(Kansas City, Missouri) - Shakespeare made the stabbing of Julius Caesar a murder for the ages. But what actually happened on March 15, 44 B.C., is even more gripping than the Bard's depiction.
Cornell University's Barry Strauss details the true story in a discussion of his new book The Death of Caesar: The Story of History's Most Famous Assassination on Tuesday, March 31, 2015, at the Central Library, 14 W. 10th St.
The presentation begins at 6:30 p.m.
While Shakespeare portrayed Caesar's murder as an amateur and idealistic affair, Strauss reveals that it actually was a carefully planned paramilitary operation executed by disaffected officers. Brutus and Cassius were, indeed, key players but had the help of a third man, Decimus, a leading general and lifelong friend of Caesar who became a mole in his entourage.
Shakespeare drew almost exclusively from the Roman historian and essayist Plutarch in describing the events. Strauss went beyond Plutarch, however, using Nicolaus of Damascus, Suetonius, Appian, Cassius Dio, and other ancient scholars as sources to form a more complete picture - and bust a number of myths.
Plutarch, for example, saw Decimus as only a minor player in the conspiracy, and Shakespeare followed suit. But Decimus was "the only assassin that could really be called close to Caesar," Strauss said. He dined with Caesar the night before his assassination and convinced Caesar to leave the protection of his house the next morning. It was he, not Brutus, who truly betrayed Caesar.
A renowned historian who chairs Cornell's Department of History, Strauss focuses his scholarship on ancient Greece and Rome. He is a frequent lecturer at the Library, speaking most recently in May 2012 on the personalities and methodologies of ancient generals Alexander, Hannibal, and Caesar, and in April 2009 on Spartacus and his leadership of the slave revolt against Rome.
Strauss has appeared in more than a dozen television documentaries, been interviewed on National Public Radio and the BBC, and been quoted on the front page of the The Wall Street Journal and in numerous other major publications. His six books have been translated into nine languages.
The event is co-sponsored by the Brown Club of Kansas City, the Columbia University Club of Kansas City, the Cornell Club of Mid-America, the Heart of America Dartmouth Club, the Harvard-Radcliffe Club of Kansas City, the Penn Club of Kansas City, the Princeton Alumni Association of Greater Kansas City, and the Yale Club of Kansas City.
A 6 p.m. reception precedes the event. Admission is free. RSVP at kclibrary.org or call 816.701.3407. Free parking is available in the Library District parking garage at 10th and Baltimore.