Who Killed Julius Caesar?

Atlantic Productions for the Discovery Channel, first aired April 27, 2003.

In the first ever application of modern science to the murder of Julius Caesar, this one-hour special uses the latest Crime Scene Investigation techniques, computer reconstruction technology, and experts such as Luciano Garofano of the Italian Carabinieri and criminal profiler Dr. Harold Bursztajn of Harvard Medical school, to reveal a shocking new assessment of the truth behind ancient history's most famous assassination. Featured as a cover story in The Sunday Times Magazine.

Narrator: Garofano travels to Harvard Medical School, where profiler and forensic psychiatrist, Harold Bursztajn, joins the investigation.

Bursztajn: Epilepsy involves a disturbance of the electrical rhythm of the brain. The disturbance of consciousness which occurs is terrifying to those people who suffer from it.

Luciano you have collected a remarkable set of evidence.

Narrator: Garofano presents his growing case file to Dr. Bursztajn. His first priority is to discuss if Caesar's epilepsy played a part on the the day he failed to rise for the Senators honoring him.

Bursztajn: So this is where he failed to rise and he humiliated them.

Garofano: That's right.

Bursztajn: And this is what we want to understand.

Garofano: That's right.

Narrator: Can the two separate explanations of the same incident, in one diarrhea, and in the other epilepsy, point Dr. Bursztajn to a specific diagnosis?

Bursztajn: The area of the brain I want you to look at is this area, the temporal lobe of the brain. And we know that Julius Caesar was having a loosening of the bowels on the day that he failed to rise, we also know he was spacing out.

Putting them together we wonder about temporal lobe epilepsy because spacing and loosening of the bowels would indicate the possibility of temporal lobe epilepsy.

Garofano: Would it effect his behavior?

Bursztajn: Yes, even in between the seizures you may see psychiatric symptoms such as irritability. As I understand, after he failed to rise over here, he in an exaggerated fashion offered his throat to the Senators to be cut, which would be consistent with him suffering the psychiatric after-effects of a temporal lobe seizure.

Narrator: Garofano wonders, might Caesar's well-documented excesses also support the diagnosis?

Bursztajn: Temporal lobe epilepsy is a progressive condition, it gets and worse and worse over time. And what happens with is, it begins to have associated with it psychiatric conditions, such as, if someone was grandiose to begin with they will become more grandiose.

The fact that Caesar wrote incessantly, he was active incessantly, was seeking sexuality almost desperately, would all be consistent with someone who was struggling with the effects of temporal lobe epilepsy.

Narrator: The records say that a greek teacher, called Artimidorus, thrust a note in Caesar's hand telling him, "read this alone and quickly for it contains matters of great importance." The ancient texts record that he never read the note. Garofano remembers this note was found in Caesar's hand after his death, how could he not have read it? Garofano's profiler thinks he must have.

Bursztajn: What's the only piece of paper that he actually keeps with him? The piece of paper which tells him that he is going to be murdered at the Senate meeting. Is this a man who is walking blindly to his death? Is this a man who is acting on an unconscious death wish? No, I think the evidence points to a man who is very conscious and very aware that he is going to be killed.

Narrator: Was it just the suicide of a sick and aging man, or was there more to it? Garofano returns to his psychiatric profiler to understand the victim's state of mind.

Bursztajn: Is it so out of the question to suppose that Caesar might wish to use the conspirators' agenda to serve his own agenda. He needed to find an executioner, and the conspirators were his perfect tool. Just as people who seek to commit suicide will find policemen to shoot them, we call it suicide-by-cop. But suicide-by-cop which serves a very specific personal and political agenda.

Bursztajn: This is a man who is seeking to accomplish in his death, what he also wanted to accomplish in his life: to achieve immortality in the only two ways that he can achieve immortality. By naming his successor, making sure that his successor does in fact become his successor and making sure that his death is remembered to assure his eternal fame.