Study: Julius Caesar may have suffered from mini-stokes and not epilepsy

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Study: Julius Caesar may have suffered from mini-stokes and not epilepsy
Study: Julius Caesar may have suffered from mini-stokes and not epilepsy

The commonly accepted history relates that Caius Julius Caesar, the great Roman soldier and politician, suffered from epilepsy, a condition that causes repeated seizures. The condition was considered, in ancient times, to be a sign of divinity. However, a Wednesday story in Phys.org cites a new study that suggests that Caesar suffered from repeated mini strokes, caused by a temporary interruption of blood flow to the brain.

Doctors at London’s Imperial College examined incidents that occurred during Caesar’s life. They noted that he experienced unexpected falls as early as during the campaigns in Spain and Africa during the Roman Civil War with the forces of the Pompey family. Moreover Caesar “-reported symptoms of headaches, vertigo and later on mentioned giddiness and insensibility, when he could not stand up as senators honoured him.” Later in life he suffered personality changes and depression consistent with brain damaged brought on by the mini strokes.

A mini-stroke, or as it is more technically called, a transient ischemic attack (TIA) can be caused by a number of factors. They are caused by the buildup of plaque in arteries that provide blood to the brain and transient blood clots. Caesar was in his 50s when the symptoms started in earnest and, since advancing age is a risk factor, the diagnosis may be consistent with what is known about him as well.

One of the great ironies of history is that had the assassins not stabbed Caesar to death on the Ides of March in 44 B.C., nature might well have deprived Rome of their dictator for life anyway. Mini strokes are often a prelude for a full blown stroke which would have crippled or killed the Roman leader, thus doing the work that Brutus and Cassius sparked a war to achieve, ending the Roman Republic they thought they were saving.

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