Autopsy of body of Julius Caesar

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Fragment of painting Death of Julius Caesar, by Vincenzo Camuccini

After the murder of Julius Caesar on March 15, 44 BCE, the conspirators originally planned to expel the former dictator’s body in Tiber. Ultimately, however, for unknown reasons, they left his bloodied body in Pompey’s theater. Thanks to this, the doctor Antistius could perform an autopsy.

Suetonius – a historian, writing about two centuries later and basing on earlier sources – reports that three slaves put the body in a litter and carried it home. Antistius – probably private Caesar’s doctor – conducted an autopsy there. In total, he noted 23 wounds (including on the face or groin), which resulted from blows with daggers.

The lethal blow was inflicted below the left arm. It was deep enough to reach his heart and could violate an important aorta. Thus, the dictator died of internal bleeding. Blood filled the chest, followed by a collapse of the lungs.

In 2003, a team of experts under the supervision of the Italian investigator Luciano Garofano decided to conduct a modern investigation. Using technology, it was possible to create a three-dimensional reconstruction of Caesar’s body. A team of pathologists, policemen and historians based on sources and knowledge of people’s behavior in crush and affect have drawn conclusions.

According to Garofano, it was impossible for 23 men to be involved in a direct murder. It is more likely that 5 to 10 men were involved in the murder, while the rest simply surrounded the event and allowed other senators to strike.

Sources

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