CHAPTER XII. THE ASSASSINATION.
[Caesar receives many warnings of his approaching fate.]
According to the account given by his historians, Caesar received many warnings of his approaching fate, which, however, he would not heed. Many of these warnings were strange portents and prodigies, which the philosophical writers who recorded them half believed themselves, and which they were always ready to add to their narratives even if they did not believe them, on account of the great influence which such an introduction of the supernatural and the divine had with readers in those days in enhancing the dignity and the dramatic interest of the story. These warnings were as follows:
[The tomb and inscription.]
At Capua, which was a great city at some distance south of Rome, the second, in fact, in Italy, and the one which Hannibal had proposed to make his capital, some workmen were removing certain ancient sepulchers to make room for the foundations of a splendid edifice which, among his other plans for the embellishment of the cities of Italy, Caesar was intending to have erected there. As the excavations advanced, the workmen came at last to an ancient tomb, which proved to be that of the original founder of Capua; and, in bringing out the sarcophagus, they found an inscription, worked upon a brass plate, and in the Greek character, predicting that if those remains were ever disturbed, a great member of the Julian family would be assassinated by his own friends, and his death would be followed by extended devastations throughout all Italy.
The horses, too, with which Caesar had passed the Rubicon, and which had been, ever since that time, living in honorable retirement in a splendid park which Caesar had provided for them, by some mysterious instinct, or from some divine communication, had warning of the approach of their great benefactor's end. They refused their food, and walked about with melancholy and dejected looks, mourning apparently, and in a manner almost human, some impending grief.
There was a class of prophets in those days called by a name which has been translated soothsayers. These soothsayers were able, as was supposed, to look somewhat into futurity - dimly and doubtfully, it is true, but really, by means of certain appearances exhibited by the bodies of the animals offered in sacrifices These soothsayers were consulted on all important occasions; and if the auspices proved unfavorable when any great enterprise was about to be undertaken, it was often, on that account, abandoned or postponed. One of these soothsayers, named Spurinna, came to Caesar one day, and informed him that he had found, by means of a public sacrifice which he had just been offering, that there was a great and mysterious danger impending over him, which was connected in some way with the Ides of March, and he counseled him to be particularly cautious and circumspect until that day should have passed.
[The hawks and the wren.]
The Senate were to meet on the Ides of March in a new and splendid edifice, which had been erected for their use by Pompey. There was in the interior of the building, among other decorations, a statue of Pompey. The day before the Ides of March, some birds of prey from a neighboring grove came flying into this hall, pursuing a little wren with a sprig of laurel in its mouth. The birds tore the wren to pieces, the laurel dropping from its bill to the marble pavement of the floor below. Now, as Caesar had been always accustomed to wear a crown of laurel on great occasions, and had always evinced a particular fondness for that decoration, that plant had come to be considered his own proper badge, and the fall of the laurel, therefore, was naturally thought to portend some great calamity to him.
[Caesar's agitation of mind.] [His dream.] [Calpurnia's dream.] [The effect of a disturbed mind.]