Friday, March 15, 2013

Beware the Ides of March

Res Publica
Beware the Ides of March
by David Trumbull -- March 15, 2013

Beware indeed! As we all know, Julius Caesar was assassinated in the Senate House on the Ides of March of 44 B.C.  

Of the number and names of all the assassins we cannot be certain. Plutarch, and other ancient writers record the following: 

Publius Servilius Casca. "Vile Casca" who made the first cut.  

Caius Cassius Longinus. That Cassius of the "lean and hungry look" who recruited Brutus to the conspiracy.  

Marcus Junius Brutus. A descendant of that ancient Brutus who drove out the last of the Roman kings about 465 years earlier. Brutus was as a son to Caesar; his was "the most unkindest cut of them all." Brutus and Cassius both fell at their own hands after the battle of Philippi in 42 B.C. According to some ancient account each did himself in with the very dagger he used to slay Caesar.  

Decimus Junius Brutus also called Albinus, he was a distant relative of the other Brutus.  

Caius Trebonius. As was true of many of the conspirators, he had been a beneficiary of the kindnesses of Caesar. It was Trebonius and Decimus Brutus who detained Marc Antony in conversation so that Caesar was without his principal bodyguard when he entered the senate house.  

Lucius Tillius Cimber, called Metellus Cimber in the Shakespeare play, he was the one who gave the signal to commence the slaughter.  

Cinna. We must be careful not to confuse the conspirator Cinna with Caesar's loyal friend the poet Cinna. The angry mob in Rome that Ides of March made that very confusion and, meeting Cinna the poet in the street, tore to pieces the wrong man.  

Within a very few years Marc Antony and Octavian Caesar, the adopted son of Julius Caesar tracked down and killed the assassins.  

The conspirators thought to restore the Republic. However, they lacked any cohesive plan for governing; mismanaged events in the days immediately following the assassination; and ended up plunging Rome into a disastrous civil war. Peace, but not the Republic, was finally restored when, in 31 B.C., following the defeat of Antony at the battle of Actium, Caesar Octavian emerged as sole leader --the Emperor Augustus.

The founders of our Republic knew well the story of the Roman Republic's failure, with resulting Imperial Rule. They left us a system of popular government with regular elections. Our Republic has endured, under our Constitution, for about two and a quarter centuries. The Roman Republic endured nearly five centuries. It's up to us ordinary American voters to determine whether we can match that record.

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