Julius Caesar may have suffered mini-strokes, study finds

April 15, 2015
Generalized 3 Hz spike and wave discharges in a child with childhood absence epilepsy. Credit: Wikipedia.

Roman emperor Julius Caesar may have suffered a series of mini-strokes, explaining his dark mood in later life, according to doctors at London's Imperial College.

Caesar, who lived from 100 to 44 BC, has long been the focus of medical debate, with the common assumption being that he suffered from epilepsy.

But from the London university have reexamined his symptoms, which included vertigo, dizziness and , and concluded that he may have in fact suffered from a cardiovascular complaint.

"To date, possible cardiovascular explanations have always been ruled out on the grounds that until his death he was supposedly otherwise physically well during both private and stately affairs," said an excerpt of the study written by Francesco Galassi and Hutan Ashrafian.

"When re-evaluating his symptoms, it can be noted that Caesar suffered falls during his campaigns in Spain and Africa at Cordoba and Thapsus," it added.

"He reported symptoms of headaches, vertigo and later on mentioned giddiness and insensibility, when he could not stand up as senators honoured him."

Caesar famously collapsed at the Battle of Thapsus in 46BC and had to be carried to safety.

"All of the reported in Caesar's life are compatible with him having multiple mini-strokes," Galassi told The Guardian newspaper.

The doctors, who researched ancient works including those by Roman scholar Pliny the Elder, also suggested that damage to the brain caused by the mini-strokes could have led to his changing personality and depression in later life.

Epilepsy was considered a "sacred disease" during the time of Caesar's reign, possibly influencing the diagnosis of his condition, they argued.

One of history's great military and political figures, Caesar helped Rome conquer Gaul before triggering a civil war by defying the Senate, where he was assassinated.

Explore further: Spanish researchers find the exact spot where Julius Caesar was stabbed

Related Stories

Caesar salad dressing is recalled

April 1, 2008

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced the recall of America's Choice-brand classic Caesar salad dressing because of a labeling error.

Recommended for you

The oldest plesiosaur was a strong swimmer

December 14, 2017

Plesiosaurs were especially effective swimmers. These long extinct "paddle saurians" propelled themselves through the oceans by employing "underwater flight"—similar to sea turtles and penguins. Paleontologist from the ...

Averaging the wisdom of crowds

December 12, 2017

The best decisions are made on the basis of the average of various estimates, as confirmed by the research of Dennie van Dolder and Martijn van den Assem, scientists at VU Amsterdam. Using data from Holland Casino promotional ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

5 / 5 (2) Apr 15, 2015
Shakespeare's writing of Cassius's account of his rescuing Caesar while they were swimming across the Tiber certainly points up how long this has been debated.
5 / 5 (2) Apr 15, 2015
Very interesting article however the first sentence is incorrect. Julius Caesar was never an emperor. He was a general and dictator. The first emperor was his nephew and heir, Octavian, later known as Augustus, who assumed control after the civil war that broke out after Caesar's death.
not rated yet Apr 15, 2015
The frequency of the prothrombin 20210 allele amongst Italians should be considered as a likely contributor to the mini-strokes theory. No one can produce any blood samples for testing though. The diagnosis is consistent.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.