Dio Cassius

Written some 250 years after Caesar’s assassination, the Roman historian and politician Dio Cassius (c. 150-235) acknowledged that Caesar was not blameless in bringing about the tragedy that led to his death and renewal of civil war between Ceasar’s friends and enemies.  He argues, however, that monarchy is superior to republicanism and saw the assassination as a tragedy in Roman history.

[A] baleful frenzy which fell upon certain men through jealousy of [Caesar’s] his advancement and hatred of his preferment to themselves caused his death unlawfully, while it added a new name to the annals of infamy; it scattered [Caesar’s] decrees to the winds section 2and brought upon the Romans seditions and civil wars once more after a state of harmony. His slayers, to be sure, declared that they had shown themselves at once destroyers of Caesar and liberators of the people: but in reality they impiously plotted against him, and they threw the city into disorder when at last it possessed a stable government. Democracy, indeed, has a fair-appearing name and conveys the impression of bringing equal rights to all through equal laws, but its results are seen not to agree at all with its title. Monarchy, on the contrary, has an unpleasant sound, but is a most practical form of government to live under. For it is easier to find a single excellent man than many of them, section 2and if even this seems to some a difficult feat, it is quite inevitable that the other alternative should be acknowledged to be impossible; for it does not belong to the majority of men to acquire virtue. And again, even though a base man should obtain supreme power, yet he is preferable to the masses of like character, as the history of the Greeks and barbarians and of the Romans themselves proves. section 3For successes have always been greater and more frequent in the case both of cities and of individuals under kings than under popular rule, and disasters do not happen so frequently under monarchies as under mob-rule. Indeed, if ever there has been a prosperous democracy, it has in any case been at its best for only a brief period, so long, that is, as the people had neither the numbers nor the strength sufficient to cause insolence to spring up among them as the result of good fortune or jealousy as the result of ambition. section 4But for a city, not only so large in itself, but also ruling the finest and the greatest part of the known world, holding sway over men of many and diverse natures, possessing many men of great wealth, occupied with every imaginable pursuit, enjoying every imaginable fortune, both individually and collectively,— for such a city, I say, to practice moderation under a democracy is impossible, and still more is it impossible for the people, unless moderation prevails, to be harmonious. section 5Therefore, if Marcus Brutus and Gaius Cassius had only reflected upon these things, they would never have killed the city's head and protector nor have made themselves the cause of countless ills both to themselves and to all the rest of mankind then living.

It happened as follows, and his death was due to the cause now to be given. He had aroused dislike that was not altogether unjustified, except in so far as it was the senators themselves who had by their novel and excessive honors encouraged him and puffed him up, only to find fault with him on this very account and to spread slanderous reports how glad he was to accept them and how he behaved more haughtily as a result of them. section 2It is true that Caesar did now and then err by accepting some of the honors voted him and believing that he really deserved them; yet those were most blameworthy who, after beginning to honor him as he deserved, led him on and brought blame upon him for the measures they had passed. section 3He neither dared, of course, to thrust them all aside, for fear of being thought contemptuous, nor, again, could he be safe in accepting them; for excessive honor and praise render even the most modest men conceited, especially if they seem to be bestowed with sincerity.

[From: Dio Cassius, “Roman History,” Book XLIV]

For the text of the entire work, click here.