The Killing of Julius Caesar "Localized"

by Mark Twain

Being the only true and re­li­able ac­count ever pub­lished; taken from the Roman “Daily Evening Fasces,” of the date of that tremen­dous oc­cur­rence.

Noth­ing in the world af­fords a news­pa­per re­porter so much sat­is­fac­tion as gath­er­ing up the de­tails of a bloody and mys­te­ri­ous mur­der and writ­ing them up with ag­gra­vat­ing cir­cum­stan­tial­ity. He takes a liv­ing de­light in this labor of love—for such it is to him, es­pe­cially if he knows that all the other pa­pers have gone to press, and his will be the only one that will con­tain the dread­ful in­tel­li­gence. A feel­ing of re­gret has often come over me that I was not re­port­ing in Rome when Cae­sar was killed—re­port­ing on an evening paper, and the only one in the city, and get­ting at least twelve hours ahead of the morn­ing-pa­per boys with this most mag­nif­i­cent “item” that ever fell to the lot of the craft. Other events have hap­pened as star­tling as this, but none that pos­sessed so pe­cu­liarly all the char­ac­ter­is­tics of the fa­vorite “item” of the pre­sent day, mag­ni­fied into grandeur and sub­lim­ity by the high rank, fame, and so­cial and po­lit­i­cal stand­ing of the ac­tors in it.

How­ever, as I was not per­mit­ted to re­port Cae­sar’s as­sas­si­na­tion in the reg­u­lar way, it has at least af­forded me rare sat­is­fac­tion to trans­late the fol­low­ing able ac­count of it from the orig­i­nal Latin of the Roman Daily Evening Fasces of that date—sec­ond edi­tion:

Our usu­ally quiet city of Rome was thrown into a state of wild ex­cite­ment yes­ter­day by the oc­cur­rence of one of those bloody af­frays which sicken the heart and fill the soul with fear, while they in­spire all think­ing men with fore­bod­ings for the fu­ture of a city where human life is held so cheaply and the gravest laws are so openly set at de­fi­ance. As the re­sult of that af­fray, it is our painful duty, as pub­lic jour­nal­ists, to record the death of one of our most es­teemed cit­i­zens—a man whose name is known wher­ever this paper cir­cu­lates, and whose fame it has been our plea­sure and our priv­i­lege to ex­tend, and also to pro­tect from the tongue of slan­der and false­hood, to the best of our poor abil­ity. We refer to Mr. J. Cae­sar, the Em­peror-elect.

The facts of the case, as nearly as our re­porter could de­ter­mine them from the con­flict­ing state­ments of eye-wit­nesses, were about as fol­lows:—The af­fair was an elec­tion row, of course. Nine-tenths of the ghastly butcheries that dis­grace the city nowa­days grow out of the bick­er­ings and jeal­ousies and an­i­mosi­ties en­gen­dered by these ac­cursed elec­tions. Rome would be the gainer by it if her very con­sta­bles were elected to serve a cen­tury; for in our ex­pe­ri­ence we have never even been able to choose a dog-pel­ter with­out cel­e­brat­ing the event with a dozen knock­downs and a gen­eral cram­ming of the sta­tion-house with drunken vagabonds overnight. It is said that when the im­mense ma­jor­ity for Cae­sar at the polls in the mar­ket was de­clared the other day, and the crown was of­fered to that gen­tle­man, even his amaz­ing un­selfish­ness in re­fus­ing it three times was not suf­fi­cient to save him from the whis­pered in­sults of such men as Casca, of the Tenth Ward, and other hirelings of the dis­ap­pointed can­di­date, hail­ing mostly from the Eleventh and Thir­teenth and other out­side dis­tricts, who were over­heard speak­ing iron­i­cally and con­temp­tu­ously of Mr. Cae­sar’s con­duct upon that oc­ca­sion.

