BEWARE THE IDES OF MARCH!
By Brook Allen
Marcus rubbed sleep from his eyes, considering. Why would Decimus Brutus be intervening to get Caesar to the Senate? That sounded suspicious.
Hackles raised, he threw the coverlet off.
“What day is it?” mumbled Fulvia, stretching and turning over.
“The ides of Martius,” Marcus replied, yawning. “Eros, get my toga. It seems I must look like a consul today after all.”
In Roman times, the calendar often had several terms signifying a particular date. The 15th of March, May, July, or October was considered the “ides”. All other months had an “ides”, as well; theirs landing on the 13th day of the month.
During Gaius Julius Caesar’s dictatorship, the ides in the month of March was to change Roman history permanently. In fact, it was a date so ingrained in the history of western civilization, that the Ides of March connotes a day of infamy—of bad luck. Each March 15th in Rome, actors descend upon the area where Caesar was killed to “replay” the deed. And then, people with a real fascination for Caesar’s history still deposit roses on the very place his body was cremated—within the ruined remains of the Temple of Caesar.
|Flowers in the Temple of Caesar: Flowers can be seen year-round inside the Temple of Julius Caesar.|
If Caesar is so well-remembered today, then when why was he killed in the first place?
In 44 BC, Caesar had been granted the title of “Dictator for life”. This was a pretty big deal. Ever since Rome had first become a Republic, the mere thought of single-man rule was abhorrent—in fact traitorous. When the Senate allowed Caesar this honor, it was beyond anything that had been done before. Caesar was given a political permanence that no other dictator had been granted. However, one must remember that he won that permanence by military force. Once his final rival, Pompeius Magnus was dead, Caesar had full control over Rome.
Compared to his predecessors, Julius Caesar held a more worldly, global-based view of the Roman world. The exclusivity of Roman citizenship was now available for Gallic people and people in the east. But Caesar took it step more, granting senatorial status to Gallic-born men. For hard-core Romans like Brutus, Cassius, and others, this was like swallowing poison. And Caesar had pretty much claimed divine roots by this time, too. He had always boasted that his family was descended from the goddess Venus Genetrix (Venus of the family—meaning his) and shortly before his death, he had a temple completed and consecrated in Rome, dedicated to her. But the juiciest tidbit about that, which turned into a raging scandal, was that the cult-statue inside the temple had a high-profile model—Cleopatra of Egypt, Caesar’s mistress!
Good ol’ down-home, strait-laced Roman senators just couldn’t take any more.
A group of them, led by Gaius Cassius Longinus and Marcus Junius Brutus began to plan an assassination. On the day they chose to strike, it was assumed that Caesar would actually be appointed “king” over all Roman possessions, excluding Rome itself. That fateful day?
|Minted by Brutus, this coin’s back is fascinating. It shows two daggers surrounding a cap. Caps like these were associated with liberated slaves. The conspirators called themselves “liberators”.|
The Ides of March.
Though Caesar was stabbed twenty-three times, it’s estimated that as many as sixty men were in on the plot. One man, Decimus Brutus (no big relation of Marcus Brutus, by the way) was actually a beneficiary in Caesar’s will! There’s much argument of whether or not Marcus Antonius (Marc Antony) was involved. However, Antonius was well-known as Caesar’s “right-hand man” by that time and he was also known for his loyalty to friends and family.
So what exactly happened on the Ides?
Strangely enough, Caesar nearly missed his own assassination! Romans were a very superstitious people, and because of some dark portent, Calpurnia’s nightmare, or perhaps a real warning, he opted NOT to go—at first. However, the senator Decimus Brutus may have been the one to intervene and convince Caesar to attend.
Antonius was usually at Caesar’s side. Because of his physical size and reputation as a fine soldier, the assassins came up with a plan to separate Antonius from Caesar. As soon as Caesar and Antonius entered the Theater of Pompeius’s curia (where the Senate was meeting at the time), a friend of Antonius insisted he speak with him. This “friend” was Gaius Trebonius, a military colleague of Antonius. Both had fought for Caesar during the Gallic Wars at the final, bloody siege at Alesia. The two had shared a tent and as soldiers often do, had formed a close bond. Little did Antonius know that Trebonius was no longer his friend!
