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Sunday: January 15, 2006

A Squib Fit for a King

Filed under: — site admin @ 11:33 PM GMT-0500

Brutus, quia reges eiecit, consul primus factus est:
hic, quia consules eiecit, rex postremus factus est.

Brutus, because he threw out the kings, became the first consul.
This man, because he threw out the consuls, has become the latest/last king.

These lines of verse (trochaic septenarians) are irretrievably anonymous but securely datable to the first few months of 44 B.C. According to Suetonius in his Lives of the Twelve Caesars (Book I, 80.3), someone wrote them on Caesar’s statue shortly before he was assassinated. The point is that Caesar has added himself to the list of kings of Rome, eighth after – long after – Tarquinius Superbus, deposed by the first Brutus. But there is more to it than that: our anonymous patriot hopes that Caesar will be not only the latest but the last king of Rome because he will soon be assassinated, and no one will dare emulate him. He got half his wish: his target was soon ‘the late’ Julius Caesar, but was of course succeeded by dozens more kings-in-all-but-name.

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