Linda Lacour Hobar, the author of The Mystery of History shares more details about the history of the Ides of March. Download the free coloring page for the little kids!
The History of “The Ides of March”
Can you believe we are into March already? Spring is so close we can feel it, and I think everyone is more than ready for warmer weather and more sunshine. March also holds an important day in history. March 15th is “The Ides of March.” While many people may have heard of this day, not everyone knows the full story that eclipsed the death of the Roman Republic and the birth of the Roman Empire.
In short, this is the day that Julius Caesar was murdered and has been referred to as the Ides of March ever since. Interestingly, in the Roman calendar, the 15th day of March, May, July, and October was called the ides. The ides of all the other months fell on the 13th day of the month. After the assassination of Julius Caesar, the term ides took on a deeper meaning. William Shakespeare (in his play titled Julius Caesar) made famous the warning phrase, “Beware the Ides of March.” Here’s the story.
The year was 44 B.C. Julius Caesar was beginning to act a lot like a king. The Romans were still opposed to the idea of one man having ultimate control of their country. But Caesar was really the one person in charge of Rome. He called himself a “dictator for life,” and he wasn’t cooperating with the Senate. He began to use the senators as more of an advisory board than as the decision makers they were appointed to be. Though Caesar made some good contributions to Rome, his power was just too threatening to many of the other leaders.
You, too Brutus?
On March 15, 44 B.C., on a windy day called the “Ides of March,” Julius Caesar was assassinated. As he nonchalantly strolled toward the Senate for a meeting, Caesar was stabbed up to 35 times by a group of about 60 senators. Sadly, some were his closest friends! One man, in particular, was named Brutus. In William Shakespeare’s dramatic play on the life of Caesar, Caesar is portrayed as seeing that his friend was part of the killing mob. He uttered, “You, too, Brutus?” before he fell to his death. This phrase has come to refer to a person who betrays a friend.
Nicolaus of Damascus, a Greek historian of the first century, vividly describes the scene this way:
The Senate rose in respect for his position when they saw him entering. Those who were to have part in the plot stood near him. . . . All quickly unsheathed their daggers and rushed at him. . . . Caesar rose to defend himself and in the uproar Casca shouted out in Greek to his brother. The latter heard him and drove his sword into the ribs. After a moment, Cassius made a slash at his face, and Decimus Brutus pierced him in the side. . . . They were just like men doing battle against him. Under the mass of wounds, he fell at the foot of Pompey’s statue. Everyone wanted to seem to have had some part in the murder, and there was not one of them who failed to strike his body as it lay there, until, wounded thirty-five times, he breathed his last.
Historians remain mixed in their opinions as to whether or not Julius Caesar knew ahead of time that he would be killed. He may very well have been warned of a plot against his life but allowed it to happen. Why might he allow it? Some suspect he saw his end coming. At 57 years old, Caesar may have preferred a memorable dramatic death over simply being run out of Rome. It’s hard to know what Caesar was thinking, but without a doubt, his assassination has been well remembered. And with the abrupt death of Julius Caesar came the beginning of the end of the Roman Republic, which resorted to another triumvirate just prior to the birth of the Roman Empire. But that’s another story for another time, that includes Cleopatra and Marc Antony!
For the little ones, have them color a picture as you are reading this story and discussing all that happened in the history of the Ides of March.