We are fur­ther in­formed that there are many among us who think they are jus­ti­fied in be­liev­ing that the as­sas­si­na­tion of Julius Cae­sar was a put-up thing—a cut-and-dried arrange­ment, hatched by Mar­cus Bru­tus and a lot of his hired roughs, and car­ried out only too faith­fully ac­cord­ing to the pro­gram. Whether there be good grounds for this sus­pi­cion or not, we leave to the peo­ple to judge for them­selves, only ask­ing that they will read the fol­low­ing ac­count of the sad oc­cur­rence care­fully and dis­pas­sion­ately be­fore they ren­der that judg­ment.

The Sen­ate was al­ready in ses­sion, and Cae­sar was com­ing down the street to­ward the capi­tol, con­vers­ing with some per­sonal friends, and fol­lowed, as usual, by a large num­ber of cit­i­zens. Just as he was pass­ing in front of Demos­thenes and Thucy­dides’ drug store, he was ob­serv­ing ca­su­ally to a gen­tle­man, who, our in­for­mant thinks, is a for­tune-teller, that the Ides of March were come. The reply was, “Yes, they are come, but not gone yet.” At this mo­ment Ar­texnidorus stepped up and passed the time of day, and asked Cae­sar to read a sched­ule or a tract or some­thing of the kind, which he had brought for his pe­rusal. Mr. De­cius Bru­tus also said some­thing about an “hum­ble suit” which he wanted read. Ar­texnidorus begged that at­ten­tion might be paid to his first, be­cause it was of per­sonal con­se­quence to Cae­sar. The lat­ter replied that what con­cerned him­self should be read last, or words to that ef­fect. Artemi­dorus begged and be­seeched him to read the paper in­stantly!—[Mark that: It is hinted by William Shake­speare, who saw the be­gin­ning and the end of the un­for­tu­nate af­fray, that this “sched­ule” was sim­ply a note dis­cov­er­ing to Cae­sar that a plot was brew­ing to take his life.]—How­ever, Cae­sar shook him off, and re­fused to read any pe­ti­tion in the street. He then en­tered the capi­tol, and the crowd fol­lowed him.

About this time the fol­low­ing con­ver­sa­tion was over­heard, and we con­sider that, taken in con­nec­tion with the events which suc­ceeded it, it bears an ap­palling sig­nif­i­cance: Mr. Pa­pil­ius Lena re­marked to George W. Cas­sius (com­monly known as the “Nobby Boy of the Third Ward”), a bruiser in the pay of the Op­po­si­tion, that he hoped his en­ter­prise to-day might thrive; and when Cas­sius asked “What en­ter­prise?” he only closed his left eye tem­porar­ily and said with sim­u­lated in­dif­fer­ence, “Fare you well,” and saun­tered to­ward Cae­sar. Mar­cus Bru­tus, who is sus­pected of being the ring­leader of the band that killed Cae­sar, asked what it was that Lena had said. Cas­sius told him, and added in a low tone, “I fear our pur­pose is dis­cov­ered.”

Bru­tus told his wretched ac­com­plice to keep an eye on Lena, and a mo­ment after Cas­sius urged that lean and hun­gry va­grant, Casca, whose rep­u­ta­tion here is none of the best, to be sud­den, for he feared pre­ven­tion. He then turned to Bru­tus, ap­par­ently much ex­cited, and asked what should be done, and swore that ei­ther he or Cae­sar would never turn back—he would kill him­self first. At this time Cae­sar was talk­ing to some of the back-coun­try mem­bers about the ap­proach­ing fall elec­tions, and pay­ing lit­tle at­ten­tion to what was going on around him. Billy Tre­bo­nius got into con­ver­sa­tion with the peo­ple’s friend and Cae­sar’s—Mark Antony—and under some pre­tense or other got him away, and Bru­tus, De­cius, Casca, Cinna, Metel­lus Cim­ber, and oth­ers of the gang of in­fa­mous des­per­a­does that in­fest Rome at pre­sent, closed around the doomed Cae­sar. Then Metel­lus Cim­ber knelt down and begged that his brother might be re­called from ban­ish­ment, but Cae­sar re­buked him for his fawn­ing con­duct, and re­fused to grant his pe­ti­tion. Im­me­di­ately, at Cim­ber’s re­quest, first Bru­tus and then Cas­sias begged for the re­turn of the ban­ished Pub­lius; but Cae­sar still re­fused. He said he could not be moved; that he was as fixed as the North Star, and pro­ceeded to speak in the most com­pli­men­tary terms of the firm­ness of that star and its steady char­ac­ter. Then he said he was like it, and he be­lieved he was the only man in the coun­try that was; there­fore, since he was “con­stant” that Cim­ber should be ban­ished, he was also “con­stant” that he should stay ban­ished, and he’d be hanged if he didn’t keep him so!

