New article · Julius Caesar’s funeral proceeded on the Liberalia, 17 March 44 BCE


Caesar’s funeral: wax effigy1

Caesar’s cremation2

Francesco Carotta has published a new article on his website that deals with the historical date of Julius Caesar’s funeral: Liberalia tu accusas! Restituting the ancient date of Caesar’s funeral”.

Until today almost all modern historians have assumed that Caesar’s funeral occured at the earliest on 20 March 44 BCE. However, ancient historiographers like Appian, Suetonius, Cassius Dio, Nicolaus of Damascus and Plutarch (in unison) lead to 17 March as the correct historical date. The assumption of a later date is based on a modern scientific fantasy, an erroneous chronology of the events following Caesar’s assassination, which had originally been published in Drumann-Groebe 1922. However, Drumann had developed his original chronology without the knowledge of the Bios Kaisaros by Nicolaus of Damascus, and in the second edition Groebe tried to mend it, misdating an equivocal letter by Decimus Iunius Brutus and misusing an unstable passage in a letter by Cicero, and thus doing even more harm. Some historians have assumed dates as late as 23 March, and one alternate theory combined the two Senate sessions that occured between Caesar’s murder and his funeral into one day, which led to an occasional dating to 18 March. (The German Wikipedia article on Caesar uses the most common of the false dates: 20 March.)

The new article shows convincingly, where and why Groebe erred in his chronology. Following a complete rebuttal the case is then made for a dating of the funeral ceremony to the Liberalia, the festival of Liber Pater, a Roman god identified with Bacchus (Dionysus). The article provides several arguments based on diverse sources like Suetonius, Ovid, Virgil and Cicero, which clearly prove and/or indicate that Caesar’s funeral proceeded on 17 March. Therefore the dating that can be derived from the ancient historiographers is correct, and it would have been a bizarre coincidence anyway if these ancient authors had all made the same mistake, although they used many different sources. What is definitely bizarre is that Groebe’s warped chronology has deceived—without exception—all of the modern academic community. But this is now over: Caesar was cremated and resurrected as god on Friday, 17 March 44 BCE—on the Liberalia, two days after the Ides of March, on the third day.

This historically accurate chronology was not yet included in the first English edition of Jesus was Caesar (Carotta 2005). It will be interesting to see which innovations will be contained in the second German edition, which has been announced for 2010.

Note: There is also a German version of the article. Der Artikel wurde auch in einer deutschen Fassung veröffentlicht (Liberalia tu accusas! Zur Restitution der antiken Datierung von Caesars Funeralien”).


1 This coin (Crawford 480.1; BMC R4161), a denarius issued in 44 BCE by Caesar’s moneyer Buca, reiterates the iconography of Julius Caesar’s funeral and shows his wax effigy (simulacrum) as the shepherd/king Endymion, resurrecting from sleep/death, as Selene (Luna) descends from her carriage to visit him. The winged figure holding the torch of immortality is possibly Hypnos (Somnus) in the guise of Victoria—or maybe Aura, Phosphoros (Lucifer), Eros (Amor) or even a personified Virgo (cf. Carotta-Eickenberg 2009a, 202, n. 64).

2 Fictionalized rendition of Caesar’s cremation in the television series Rome (season 2, episode 1, “Passover”).