cover image The Death of Caesar: The Story of History's Most Famous Assassination

The Death of Caesar: The Story of History's Most Famous Assassination

Barry Strauss. Simon & Schuster, $27 (352p) ISBN 978-1-4516-6879-7

Strauss (Masters of Command), a professor of history and classics at Cornell University, provides a glimpse of the events surrounding March 15, 44 B.C.E., when Julius Caesar, Roman "dictator in perpetuity," was stabbed to death in the Senate chambers by a crowd of conspirators. With a keen focus on the conspiracy itself, Strauss examines Caesar's rise to power while looking closely at his colleagues, soldiers, and friends (many of whom turned on him). He runs through the many reasons the perpetrators had for committing such a shocking act, outlines the various alliances and honor codes, and addresses the assassination's aftermath. The political intrigue receives ample attention, as Strauss follows players such as Brutus, Cassius, and Decimus through subsequent political and cultural events. He also goes into detail about what the immediate scene might have looked like, covering funeral customs of the day: the wax masks of the deceased worn by actors walking in the procession, the roles different figures played in the funeral. Strauss's writing is stilted and the material may be most accessible to those with some knowledge of ancient Rome, but most readers will find this an informative and dramatic tale. Agent: Cathy Hemming, McCormick & Williams Literary Agency. (Mar.)