Ides of March

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The Death of Caesar (1798) by Vincenzo Camuccini Vincenzo Camuccini - La morte di Cesare.jpg
The Death of Caesar (1798) by Vincenzo Camuccini

The Ides of March ( /dz/ ; Latin : Idus Martiae, Late Latin: Idus Martii) [1] was a day in the Roman calendar that corresponds to 15 March. It was marked by several religious observances and was notable for the Romans as a deadline for settling debts. [2] In 44 BC, it became notorious as the date of the assassination of Julius Caesar which made the Ides of March a turning point in Roman history.

Late Latin Written Latin of late antiquity

Late Latin is the scholarly name for the written Latin of late antiquity. English dictionary definitions of Late Latin date this period from the 3rd to the 6th centuries AD, and continuing into the 7th century in the Iberian Peninsula. This somewhat ambiguously defined version of Latin was used between the eras of Classical Latin and Medieval Latin. There is no scholarly consensus about exactly when Classical Latin should end or Medieval Latin should begin. However, Late Latin is characterized by an identifiable style.

Roman calendar calendar used by the Roman Kingdom and Roman Republic

The Roman calendar was the calendar used by the Roman kingdom and republic. The term often includes the Julian calendar established by the reforms of the dictator Julius Caesar and emperor Augustus in the late 1st century BC and sometimes includes any system dated by inclusive counting towards months' kalends, nones, and ides in the Roman manner. The term usually excludes the Alexandrian calendar of Roman Egypt, which continued the unique months of that land's former calendar; the Byzantine calendar of the later Roman Empire, which usually dated the Roman months in the simple count of the ancient Greek calendars; and the Gregorian calendar, which refined the Julian system to bring it into still closer alignment with the solar year and is the basis of the current international standard.

Religion in ancient Rome the ancestral ethnic religion of the city of Rome

Religion in Ancient Rome includes the ancestral ethnic religion of the city of Rome that the Romans used to define themselves as a people, as well as the religious practices of peoples brought under Roman rule, in so far as they became widely followed in Rome and Italy. The Romans thought of themselves as highly religious, and attributed their success as a world power to their collective piety (pietas) in maintaining good relations with the gods. The Romans are known for the great number of deities they honored, a capacity that earned the mockery of early Christian polemicists.

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Ides

The Romans did not number days of a month from the first to the last day. Instead, they counted back from three fixed points of the month: the Nones (the 5th or 7th, nine days inclusive before the Ides), the Ides (the 13th for most months, but the 15th in March, May, July, and October), and the Kalends (1st of the following month). Originally the Ides were supposed to be determined by the full moon, reflecting the lunar origin of the Roman calendar. In the earliest calendar, the Ides of March would have been the first full moon of the new year. [3]

Full moon lunar phase: completely illuminated disc

The full moon is the lunar phase when the Moon appears fully illuminated from Earth's perspective. This occurs when Earth is located between the Sun and the Moon. This means that the lunar hemisphere facing Earth – the near side – is completely sunlit and appears as a circular disk. The full moon occurs roughly once a month.

Lunar calendar type of calendar

A lunar calendar is a calendar based upon the monthly cycles of the Moon's phases, in contrast to solar calendars, whose annual cycles are based only directly upon the solar year. The most commonly used calendar, the Gregorian calendar, is a solar calendar system that originally evolved out of a lunar calendar system. A purely lunar calendar is also distinguished from a lunisolar calendar, whose lunar months are brought into alignment with the solar year through some process of intercalation. The details of when months begin varies from calendar to calendar, with some using new, full, or crescent moons and others employing detailed calculations.

