Et tu, Next Breath?

One of the most famous assassinations in history took place on March 15, 44 BC. Julius Caesar was attacked by a group of Roman senators and stabbed to death. William Shakespeare famously records his last words as, “Et tu, Brute? Then fall Caesar!” (Julius Caesar). Others say his last words were Greek, “Καί σύ, τέκνον.” Plutarch records that he said nothing, but merely pulled his toga over his face and died.

Regardless of what he said, it is undisputed that his final breath contained about 25 sextillion molecules (25, followed by 21 zeroes). As those molecules left the slain emperor’s lungs, they were spread by prevailing winds across the planet, taking about two years to do so.

Those molecules are still among us, evenly distributed throughout the breathable atmosphere. That means over the course of today, it is almost certain you will inhale a little bit of Julius Caesar’s last breath.

To learn more about this and other fascinating facts about the air we breathe, be sure to read Caesar’s Last Breath by Sam Kean.

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4 replies »

  1. The thing he’s least likely to have said is “Et tu, Brute (etc.)” Shakespeare was a playwright, not a historian. Plutarch was probably nearest, but if Caesar had multiple stab wounds he may not even had time to get his toga over his face.

    Liked by 1 person

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