The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars / But in ourselves, that we are underlings, Cassius famously declares early on in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. Astral symbolism runs throughout the play, of course. But I am as constant as the Northern star, Caesar tells his wife in Act 3, Of whose true fixed and resting quality / There is no fellow in the firmament. For her part, she tells him the night before his assassination, When beggars die there are no comets seen. / The heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes.
The reference to stars are literary devices on Shakespeare’s part, but the comet that marked Caesar’s actual death is historically attested. “He died in the fifty-sixth year of his age,” writes the historian Suetonius in his Life of Julius Caesar (chap. 88), “and was ranked amongst the Gods, not only by a formal decree, but in the belief of the vulgar. For during the first games which Augustus, his heir, consecrated to his memory, a comet blazed for seven days together, rising always about eleven o’clock; and it was supposed to be the soul of Caesar, now received into heaven.” Augustus issued coins with his own face on one side and Caesar’s comet on the other, as can be seen below, as a way of commemorating his own meteoric rise to power.