Religious observances

Panel thought to depict the Mamuralia, from a mosaic of the months in which March is positioned at the beginning of the year (first half of the 3rd century AD, from El Djem, Tunisia, in Roman Africa) Sousse mosaic calendar March.JPG
Panel thought to depict the Mamuralia, from a mosaic of the months in which March is positioned at the beginning of the year (first half of the 3rd century AD, from El Djem, Tunisia, in Roman Africa)

The Ides of each month were sacred to Jupiter, the Romans' supreme deity. The Flamen Dialis, Jupiter's high priest, led the "Ides sheep" (ovis Idulis) in procession along the Via Sacra to the arx , where it was sacrificed. [4]

Jupiter (mythology) King of the gods in ancient Roman religion and myth

Jupiter, also known as Jove, was the god of the sky and thunder and king of the gods in Ancient Roman religion and mythology. Jupiter was the chief deity of Roman state religion throughout the Republican and Imperial eras, until Christianity became the dominant religion of the Empire. In Roman mythology, he negotiates with Numa Pompilius, the second king of Rome, to establish principles of Roman religion such as offering, or sacrifice.

Flamen Dialis

In ancient Roman religion, the Flamen Dialis was the high priest of Jupiter. The term Dialis derives from Diespiter, the Italic equivalent to Jupiter. There were 15 flamines, of which three were flamines maiores, serving the three gods of the Archaic Triad. According to tradition the flamines were forbidden to touch metal, ride a horse, or see a corpse.

Via Sacra street in Rome

The Via Sacra was the main street of ancient Rome, leading from the top of the Capitoline Hill, through some of the most important religious sites of the Forum, to the Colosseum.

In addition to the monthly sacrifice, the Ides of March was also the occasion of the Feast of Anna Perenna, a goddess of the year (Latin annus) whose festival originally concluded the ceremonies of the new year. The day was enthusiastically celebrated among the common people with picnics, drinking, and revelry. [5] One source from late antiquity also places the Mamuralia on the Ides of March. [6] This observance, which has aspects of scapegoat or ancient Greek pharmakos ritual, involved beating an old man dressed in animal skins and perhaps driving him from the city. The ritual may have been a new year festival representing the expulsion of the old year. [7] [8]

Anna Perenna was an old Roman deity of the circle or "ring" of the year, as the name clearly indicates. Her festival fell on the Ides of March, which would have marked the first full moon in the year in the old lunar Roman calendar when March was reckoned as the first month of the year, and was held at the grove of the goddess at the first milestone on the Via Flaminia. It was much frequented by the city plebs.

Late antiquity period of transition from classical antiquity to the Middle Ages (Europe, the Mediterranean, and the Near East only)

Late antiquity is a periodization used by historians to describe the time of transition from classical antiquity to the Middle Ages in mainland Europe, the Mediterranean world, and the Near East. The popularization of this periodization in English has generally been accredited to historian Peter Brown, after the publication of his seminal work The World of Late Antiquity (1971). Precise boundaries for the period are a continuing matter of debate, but Brown proposes a period between the 3rd and 8th centuries AD. Generally, it can be thought of as from the end of the Roman Empire's Crisis of the Third Century to, in the East, the early Muslim conquests in the mid-7th century. In the West the end was earlier, with the start of the Early Middle Ages typically placed in the 6th century, or earlier on the edges of the Western Roman Empire.

Mamuralia

In ancient Roman religion, the Mamuralia or Sacrum Mamurio was a festival held on March 14 or 15, named only in sources from late antiquity. According to Joannes Lydus, an old man wearing animal skins was beaten ritually with sticks. The name is connected to Mamurius Veturius, who according to tradition was the craftsman who made the ritual shields (ancilia) that hung in the temple of Mars. Because the Roman calendar originally began in March, the Sacrum Mamurio is usually regarded as a ritual marking the transition from the old year to the new. It shares some characteristics with scapegoat or pharmakos ritual.

In the later Imperial period, the Ides began a "holy week" of festivals celebrating Cybele and Attis, [9] [10] [11] being the day Canna intrat ("The Reed enters"), when Attis was born and found among the reeds of a Phrygian river. [12] He was discovered by shepherds or the goddess Cybele, who was also known as the Magna Mater ("Great Mother") (narratives differ). [13] A week later, on 22 March, the solemn commemoration of Arbor intrat ("The Tree enters") commemorated the death of Attis under a pine tree. A college of priests, the dendrophoroi ("tree bearers") annually cut down a tree, [14] hung from it an image of Attis, [15] and carried it to the temple of the Magna Mater with lamentations. The day was formalized as part of the official Roman calendar under Claudius (d. 54 AD). [16] A three-day period of mourning followed, [17] culminating with celebrating the rebirth of Attis on 25 March, the date of the vernal equinox on the Julian calendar. [18]

