Little Bits of History

Ides of March

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 15, 2013

15 Julius Caesar15, 44 BC: Beware the Ides of March for Julius Caesar was assassinated on this day. The Ides of each month was originally the day of the full moon, a lucky omen. Each month began with Kalenda or the day of the new moon and also where we get the word “calendar.” It was the day interest on outstanding debt was due. Nones was the day of the half moon. The word “Ides” comes Latin and means “half division.” The Ides of March and May, July, and October falls on the 15th of the month. For the other eight months, the Ides falls on the 13th day.

Julius Caesar had been dictator of the Roman Republic for the previous four-and-a-half years and had spent the time instituting great change. After conquering regions in Britain and Gaul, Caesar returned to Rome and rose to power after a Civil War. He implemented various reforms for both society and government bodies. As he centralized his power base, Senators led by his old friend and half-brother Marcus Junius Brutus became increasingly disaffected.

Caesar was invited to the Forum on the Feast of Mars. He was to be presented with a petition from the Senators asking for a redistribution of power, essentially asking for power to be returned to the Senate. Marc Antony heard of a nefarious plot and went to Caesar to warn him. He was waylaid as he neared the Forum. Caesar was given a false petition and as he began to read, he was stabbed at without much effect. Caesar fought back but was overpowered by the angry men. Eutropius, a local historian, said around 60 men attacked Caesar and stabbed him 23 times. A doctor of the time said only one wound to the chest was lethal.

As the assassins fled the Forum they cried out, “People of Rome, we are once again free!” Caesar had been popular with the middle and lower classes and the general population was horrified by the acts of a few aristocrats. While Marc Antony eulogized his friend, it was not in the words of William Shakespeare and it may have had more to do with political gain than fealty. Instead of freeing Rome, they were once again plunged into a civil war. Gaius Octavianus, Caesar’s nephew and named heir, came to rule what was now the Roman Empire.

“We have to distrust each other. It’s our only defense against betrayal.” – Tennessee Williams

“Trust thyself only, and another shall not betray thee.” – Thomas Fuller

“If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country.” – E. M. Forster

“To be deceived by our enemies or betrayed by our friends in insupportable; yet by ourselves we are often content to be so treated.” – Francois De La Rochefoucauld

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: Marcus Junius Brutus was born in Rome in 85 BC. His father was killed in questionable circumstances by Pompey the Great (the man who led the opposition to Caesar’s rebellion in which he took over control of the Empire). Brutus’s  mother was the half-sister of Cato the Younger as well as one of Caesar’s mistresses. There is some speculation that Caesar may have been Brutus’s real father even though Caesar was only fifteen at the time. Brutus was adopted by Quintus Servilius Caepio in 59 BC and his name was officially changed for a short time, but he reverted to his birth name, although after this assassination, he once again reverted to using his adopted name.

Also on this day: Voting Booths – In 1892, Myers Voting Booths were introduced in New York.
The Ashes – In 1877, the first Test Cricket Match between England and Australia began.
Dot Com – In 1985, the first Internet domain name was registered.

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2 Responses

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  1. tkmorin said, on March 15, 2013 at 2:05 pm

    Very good article/post. I was looking for one, actually, about the Ides of March. Thanks. I really like your blog, and I want to share it with others, so I’ve nominated you for the “Very Inspiring Blog” award. You can learn more about it at my blog: 🙂

  2. Bobby DiasBobby Dias said, on March 16, 2013 at 8:23 am

    Too much credit to the Ides of March because the Roman senate was a group of part time officials who met after their normal day of business,as many city councils do today- the full moon was helpful to meet then in the day without electric lights. Their concern was not about superstitious concepts- only being able to see who was saying what.

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