Author Topic: IDES of March  (Read 4930 times)


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IDES of March
« on: March 01, 2009, 07:59:14 AM »
Oh wonderful discussion, I just found it. And as tomorrow, Sunday is the Ides of March,  and I will be out of town, I've brought here something of possible interest for those not in the Latin classes. :)

The Death of Julius Caesar by Vincenzo Camuccini.


 "The Ides of March are come."

 "Yes they are come,  but they are not past-"  Julius Caesar to the soothsayer who had told him "Beware the Ides of March," and the soothsayer's response,  quoted in Plutarch's Lives.
On March 15,  more than 2,000  years ago, in 44 BC, on the Ides of March, Julius Caesar was assassinated, a day which still lives in infamy, and which  has been the inspiration of many writers including Shakespeare.   Dante  placed the assassins Brutus and Cassius in the lowest circle of his Inferno, reserved for the most damned, along with Judas.

Even his enemies agreed Caesar was a genius.  He  combined "preeminently the qualities of statesmanship,  generalship, discernment and clemency. " (Oxford Companion to Classical Literature).  <center><p><img src="" BORDER=1>The Ides of March (click to enlarge)

"Caesar was a "supreme virtuoso... great beyond-and even in conflict with-the requirements of his political ambition. He showed a human spiritual greatness in his generosity to defeated opponents, which was partly responsible for his assassination... he [is] a giant by comparison with the common run of human beings." Encyclopedia Britannica

That's not a bad epitaph 2000 years later. The World Book refers to Julius Caesar as "one of the greatest men in the history of the world." Albert  Warsley, creator of the NLE, says, "Julius Caesar is considered by many historians to have been, in natural talent, one of the most remarkable men that ever lived...He was military genius, an orator, a statesman, an historian, an astronomer, and engineer, a poet, a writer, and a grammarian."

He was a giant, Cassius was right about that:  a Colossus.  Some of the many contributions of Julius Caesar include his creation of  the calendar. The  Julian Calendar was used until Pope Gregory XIII in 1582 made corrections and it became the Gregorian calendar. Several German states continued to use the Julian Calendar until the 1700s. Great Britain used the Julian Calendar until 1752. The Julian calendar was used in Russia until after  the Russian Revolution of 1917- 1918. Turkey used the Julian Calendar until 1927.

Caesar  reformed the provinces and the dishonest practices there.  He established a plan to reorganize city government in Italy. He replaced dishonest governors with honest ones,  and allowed the citizens of many provinces to attain Roman citizenship.  His military strategy is still studied today in our military academies. He appointed many of his opponents to high office and pardoned some he should not have, which led to his assassination.  He instituted  reforms for the poor and distributed the dole to only those who were "in need," sort of a work for pay effort,  and established early colonies where the poor could find a living, notably in Corinth and Carthage. He invented the One Way Street.

 Warsley continues on the projects left unfinished by his assassination: "Caesar had in mind to do many things for the advantage of the Roman people and state, following the end of his military campaigns.  Among some of the proposed projects, he planned to drain the great Pontine marshes because of the unhealthy air they caused and because he would make the land serviceable for housing projects; he intended to open a communication between the Ionian and the Aegean Seas, by cutting through the Isthmus of Corinth; to build harbors along the coast of Italy; to open wide roads over the Apennines; to have a canal dug from the Anio and Tiber to the sea, and to rebuild Carthage and Corinth. He had many plans to build splendid public buildings and for establishing public libraries in Rome, to revise the whole code of Roman laws of the Twelve Tables by reducing them to simpler form. Augustus followed through on some of these proposals. At Caesar's death he was on the point of starting out on a military campaign to avenge Crassus and his death by the Parthans."

 The spot in the  Forum where Caesar's body was cremated was made a temple by Augustus. Nothing of it remains today, but the actual spot is able  to be visited  and viewed, in the Forum at Rome. It's quite unprepossessing, there's a tin roof over it,  it consists of some rocks or a black rock in a recessed area with a walkway around it. It's  dark inside on the brightest day,  and surprisingly effective,  and the crowds queuing to get in are huge. It  always has fresh flowers on it? Always.

