An A-Z of the World – E. H. Gombrich on: Brutus (and Julius Caesar)

As an aid to students, teachers and parents, we have constructed an A–Z of the World taken from E. H. Gombrich’s, A Little History of the World. We’ve shared bite size introductions to historical figures, events and periods – using Gombrich’s magical words – along with links to free resources, so that readers of all ages can discover more. For B, Gombrich covers Marcus Brutus and Julius Caesar.


Brutus (and Julius Caesar)

E. H. Gombrich: Julius Caesar was the most popular of all the Roman generals. He knew how to win the hearts of the masses, and had raised colossal sums of money for magnificent festivals and gifts of grain. But more than that, he was truly a great general, one of the greatest there has ever been. One day he went to war. A few days later, Rome received a letter from him with just three Latin words: veni, vidi, vici – meaning ‘I came, I saw, I conquered.’ That is how fast he worked!

Caesar conquered France – in those days known as Gaul – and made it a province of Rome. After the conquest of Gaul, Caesar turned his army towards Italy. He was now the most powerful man in the world. Other generals who had previously been his allies he attacked and defeated and he was able to add Egypt to the Roman empire.

‘You too, Brutus, my son?’

Since Caesar was now the mightiest man on earth, he could have become king of the Roman empire, and he might not have objected to that. But the Romans were jealous of him – even his best friend Brutus – and they didn’t want to be ruled by him. Fearing that Caesar would get the better of them, they decided to murder him. During a meeting in the Senate they surrounded him and raised their daggers to stab him. Caesar defended himself. But when, among his assailants, he caught sight of Brutus, he is reported to have said: ‘You too, Brutus, my son?’ and then let them strike him down, without making any further attempts to resist. This happened in 44 BC.

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Free Resources to Learn More about Brutus, Julius Caesar and Ancient Rome

At the time of publication, these resources were free to use:

BBC Bitesize (KS2)
Roman Empire

BBC History
Julius Caesar

BBC In Our Time
Julius Caesar

Ancient History Encyclopedia
The Murder of Julius Caesar 

The School Run
Julius Caesar

Khan Academy
Ancient Rome

Know the Romans
Ancient Rome

Rome: A Virtual Tour of the Ancient City

The Yale Blog
Marcus Brutus, The Noblest Roman of Them All – Kathryn Tempest 

This page provides access to a list of free online resources. It is not intended to endorse any particular resource.

A Little History of the World

All the descriptions in this A-Z are taken from E. H. Gombrich’s A Little History of the World.

Philip Pullman described the book as, “A brilliant piece of narrative, splendidly organised, told with an energy and confidence that are enormously attractive, and suffused with all the humanity and generosity of spirit that Gombrich’s thousands of admirers came to cherish during his long and richly productive life. It’s a wonderful surprise: irresistible, in fact.”

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The Little Histories are vivid storybook introductions for the young and old alike. Inspiring and entertaining, each short book lays out our greatest subjects in deceptively simple, engaging tones. With charming and personal insights each expert gently takes the reader from ancient times to the present through bite size chapters, ideal as bedtime reading or on the journey to work. Other Little Histories available include, Philosophy, Economics, Science, Literature, Language, Religion and Poetry. More details about the whole series can be found on the Little Histories website.

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