Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Ides of March

Caesar in his own words
Today marks the Ides of March, Idus Martiae, which has echoed down history because it was today, in 44 B.C., that Julius Caesar was publicly assassinated by a group of Senators on the floor of the Roman Senate. The Senators, led by Cassius and Brutus, saw Caesar as a would-be king and hoped that by publicly "killing the tyrant" they would restore Rome to a true Republic. Ironically, they instead triggered a civil war that ended with Rome being ruled by a succession of Emperors.

I recently streamed the 2005 Rome tv series, which is really excellent in it's historicity (I really can't say enough good things about this tv series), and I thought this would be a good time to show a clip from the season 1 finale where Julius Caesar is assassinated. Even from this short clip you can see how great Ciaran Hinds as Caesar and Tobias Menzies as Brutus are.

What we should understand from the death of the Roman Republic is that what killed it, among other things, was a massive influx of slaves, the fruit of Rome's military success, which enriched the ruling patricians but led to massive unemployment of the regular Romans, the plebes. And the patricians, specially the 300 Roman Senators, didn't really care - they were rich and they ruled the world. The plebes realized this and turned to popular military heroes like Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, who did seem to care.

So the patricians literally killed the imminent threat to their power, but lacked any leadership cred with the plebes (and also lacked an army), so the plebes doubled down and turned to the strong men.
That's history in a nutshell, which seems to repeat a lot. So if you are voting today, keep the Ides of March in mind.

My hope is that by tomorrow we can say alea iacta est - the die is cast.

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