Politics Has Always Been a Messy Business

Today is Idus Martiae, the 74th day in the Roman calendar. Better known as the Ides of March, it was a day of religious observances in Roman times and best known in that era as the deadline when all debts had to be paid. For the common folk, it was a happy day, a time to celebrate the Feast of Anna Perenna, a time for picnics, parties, and dancing.

What it’s really known for, however, is the assassination of Julius Caesar by his friends, a turning point in Roman history. It happened in 44 BC.

It seems at some point a seer had warned Caesar who was a priest of the god Vesta as well as the Pontifex Maximus or head honcho of Rome, that harm would come to him on the Ides of March. He was on the way to the Theatre of Pompey for a Senate meeting when he saw the seer again. So Caesar turned and sneered at the seer and said “the Ides of March are come,” suggesting the seer was wrong since no harm had come to him yet. Still the seer replied, “ah, they have come, but they have not gone.”

So Caesar went into the Senate meeting where a group of 60 or so Senators and political leaders not happy with his power or position, had been conspiring to kill him. Led by his friends Brutus and Cassius, the group descended on Caesar and Brutus stuck the knife in his back.

According to Shakespeare’s version in his play, Julius Caesar, Caesar turned to his friend and said, “Et tu, Brute?” or “You, too, Brutus?” signifying that even his friends were in on the assassination.

And thus followed the civil war that led to the rise of power by Octavian, later known as Augustus, who just happened to be an heir of Julius. He went on to kill 300 Senators a few years later who had fought against him as a way of avenging Caesar’s death. That assassination also was supposed to have happened on the Ides of March.

In a further act of his new power, Brutus had coins struck to commemorate the death of Caesar. This particular version shows the two daggers representing those used by Brutus and Cassius, flanking a pileus cap, the symbol of patriotism for Castor and Polux, in mythology, the patrons of the Roman Army. EID MAR is an abbreviation for the Ides of March.


Related Posts

See All