Posted by: Glow-worm PJ12 MAR 2014
The ides — the 15th day — of March, has for more than 2,000 years been connected with the murder of Julius Caesar, led by the senators Cassius and Brutus.
Since the first performance of William Shakespeare’s ‘Julius Caesar’, the line uttered by the soothsayer warning Caesar to “Beware the Ides of March” has become universally recognisable.
Before Caesar’s assassination on 15 March 44BC, the ides of March was just another day in the Roman calendar. The ides of March, May, July and October fell on the 15th of the month, and those of the other months fell on the 13th.
The ides of March was traditionally the time to settle debts, and from 220BC to 153BC it also marked the beginning of the Roman consular year, when the newly elected consuls took office.
The ides of each month were sacred to the god Jupiter, and were marked by religious observances and festivals. The ides of March was marked by the popular festival of Anna Perrena, sister of Dido, the founding Queen of Carthage. According to the contemporary poet Ovid, during the festival “the plebs celebrated near the bank of the Tiber”, with picnics, as well as much drinking and revelry. It has been suggested that the choice of date for Caesar’s assassination is due to the fact that most of the citizens of Rome would be otherwise occupied for much of that day.
In 44BC the conspirators murdered Julius Caesar in the hope of ending the temporary dictatorship with which he had replaced the traditional republican government.
Within a couple of years both Brutus and Cassius were also dead, having failed to bring back the republic. Ironically, what they did was to usher in a more permanent dictatorship under future Roman emperors, which is the opposite of what they actually intended.