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Background for Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar

Background for Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. Ancient Rome: a blood soaked history…. The Origins of the Great City. Founded 753 B.C. by twins Romulus and Remus. Descendents of Aeneas (Trojan who fled to Italy after the fall of Troy).

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Background for Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar

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  1. Background for Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar Ancient Rome: a blood soaked history…

  2. The Origins of the Great City • Founded 753 B.C. by twins Romulus and Remus. • Descendents of Aeneas (Trojan who fled to Italy after the fall of Troy). • Both twins were thrown into the Tiber River as babies by an uncle who felt that his power was being threatened.

  3. The Origins of the Great City • They floated down the river, were found in a basket, and nursed to health by a female wolf (implications). • The brothers founded the city of Rome together until a quarrel took place between them, resulting in Romulus’ murder of Remus. Romulus became the first King of Rome.

  4. Political History and Fluctuation of Political Systems • Kings continued to rule Rome for many years. • Last King of Rome was the tyrant Tarquin, a completely evil and corrupt king. • 509 B.C. Junius Brutus (NOT the same Marcus Brutus we will meet in the play, but a distant ancestor) overthrew Tarquin and helped create the Roman Republic.

  5. Political History and Fluctuation of Political Systems • The Roman Republic developed a government of many levels. • Power was kept in the hands of the patricians (the wealthy, ruling power) but were “balanced” by the plebeians (working class citizens, represented in Roman government but lacking in any real power. Does not include slaves, foreigners, and women). • The highest ranking officials in the Roman Republic were the two consuls (each elected to carry out a one year term). • The consuls were elected in pairs, one senior consul and one junior consul. • They were the commanders in chief of the army and held all real executive power. Each consul could veto the actions of the other. • Julius Caesar became a consul in 59 B.C.

  6. Political History and Fluctuation of Political Systems • The Senate included 600 members of the wealthy (patrician) class. This was the ruling body of the Republic. • High Roman Officials, such as consuls, were also senators. The Senate’s decrees became law unless they were vetoed by tribunes. • The ten Tribunes were the only plebeians who were elected officials. • “In theory”, the tribunes could check the power of senators and protect the rights of ordinary citizens. They had “the power” to veto any Senate decree and keep it from becoming law. • Tribunes were also immune from arrest. This prevented the patricians from silencing a tribune by throwing him in jail. Consequently, many tribunes were assassinated when they stood in the way of a senator’s ambition.

  7. Shakespeare’s Sources: • Shakespeare based Caesar on written accounts of Roman History, especially Plutarch’s (Greek Historian, born 90 years after Caesar’s assassination) Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans.

  8. Caesar’s Own History • Julius Caesar (100-44 B.C.) • Julius Caesar was elected consul after his victory over Spain. • Became part of the First Triumvirate (government controlled by three people) along with Pompey and Crassus. • Governed territory of Gaul (France, Belgium, and Italy). He expanded the region with brilliant military conquests, gaining great fame as a general.

  9. Caesar’s Own History • Pompey became suspicious of Caesar’s power. Caesar defeated Pompey in the Battle of Pharsalus in 48 B.C. • He took complete control of the Roman government in 45. B.C. and was named “dictator for life.”

  10. Cleopatra’s Arrival in Rome • Caesar had become acquainted with Cleopatra in 48 B.C. They had fallen in love and had a child. • Cleopatra was an ambitious woman. She wanted Caesar to become King and make her Queen of Rome.

  11. Cleopatra’s Arrival in Rome • Discrimination of “foreign queen.” • 44 B.C. Caesar was killed by his best friend Brutus. • Brutus claimed that Caesar’s murder was in preservation of the Roman Republic. • Caesar’s death led to the birth of the Roman Empire.

  12. Caesar’s Alliances (and Assassins) Mark Antony: • Truly Caesar’s best friend. • Became a great general who was popular with both the army and the Roman People. • After Caesar’s death, Antony created an alliance with Octavius Caesar (Julius Caesar’s nephew) and Lepidus, another general. • They created the Second Triumvirate. Together they defeated Brutus and Cassius at the Battle of Philippi. Afterwards, they killed hundreds of political enemies.

  13. Caesar’s Alliances (and Assassins) • Mark Antony later joined forces with Cleopatra and attempted to overthrow Octavius at the Battle of Actium in 31 B.C... They failed in their attempt, and Mark Antony and Cleopatra committed suicide. • Octavius became the sole rule of Rome.

  14. Caesar’s Alliances (and Assassins) Marcus Junius Brutus: • Born in 85 B.C. • Descended from Junius Brutus who defeated the last king of Rome. • As a result, he was known as a great defender of the Roman Republic. • During the civil wars between Caesar and Pompey, Brutus fought with Pompey.

  15. Caesar’s Alliances (and Assassins) • He was pardoned by Caesar after and given a key position in the new government. • However, Brutus feared that Caesar could become King and joined the conspiracy to assassinate the dictator. • He was decidedly unprepared for the chaos that followed Caesar’s death. • Eventually committed suicide in 42 B.C.

  16. Caesar’s Alliances (and Assassins) Gaius “Cassius” Longinus: • A Roman General. • Fought with Pompey the Great against Julius Caesar. • After Caesar’s defeat, Cassius surrendered to him his fleet. • Caesar pardoned Cassius and appointed him a court administrator.

  17. Caesar’s Alliances (and Assassins) • Cassius opposed Caesar’s plans to make himself Rome’s sole ruler. • Recruited Brutus to the conspiracy to assassinate Caesar. • Cassius committed suicide after his army was defeated by the Second Triumvirate at Philippi.

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