamentally change the way we live our lives. Find out why it’s referred to as the next industrial revolution.
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