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William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar provides a dramatic examination of the events surrounding the assassination of the title character on March 15, 44 BCE. In Act 2, Scene 1, several of the conspirators meet in Brutus' orchard to discuss their plans to murder Caesar. As the discussion comes to an end the conspirators leave. At this point, Cassius, one of the lead conspirators, says:
I think that one of the things Cassius means by this is that the conspirators must keep their promise to meet at the assigned time and the assigned place. So, part of Cassius' remark indicates that "true Romans" keep their promises.
On a much deeper level, those familiar with Roman history will also recall that early on in its history, Rome had driven out her kings and had established itself as a Republic. Thus, a "true Roman" would be opposed to kingship, which is what the conspirators feared Caesar would become. If Caesar became king, then the Republic would no longer stand.
Cassius' comment is also ironic, because in ancient Rome it was apparently against the law and punishable by death for a Roman to carry a weapon in public with the intent of using that weapon to commit a crime. Thus, a "true Roman" would, ironically, not conspire to murder the country's leading statesman.
We must bear in mind that it is Brutus, in the play that incarnates loyalty, faith and constancy, who is "the noblest Roman of them all." Antony's final praise of Brutus (V.5) is the counterpart of Cassius' wish that "all" the conspirators should show themselves "true Romans." As in a mirror, there is an inversion: it is a 'chiasmatic' figure that links the beginning and the end.
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