The Ides of March Remembered

by Al Bloomfield

Thursday March 15, 2018

HISTORY – On this day – 2,062 years ago, March 15, 44 BC, a conspiracy of wealthy Roman senators led by Marcus Junius Brutus assassinated Gaius Julius Caesar on the floor of the Senate of Rome. They included Gaius Cassius Longinus, Decimus Junius Brutus Albinus, Lucius Tillius Cimber, Publius Servilius Casca, Gaius Servilius Casca, Gaius Trebonius and many others.

The assassins chose the date of the Ides of March (March 15), because that date was for Romans a deadline for settling old debts. It was by that date that people owed something were supposed to get what’s coming to them. The Romans did not number days as we do – from day 1 to day 31st, for example. They counted back from 3 fixed dates in each month: the Nones – 5th or 7th day (depending on the month’s length), the Ides – the 15th of March, May, July and October but on the 13th of the other months, and the Kalends – the 1st of the following month.

According to Plutarch, this is what happened: One of the senators, Lucius Tillius Cimber, stepped forward to set the stage for the assassination. Groveling before Gaius Julius Caesar, Cimber pleaded a written petition to Caesar to recall Cimber’s brother Publius from the exile Caesar had banished him to. While Caesar was thus stopped and distracted, the other senatorial assassins rapidly positioned themselves like chess pieces. The senators did this ostensibly to offer Cimber their moral support, but in actuality were positioning themselves at different angles from which to optimize their stabbing points against Caesar.

But Caesar tried to wave away Cimber. Yet Cimber, not to be ignored, seized Caesar’s shoulders, grabbed hold of his garments, and pulled away his toga. This move exposed Caesar’s neck and body which only had a shirt-like tunic remaining. Surprised, Caesar shouted at Cimber, “Why, this is violence!” Then Publius Servilius Casca tried to stab Caesar’s neck. Quickly, Caesar whirled around and caught Casca by the arm. Glaring at Casca, Caesar demanded, “Vile Casca, what does this mean?” Terrified, Casca shouted in Greek, “Help, brother!” (This was probably a call to Gaius Servilius Casca.)

Then the other senators swarmed in with daggers drawn. Caesar’s body received 23 stab wounds including 2 to the face. Only the 2nd stab wound was fatal and he died of blood loss. Although a very old man, Caesar fought like a wild man possessed the Furies. He fought back until he saw among the assassins his best friend (some say his natural son) Brutus among the killers. Caesar shouted, “Kai su, teknon!” (“You too, my child!”) Then Caesar pulled his toga over his head and gave up.

The first sign that something went wrong with the conspiracy – which was supposed to excite popular approval – was when Brutus stepped away from the dead body of Caesar to say something conciliatory to all the Senators who were not involved in the murder. Only then did he and the other conspirators realize that the other senators had cleared the building in flight.

Outside, the streets were deserted and every door locked as a Romans hit away in fear. They were all in fear of what might happen next should Caesar truly be dead. Only then did Brutus and the other so-called “Liberators” realize that they may have miscalculated. After that, the assassins fled and Civil War resumed. The Roman Civil War – which had raged on and off for years between the political parties the conservative Optimates and the liberal Populares (of which Caesar was a member) – would sweep away the last vestiges of the Republic and pave the way for the institution of the Empire.

Source of information for this report included the works of Plutarch.

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2 Comments

  1. The conspirators had hoped to restore the Republic as they had known it. They failed. Roman leaders were previously afraid to try to rule through a long-term dictatorship for fear of being denounced by the Senators and by the People of being a “King” – the one political accusation that could get you killed. Rome once had kings and had kicked them out.

    Imagine if Donald Trump were to announce, just before the 2020 presidential election, that he planned on being declared “Emperor of the United States of America” with Ivanka as heir-apparent with the title “Imperial Crown Princess”. Same thing!

    We often wonder why Julius Caesar forgave Brutus after the latter rose up against him during the Roman Civil War, with Caesar not only forgiving him but appointing him Praetor and Governor of Cisalpine Gaul (a VERY lucrative assignment). Well, imagine if George Washington had legitimate children with a popular direct descendent sitting in the U.S. Senate today. If you were somene like Caesar, you wouldn’t want to alienate Senator Washington’s supporters among the public and the Senators. That’s what it was like to be Senator Marcus Junius Brutus – direct descendent of Lucius Junius Brutus, the man who led the Roman Revolution that drove out the Etruscan Kings and establish the Roman Republic.

    So, Caesar had to treat Brutus well and with respect. Also, Brutus was reputedly Caesar’s natural son and best friend (perhaps to the consternation of the more loyal Marc Antony). That is why Brutus – though previously disloyal yet forgiven – was still alive and in a position to betray and murder Julius Caesar on the Ides of March.

    Al Bloomfield
    Belleview, Florida USA

    • I like the movie better than real life. Thank God we are not in Rome but in America where we the people vote for a greater republic. Yes, Trump is in office today by the electoral college not by popular vote. So we ride the tide and encourage others to register to vote. Stop complaining and make a change in local government, then state, then nation and finally the world. We true Americans slept for 8 years then the devil stole the office of Power. America is playing Julius Caesar I wonder what countries are waiting to stab us to death. Julius place his trust in his fellow governors and if he had listen to his wife maybe he would have lived just a little longer. I believe he had to know he had a lot of jealous senators, Brutus did Caesar wrong for what, Rome lost a great leader.

      Terry
      Belleview, FL

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