Once Caesar had taken his place in the Senate, “deliberations” of a sort began, with some petitions. Servilius Casca was the first to strike a blow and Caesar—always a fighter, even in encroaching age and illness—fought him off with a writing utensil known as a stylus. Ah, the power of the pen!
Sadly for Caesar, the pen didn’t save him. It’s generally accepted that Marcus Brutus was the last man to stab the dictator. Brutus probably did have a lot of conflicted feelings. His mother had been Caesar’s mistress, he had also served Caesar in Gaul, and had even been pardoned by him after the civil war with Pompeius.
Regardless of whether Brutus’s jab finished the job, Caesar died shortly thereafter of multiple stab-wounds.
All of the conspirators, who at this point termed themselves as “liberators” fled to the Temple of Jupiter. It was located on the highest hill in Rome—the Capitoline—not an easy place to approach from a military standpoint. History tells us that Antonius was pretty slick during the days that followed. He walked the fine political line between civil unrest (again!) and keeping the peace, doing an admirable, if not wily job of it. And he gave his stellar funeral oration that not only stirred the plebians into a frenzy by cremating Caesar themselves, but spooked Brutus and Cassius all the way to Greece!
At this, the plebs became frenzied, chanting oaths to Caesar’s shade, jumping up and down in unison and lifting hands or balling fists in emotion. Their fervor encouraged Marcus, and in a daring move, he kicked the lid off of the basket at his feet. Inside was Caesar’s bloodied toga, and he whipped it out to thousands of gasps. One of his lictors stepped forward on cue, and Marcus took up his fasces, draping the stained garment over the axe. He lifted it high, striding back and forth across the Rostra, displaying it like a banner.
As calls of heartfelt grief and outrage climaxed, Marcus shouted over the din so all could hear, “What would Caesar have thought of this day? He’d say, ‘To think I actually spared the lives of the very men who killed me!’”
Excerpts taken from Brook Allen’s novel, Antonius: Second in Command
Second in Command
By Brook Allen
The Antonius saga continues…
Having proven himself as a formidable cavalry commander, Marcus Antonius finally earns a position at his kinsman Julius Caesar’s side. However, Caesar is an exacting general, demanding complete allegiance from his staff, even when his decisions put him at odds with the Senate. Marcus’s loyalty to Caesar comes at a cost, and he soon finds himself embroiled in mob violence and military mutinies. As civil war brings Rome’s Republic crashing down, many a relationship is torn asunder, including Marcus’s marriage. Determined to rise triumphant in Rome’s new era, Marcus faces his fears, his failures, and his enemies—not the least of whom is himself.
Amid the crisis of the Ides of March, Marcus must don the mantle of ruthlessness to carve his own legacy in Rome’s history. Enemies have been made, wills have been read, and heirs proclaimed.
But in Rome’s civil unrest, blood answers only to blood.
Son of Rome
By Brook Allen
For over two thousand years, Marc Antony has been one of history’s most controversial men. His story was buried with him and written by his enemies. Now his entire saga is revealed in a compelling trilogy by Brook Allen.
After young Marcus Antonius’s father dies in disgrace, he yearns to restore his family’s honor during the final days of Rome’s dying Republic. Marcus is rugged, handsome, and possesses abundant military talent, but upon entering manhood, he falls prey to the excesses of a licentious society. His whoring, gambling, and drinking eventually reap dire consequences. After a series of personal tragedies, Marcus must come into his own through blood, death, and sacrifice. Once he finally earns a military commission, he faces an uphill battle to earn the respect and admiration of soldiers, proconsuls, and kings. Desperate to redeem his name and carve a legacy for himself, he refuses to let warring rebels, scheming politicians, or even an alluring young Egyptian princess stand in his way.
Brook Allen is a Music Educator in a rural community near Roanoke, VA. Aside from her regular classes, she teaches two ensembles, a Chorus and Recorder Consort. Born in Salt Lake City, UT, Brook was raised in Omaha, Nebraska and has lived all over the U.S., from the Pacific Northwest, all the way down to Florida. She graduated with a B.A. in Music Education and has a M. A. in Liberal Studies, with an emphasis on Roman History. Brook is happily married and has two energetic Labrador Retrievers. Voraciously active, she cycles, hikes, and loves to travel.
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See you on your next coffee break!
Mary Anne xxx