Beware: The Ides of March
By N. Mark Castro
If you’re one of the few people on earth that’s never read Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, then you wouldn’t recall the Soothsayer shouting “Beware the Ides of March!” at Caesar.
But what are the Ides of March, and is there any reason for us to be wary of them?
Actually, the Ides of March is not a them but an it: March 15th. “Ides” comes from the Latin Idus, and refers to a festival celebrating the Roman god of war, Mars, from whom the month of March and the planet Mars take their names.
You’d think this would have been a lucky day for Caesar, one of history’s greatest generals and empire-builders. But his luck ran out on March 15, 44 B.C., when he was assassinated by a group of outraged Senators, including his trusted friend Brutus, leading to that other famous line, “Et tu, Brute?” (That’s, ahem, brootay, not brute, should you ever have the misfortune of being in Caesar’s position and needing to say the line yourself.)
Why were the Senators up in (literal) arms against Caesar, you ask?
In a nutshell, because before the Roman Empire, there was the Roman Republic, a supposed bastion of virtue and honor with a governing Senate. The Senators feared that Julius Caesar* had too much power and was planning to declare himself emperor, putting an end to the Republic. So they took a direct route to make sure that didn’t happen. Unfortunately for them, their efforts backfired. They succeeded in killing off Caesar, but set off a series of power plays that ultimately saw Caesar’s heir Augustus crowned emperor. The Roman Empire was born, and the rest is history.
But what does Caesar’s bad luck have to do with us? Why should we beware the Ides of March?
None, really, but the same could be said of Friday the Thirteenth.
Friday the Thirteenth became identified as a date of ill-luck and misfortune back on Friday, October 13, 1307, when the immoral and rapacious King Phillipe IV of France demolished the powerful Order of the Knights Templar in a single day. (Admittedly, it took a while longer to completely destroy the Templars and seize all their assets for the Crown, but in effect the entire Order toppled on that single day.) At the time, the Templars were immensely wealthy and powerful, known as “the bankers of Europe” because they controlled so much of its wealth, and they operated with the blessings of the Pope. To annihilate them required a combination of factors, including a very weak Pope of French extraction—as it happened, a boyhood friend of the King—who was also more or less under house arrest in Avignon, France, as opposed to entrenched in Rome, and a series of very devious maneuvers including luring the Grand Master of the Templars, Jacques de Molay, into the King’s hands by asking him to be a pallbearer at his, Philippe’s, own sister’s funeral, then arresting him the following day (the 13th).
Now again, you may wonder what the fall of the Templars has to do with us, and again, the answer is nothing.
Yes, it was dramatic and doubtless spread terror and feelings of vulnerability across Europe. But Caesar’s assassination was all that and more, since at the time, Rome was pretty much the center of the world.
So why do we still consider Friday the Thirteenth unlucky, and ignore the Ides of March?
You tell me.
By the by, if you think pronouncing Ides “EE-days” and Brute “BROO-tay” is bad, check out how the Romans of Caesar’s day pronounced his name: YOO-lee-OOS KY-sar.
He’s lucky though, poor Leonardo da Vinci’s name was pronounced by his contemporaries as “da Winky.”
Posted on July 28, 2012, in General and tagged betrayal, Brutus, Crusades, Friday the 13th, Ides of March, Julius Ceasar, Knight of the Templar, Leonardo da Vinci, politics, Shakespeare, Templars. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.