Cavete Idibus Martiis
By: Ashton Jenks
Picture by Redbubble
Time is but a concept and is at the center of all of mankind's workings. It is the reason for celebration; the reason for mourning and the reason for stress and anxiety. People have long believed that scientists will one day be the ones to finally defy the restraint of time: they’ll find a way through a black hole or create a way to manipulate the string of the universe. However, in reality, the writers and historians, the people who breathe words, are the true time travelers. Caesar, Shakespeare, and Czar Nicholas II are most certainly not alive today, but their stories are; along with every other honored man or woman in history, they live on today as a sort of time capsule. The atoms that made up their mortal bodies have long since been reabsorbed into the circle of life; however, they have achieved the closest thing to time travel a human can. It is this enduring legacy that continues to influence society today. Caesar, Shakespeare, Czar Nicholas II and some other “time travelers” all converge on one day in the year: the Ides of March on March 15th.
Time is a paradox in that its measurements are designed by humans; we can never truly harness time (no matter how hard students may try). Before Caesar's death, he was the first to institute the gregorian calendar, in which there were 12 months and a leap year every four years. Previously, the roman calendar had consisted of ten months and was based closely on the moon cycle. This new cataloging system was adhered to by the Romans only two years before his death and only months after the motion was passed in the senate. Julius Caesar took on the title Dictator Perpetuo, or Dictator for life. However, before the new calendar was passed March 15th was the general time of the Roman new year and New years celebrations, which consisted of many celebrations One of the main celebratory activities was the sacrifice of animals and goods to the Roman gods; Janus was a major one for New Years celebrations as the God of decisions and doorways. Interestingly enough Janus is one of the few Roman gods to not have a name change from Greek to Roman mythology. Other Gods that may have pertained to new years are Hecate, the goddess of magic and crossroads; Proserpine (Greek Persephone), the goddess of spring and new beginnings; her mother Cyrus(Demeter); and Bacchus(Dionysus), the god of merriment and wine. The new year was celebrated at that time of year because May 15th is near the beginning of spring and the spring equinox is five days later. It’s fitting yet paradoxical that the start of a new tradition, a day of foreboding and dread, began on the same day that the Roman Empire truly began; the day of the former new year.
On March 15th, of 44 B.C. Julius Caesar, the catalyst of the Roman Empire (formerly the Roman Republic) and arguably the most influential and successful military leaders of all time was assassinated by his own Senators; it was led by his second in command and third in line for the Throne: Marcus Brutus. He was killed at the base of Pompey's statue, a statue of the man who was once part of his famed triumvirate, on the portico of the basilica. He was stabbed 23 times by nearly 60 assassins. This was the first event to happen fatefully on the Ides of March.
It was a very somber event; it led to a domino effect of the fall of the 3,000 year old Egypt, the placement of the first true Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus, nephew of Caesar, instead of his true son with Cleopatra. The development of the most influential nation in World History was another effect. However, it was not immortalized in grit and infamy till Shakespeare of Elizabethan England was born. On September 21, 1599, the play Julius Caesar was performed for the first time: 1,643 years after the Death of its protagonist. Although the play was dramatized, as many of Shakespeare's otherwise historical works were, it properly portrayed the importance of the Fall of Caesar. In Act 1 Scene 2, Shakespeare uses his renowned foreshadowing when he has a soothsayer, a player who only had nine lines (power of threes!) and was known as a fortune teller, utter the famous line, “Beware the Ides of March.” effectively warning Caesar of his assassination to later occur in Act 3. This line has traveled through time, along with many other famous quotes that could fill up an entire encyclopedia. Time travel is beautiful, isn’t it?
After Shakespeare graced the world with his brilliance, March 15th underwent another major event. On March 15th, 1917 Czar Nicholas II of the Romanov family was forced to abdicate his throne in adherence to the Bolshevik revolution in the midst of the first World War. This date marks the birth of Communism in a country and its domino effects, at least in the lives of people today, are just as great as those of the death of caesar. It caused the rise of Stalin, who had more kills under his name than Hitler; the cold war, and the Red Scare of the 1920’s and 1950’s. About a year later, on July 18th of 1918, the former Czar and his family were gunned down in the basement of their Siberian banishment home. This led to one of the most infamous conspiracy theories that of which that the Czar’s youngest children Anastasia and Alexei survived the mass shooting and survived to adulthood. Another foreboding event attached to Ides; Another paradoxical beginning for a nation on the cusp of revolution.
Breaking the chronological order of this article, there are a few other foreboding events that happened on March 15th that further cements it as a day of infamy. In 1536, Anne Boleyn the second wife of King Henry the eighth (divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived) was accused of incest with her brother George Rochford. She was later beheaded on the Tower Green at the Tower of London. In 1940, Germany occupied Austria and Amsterdam.
On a more positive note, a few good things did occur on this day. Johannes Kepler discovered his third law of Planetary Motion, “The square of the orbital period of a planet is proportional to the cube of the semi-major axis of its orbit.” In 1869, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony founded the National Woman's Suffrage Association in New York; and Cape Cod was discovered by Bartholomew Gosnold.
This March, although it is sometimes referred to as a range of dates anywhere from March 12th to 16th but is traditionally upheld as the 15th, remember all the history that was made and written into familitary on the Ides of March. While the Romans celebrate with marathons and family gatherings, while Shakespeare students quiver, and while historians debate the fall of the Czar, think about how you may one day become a time traveler; how you want to leave your mark on this world. The future may be intimidating and foreboding, just like the Ides, but they can also mean incredible things and maybe someday you’ll be a time traveler too. With no strings attached, (String theory!) as the Romans would say in Latin, “Cavete Idibus Martiis, Beware the Ides of March.”