Aims and Hypothesis This poster presents an analysis of historical sources of information on the life and medical history of Julius Caesar and critically examines previously suggested modern diagnoses.
Background Gaius Julius Caesar was born in 100 BCE to a noble but not particularly wealthy family. He had to work hard to move up the ranks in Roman society – he was known for his political shrewdness, public speaking and ability to win over the common man. His determination, ability to plan ahead, clear thinking and decisiveness paved the way for his slow but inexorable rise to the position of dictator perpetuus, or dictator for life. But after just a few weeks, ignoring warnings that his life was in danger and dismissing his guards, he walked out alone and was stabbed to death by a conspiracy of senators. This poster will attempt to answer whether this final act was the hubris of a man accustomed to victory or the impaired judgment of someone with a serious brain disorder?
Methods There are descriptions of Julius Caesar having attacks of the falling sickness in the (almost) contemporary accounts of his life. These will be examined along with modern proposals regarding diagnosis, including: epilepsy, Meniere’s disease, celiac disease, malaria, cerebrovascular disease, AV Malformation, cerebral tuberculosis, neurocysticercosis (tape worm larva) and brain tumour.
Results The evidence for and against each diagnosis will be presented.
Conclusions We will never be certain what caused Julius Caesar’s falling sickness, but there is a strong case for him having epilepsy – either familial or secondary to another brain disorder. What is even less certain, however, is why he ignored concerns for his safety and walked out to his death on the Ides of March 45BCE.
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