If it wasn’t for Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, would the Ides of March even be known to us? I must confess, the only thing I know about the Ides of March is Shakespeare’s famous line where the soothsayer is warning Julius Caesar to “beware the Ides of March.”
Actually, the Ides of March was a festival day dedicated to the god Mars. Very fitting since Julius Caesar’s brutal demise (stabbed to death 23 times in the Senate, orchestrated by more than 60 of his closest frenemies) was very war-like. In the Roman calendar, the 15th of the months March, May, July and October was designated as the ides of those months. There is a whole lot more on calendars, equinoxes, and the church (of course they weighed in!), but that will have to wait for another ancient history lesson.
A backlash to Caesar was brewing. Romans had no tolerance for kings, having expelled their last king in 509 B.C. By the time of Caesar, Rome had long established a republican government. While Caesar always turned down any hints of kingship, he certainly pushed the envelope with his powers. He was the first living person to put his likeness on coins (Hmm, sounds like a perfect topic for around tax day). Previously, the honor was reserved for deities. We can only guess what might have been his ultimate goal.
In the end, the legacy of power Caesar established lived on through his heir Octavian. The Ides of March became a lesson in political preservation for Octavian. He established himself as the first Roman emperor. By the way, Octavian, also known as Caesar Augustus, was the very Caesar Augustus of biblical fame. I’m sure we’ll hear more of him as we near Easter.
Given the state of global tyrannical reigns, warning of the Ides of March is not just ancient history!