How after the murder of Julius Caesar (15th of March, 44 B.C.) Marcus Antonius (Mark
Antony), his friend, and, in virtue of the consulship, chief magistrate, roused the Roman
multitude against the assassins by his famous funeral oration is known mainly through the
incomparable version given by Shakespeare [Julius Caesar:
Act II, Scene 2]. The account by Appian differs in some particulars from its great
imitation. For this reason, as well as for its inherent historic value, the narrative of
Appian possesses high interest. It is, of course, far less dramatic, but it is more nearly
Caesar's will was now produced and the people ordered that it be read at once. In it,
Octavian, his sister's grand-son, was adopted by Caesar. His gardens were given to the
people as a place of recreation, and to every Roman living in the city, he gave 75 Attic
drachmas [Arkenberg: about $186 in 1998 dollars]. The people too were stirred to anger
when they saw the will of this lover of his country, whom they had before heard accused of
tyranny. Most of all did it seem pitiful to them that Decimus Brutus, one of the
murderers, should have been named by him for adoption in the second degree; for it was
usual for the Romans to name alternate heirs in case of the failure of the first.
When Piso brought Caesar's body into the Forum a countless multitude ran together with
arms to guard it, and with acclamations and magnificent display placed it on the rostra.
Wailing and lamentation were renewed for a long time; the armed men clashed their shields.
Antony, seeing how things were going, did not abandon his purpose, but having been chosen
to deliver the funeral oration, as a consul for a consul, as a friend for a friend, a
relative for a relative (he was kin to Caesar on the mother's side), resumed his artful
design, and spoke thus: "It is not fitting, fellow citizens, that the funeral oration
of so great a man should be pronounced by me alone, but rather by his whole country. The
decrees which all of us, in equal admiration for his merit, voted to him while he was
alive---Senate and People acting together---I will read, so that I may voice your
sentiments rather than merely mine."
Then he began to read with a severe and gloomy countenance; pronouncing each sentence
distinctly, and dwelling especially on those decrees which declared Caesar to be
"superhuman, sacred and inviolable," and which named him "The Father of his
Country," or "The Benefactor," or "The Chief without a Peer."
With each decree, Antony turned his face and his hand towards Caesar's corpse,
illustrating his discourse by his action, and at each appellation he added some brief
remark full of grief and indignation; as, for example, where the decree spoke of Caesar as
"The Father of his Country," he added that this was a testimonial of his
clemency; and again, where he was made "Sacred and Inviolable," and that
"everybody was to be held sacred and inviolate who should find refuge in him."
"Nobody," said Antony, "who found refuge in him was harmed, but he, whom
you declared sacred and inviolate was killed, although he did not extort these honors from
you as a tyrant, and did not even ask them. Most servile are we if we give such honors to
the unworthy who do not ask for them. But you, faithful citizens, vindicate us from this
charge of servility by paying such honors as you now pay to the dead."
Antony resumed his reading, and recited the oaths by which all were pledged to guard
Caesar and Caesar's body with all their strength, and all were devoted to perdition who
should not avenge him in any conspiracy. Here lifting up his voice, and extending his hand
toward the Capitol, he exclaimed, "Jupiter, Guardian of this City, and you other
gods, I stand here ready to avenge him as I have sworn and vowed, but since those that are
of equal rank with me have considered the decree of amnesty beneficial, I pray that it may
A commotion arose among the Senators in consequence of this exclamation which seemed to
have special reference to them. So Antony quieted them again and recanted, saying,
"To me, fellow citizens, this deed seems to be not the work of human beings, but of
some evil spirit. It becomes us to consider the present rather than the past. Let us then
conduct this sacred one to the abode of the blest, chanting our wonted hymn of lamentation
Having thus spoken, he gathered up his garments like a man inspired, girded himself so
that he might have free use of his hands, took his position in front of the bier, as in a
play, bending down to it, and rising again, and sang first as to a celestial deity. . . .
[Davis: He declaimed on Caesar's "god-like origin," victories, and spoils he had
brought to Rome] exclaiming, "You alone have come forth unvanquished from all the
battles you have fought! You alone have avenged your country of the outrages put upon it
three hundred years ago [Davis: by the Gauls], bringing to their knees the savage tribes,
the only ones that ever broke into and burned Rome."
Carried away by extreme passion, he uncovered the body of Caesar, lifted his robe on
the top of a spear, and shook it aloft, pierced with the dagger thrusts, and red with the
Dictator's blood. Whereupon the people, like a chorus, mourned with him in a most doleful
manner, and from sorrow became again filled with anger. After more lamentations the people
could stand it no longer. It seemed to them monstrous that all the murderers, who, save
Decimus Brutus, had been made prisoners while siding with Pompey, and who, instead of
being punished, had been advanced by Caesar to the magistracies of Rome, and to the
command of provinces and armies, should have conspired against him, and that Decimus
should have been deemed by him worthy of adoption as a son.
While they were in this temper, and were already nigh to violence, someone raised above
the bier an image of Caesar himself, wrought of wax. As for the actual body, since it lay
on its back upon the couch, it could not be seen. The image was turned around and around
by a mechanical device, showing the twenty-three wounds on all parts of the body and the
face---which gave him a shocking appearance. The people could no longer bear the pitiful
sight presented to them. They groaned, and girding themselves, they burned the Senate
chamber, where Caesar had been slain, and ran hither and thither searching for the
murderers, who had fled some time previously.
They were so mad with rage and grief, that, like wild beasts, they tore in pieces the
tribune Cinna on account of the similarity of his name to the praetor Cinna, who had made
a speech against Caesar, not waiting to hear any explanation about the similarity of
name---so that no part of him was ever found for burial. They carried fire to the houses
of the other murderers, but the servants bravely fought them off, and the neighbors begged
them to desist. So the people abstained from using fire, but threatened to come back with
arms on the following day.
The murderers fled from the city secretly. The people returned to Caesar's bier, and
bore it as something consecrated to the Capitol in order to bury it in the temple and
place it among the gods. Being prevented from so doing by the priests, they placed it
again in the Forum, where of old had stood the palace of the kings of Rome. There they
collected together sticks of wood and benches, of which there were many in the Forum, and
anything else that they could find of this sort, for a funeral pile, throwing on it the
adornments of the procession, some of which were very costly. Some of them cast their own
crowns upon it and many military gifts. Then they set fire to it, and the entire people
remained by the funeral pile throughout the night.
There an altar was at first erected, but now stands on the spot the Temple of Caesar
himself, for he was deemed worthy of divine honors; since Octavius, his adoptive son, who
took the name of Caesar, and following in his footsteps in political policy, greatly
strengthened the government founded by Caesar, which government remains to this day---and
decreed divine honors to his "fathers." From this example the Romans now pay
like honors to each emperor at his death, if he has not reigned in a tyrannical manner or
made himself odious, although at first they could not bear to call them kings while