Mini-Strokes Changed Caesar's Personality

Researchers say it makes more sense than epilepsy
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 15, 2015 3:25 PM CDT
Mini-Strokes Changed Caesar's Personality
Statue of Julius Caesar Hall atop the ancient Capitoline Hill in Rome.   (AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca)

Julius Caesar crumpled to the ground during the Battle of Thapsus in 46BC, and theories for the dizziness and limb weakness said to have caused that fall have ranged from epilepsy to malaria seizures and parasitic infection, the Guardian notes. But now two Imperial College London researchers have proposed his vertigo and subsequent personality changes may have been the result of mini-strokes, the AFP reports. The study in Neurological Sciences posits that even though a series of small cardiovascular failures makes more sense than the prevailing epilepsy theory, the explanation has been widely ignored "on the grounds that until his death he was supposedly otherwise physically well during both private and stately affairs."

In addition to Caesar's reported physical symptoms—including the vertigo and headaches, as well as "giddiness and insensibility"—the researchers note a seemingly significant change in the Roman statesman's mental state as the years went on: He apparently suffered from depression, which they believe may have been caused by stroke-induced brain damage. The scientists point out research suggesting both Caesar's father and another relative died suddenly while putting their shoes on, and that "even if Caesar participated in an active lifestyle and may have benefited from a Mediterranean diet, there is the added possibility of genetic predisposition toward cardiovascular disease," per the Guardian. (Caesar was the guy behind leap year.)

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