I was there when they opened it and nobody knew what it was. There's now a legend that on the Ides of March red roses appear on the rock, and even tho they have sat watch all night,  they are unable to see who puts them there,  not sure why that would be significant after 2,000 years, but it's a nice spooky story. The story of Caesar's assassination is fascinating, as is all of his life. You can find some  accounts in Plutarch but you need to also read the section on Brutus and Cassius for things left out of the section on Caesar. A writer of brevity and occasional sardonic wit,  the man who coined the phrase "Veni, vidi, vici," I came, I saw, I conquered, about his short war in Anatolia in 47 BC, has left a lasting mark on the world two thousand years later. Hopefully before long  you can read his own words in the original so he can speak directly to you across 2,000 years of history!

  The date of Caesar's actual funeral was the 20th. It seems  a shame, to me, in the Forum so filled with stunning triumphal monuments like the Arch of Titus,  that this pitiful thing of Caesar's remains, but it was a temple, but it's gone, and they're trying to put some shelter over this rock, but here's something you might enjoy seeing:

 The site of Caesar's funeral pyre in the Forum in Rome in March, 2006:   

 Every year on March 15 somebody manages to place roses on the spot where Caesar was cremated. They have set guards in the Forum  but nobody can manage to catch whoever does it. Here is the plaque marking the spot and a view of some of the crowds in March of 2006:

The pointed roof in the background is the cover over what remains of Caesar's temple.

 This photo is reproduced with the kind permission of  RenĂ© Seindal,  and was taken 2002-09-04. Here is a link to his beautiful  site:  Photographs and explanations of Rome.

 From the site

The Temple of Caesar (Aedes Divus Iulius or Templum Divi Iuli) was built by Augustus after the senate deified Julius Caesar after his death. The temple was dedicated August 18th, 29 BCE. It stands on the E. side of the main square of the Forum Romanum, between the Regia, Temple of Castor and Pollux and the the Basilica Aemilia.

After Julius Caesar was murdered, his body was carried to the forum, near the Regia, which was his official residence as pontifex maximus. A funeral pyre was built and his body cremated. Initially a commemorative column was erected on the spot with a dedication to the "father of the fatherland", but soon after Augustus started the construction of a temple for his adoptive father who the senate had declared a god. The temple was finished and consecrated in 29 BCE.

The temple was built in the Italian style. It rested on a tall podium in opus caementicium with access stairways on the sides of the temple. It was prostyle, hexastyle with two columns on the sides of the pronaos. No columns have survived but the temple was probably of the Corinthian order. In the front of the pronaos there was a semi-circular recess with a small altar inside. This might indicated the location of the funeral pyre. The protective wall in front of the altar was added later by Augustus

(Thanks to Pat Westerdale for finding the cartoon graphics for us) The Goldsworthy  Caesar is highly recommended for the truth about this incredible man.

Ask any Latin student what the "Ides" were! :)


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Re: IDES of March
« Reply #1 on: March 14, 2009, 09:54:37 AM »

Monday March 16 -  Bacchus Bacchanalia (begins) Ancient Rome - Wild and mystical festivals held in honor of the god Bacchus (depicted above).

Friday  March 20  -    Vernal Equinox & 43 BC - Birth of Roman poet Ovid.
"Better by far you should forget and smile than that you should remember and be sad." ~ Christina Rossetti.


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Re: IDES of March
« Reply #2 on: March 17, 2009, 10:07:48 AM »
Thanks so much for  Ides of March - haven't done more than skim it so far but will come back and read it properly. Amazing. One of the exercises I did in a drawing class once was to copy from a bust of Caesar. He's great to depict - all those lean lines...
Reading is an art and the reader an artist. Holbrook Jackson