In­stantly seiz­ing upon this shal­low pre­text for a fight, Casca sprang at Cae­sar and struck him with a dirk, Cae­sar grab­bing him by the arm with his right hand, and launch­ing a blow straight from the shoul­der with his left, that sent the rep­tile bleed­ing to the earth. He then backed up against Pom­pey’s statue, and squared him­self to re­ceive his as­sailants. Cas­sias and Cim­ber and Cinna rushed upon him with their dag­gers drawn, and the for­mer suc­ceeded in in­flict­ing a wound upon his body; but be­fore he could strike again, and be­fore ei­ther of the oth­ers could strike at all, Cae­sar stretched the three mis­cre­ants at his feet with as many blows of his pow­er­ful fist. By this time the Sen­ate was in an in­de­scrib­able up­roar; the throng of cit­i­zens in the lob­bies had block­aded the doors in their fran­tic ef­forts to es­cape from the build­ing, the sergeant-at-arms and his as­sis­tants were strug­gling with the as­sas­sins, ven­er­a­ble sen­a­tors had cast aside their en­cum­ber­ing robes, and were leap­ing over benches and fly­ing down the aisles in wild con­fu­sion to­ward the shel­ter of the com­mit­tee-rooms, and a thou­sand voices were shout­ing “Po-lice! Po-lice!” in dis­cor­dant tones that rose above the fright­ful din like shriek­ing winds above the roar­ing of a tem­pest. And amid it all great Cae­sar stood with his back against the statue, like a lion at bay, and fought his as­sailants weapon­less and hand to hand, with the de­fi­ant bear­ing and the un­wa­ver­ing courage which he had shown be­fore on many a bloody field. Billy Tre­bo­nius and Caius Legar­ius struck him with their dag­gers and fell, as their brother-con­spir­a­tors be­fore them had fallen. But at last, when Cae­sar saw his old friend Bru­tus step for­ward armed with a mur­der­ous knife, it is said he seemed ut­terly over­pow­ered with grief and amaze­ment, and, drop­ping his in­vin­ci­ble left arm by his side, he hid his face in the folds of his man­tle and re­ceived the treach­er­ous blow with­out an ef­fort to stay the hand that gave it. He only said, “Et tu, Brute?” and fell life­less on the mar­ble pave­ment.

We learn that the coat de­ceased had on when he was killed was the same one he wore in his tent on the af­ter­noon of the day he over­came the Nervii, and that when it was re­moved from the corpse it was found to be cut and gashed in no less than seven dif­fer­ent places. There was noth­ing in the pock­ets. It will be ex­hib­ited at the coro­ner’s in­quest, and will be damn­ing proof of the fact of the killing. These lat­ter facts may be re­lied on, as we get them from Mark Antony, whose po­si­tion en­ables him to learn every item of news con­nected with the one sub­ject of ab­sorb­ing in­ter­est of-to-day.

LATER:—While the coro­ner was sum­mon­ing a jury, Mark Antony and other friends of the late Cae­sar got hold of the body, and lugged it off to the Forum, and at last ac­counts Antony and Bru­tus were mak­ing speeches over it and rais­ing such a row among the peo­ple that, as we go to press, the chief of po­lice is sat­is­fied there is going to be a riot, and is tak­ing mea­sures ac­cord­ingly.


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