Friday, March 15, 2013

the Ides of March

In modern times, the Ides of March is best known as the date on which Julius Caesar was assassinated in 44 BC. Caesar was stabbed to death at a meeting of the senate. As many as 60 conspirators, led by Brutus and Cassius, were involved. According to Plutarch, a seer had warned that harm would come to Caesar no later than the Ides of March.

On his way to the Theatre of Pompey, where he would be assassinated, Caesar passed the seer and joked, "The ides of March have come," meaning to say that the prophecy had not been fulfilled, to which the seer replied "Aye, Caesar; but not gone." This meeting is famously dramatised in William Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar, when Caesar is warned by the soothsayer to "beware the Ides of March."The Roman biographer Suetonius identifies the "seer" as a haruspex named Spurinna.

On the anniversary of Caesar's death in 40 BCE, after achieving a victory at the siege of Perugia, Octavian (later known as Augustus) executed 300 senators and knights who had fought against him under Lucius Antonius, the brother of Mark Antony. The executions were one of a series of actions taken by Octavian as Caesar's adopted heir to avenge his death. The Roman historians Suetonius and Cassius Dio characterise the slaughter as like a religious sacrifice, noting that it occurred on the Ides of March at the new altar to the deified Julius.



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