Roman Empire Period of Imperial Rome following the Roman Republic (27 BC–476 AD)

The Roman Empire was the post-Roman Republic period of the ancient Roman civilization. Ruled by emperors, it had large territorial holdings around the Mediterranean Sea in Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, and the Caucasus. From the constitutional reforms of Augustus to the military anarchy of the third century, the Empire was a principate ruled from Italy, homeland of the Romans and metropole of the empire, with the city of Rome as capital. The Roman Empire was then ruled by multiple emperors and divided in a Western Roman Empire, based in Milan and later Ravenna, and an Eastern Roman Empire, based in Nicomedia and later Constantinople. Rome remained the nominal capital of both parts until 476 AD, when Odoacer deposed Romulus Augustus after capturing Ravenna and the Senate of Rome sent the imperial regalia to Constantinople. The fall of the Western Roman Empire to barbarian kings, along with the hellenization of the Eastern Roman Empire into the Byzantine Empire, is conventionally used to mark the end of Ancient Rome and the beginning of the Middle Ages.

Cybele Anatolian mother goddess

Cybele is an Anatolian mother goddess; she may have a possible forerunner in the earliest neolithic at Çatalhöyük, where statues of plump women, sometimes sitting, have been found in excavations. She is Phrygia's only known goddess, and was probably its national deity. Her Phrygian cult was adopted and adapted by Greek colonists of Asia Minor and spread to mainland Greece and its more distant western colonies around the 6th century BC.

Attis Phrygian and Greek god

Attis was the consort of Cybele in Phrygian and Greek mythology. His priests were eunuchs, the Galli, as explained by origin myths pertaining to Attis and castration. Attis was also a Phrygian god of vegetation. In his self-mutilation, death and resurrection he represents the fruits of the earth which die in winter only to rise again in the spring.

Assassination of Caesar

Reverse side of a coin issued by Caesar's assassin Brutus in the autumn of 42 BC, with the abbreviation EID MAR (Eidibus Martiis - on the Ides of March) under a "cap of freedom" between two daggers Eid Mar.jpg
Reverse side of a coin issued by Caesar's assassin Brutus in the autumn of 42 BC, with the abbreviation EID MAR (Eidibus Martiis – on the Ides of March) under a "cap of freedom" between two daggers

In modern times, the Ides of March is best known as the date on which Julius Caesar was assassinated in 44 BC. Caesar was stabbed to death at a meeting of the Senate. As many as 60 conspirators, led by Brutus and Cassius, were involved. According to Plutarch, [19] a seer had warned that harm would come to Caesar no later than the Ides of March. On his way to the Theatre of Pompey, where he would be assassinated, Caesar passed the seer and joked, "The Ides of March are come", implying that the prophecy had not been fulfilled, to which the seer replied "Aye, Caesar; but not gone." [19] This meeting is famously dramatised in William Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar , when Caesar is warned by the soothsayer to "beware the Ides of March." [20] [21] The Roman biographer Suetonius [22] identifies the "seer" as a haruspex named Spurinna.

Julius Caesar 1st-century BC Roman politician and general

Gaius Julius Caesar, known by his nomen and cognomen Julius Caesar, was a Roman politician, military general, and historian who played a critical role in the events that led to the demise of the Roman Republic and the rise of the Roman Empire. He also wrote Latin prose.

Gaius Cassius Longinus Roman politician, assassin of Caesar

Gaius Cassius Longinus, often referred to as Cassius, was a Roman senator and general best known as a leading instigator of the plot to assassinate Julius Caesar. He was also the brother-in-law of Marcus Junius Brutus, another leader of the conspiracy. He commanded troops with Brutus during the Battle of Philippi against the combined forces of Mark Antony and Octavian, Caesar's former supporters, and committed suicide after being defeated by Mark Antony.

Plutarch Ancient Greek historian and philosopher

Plutarch, later named, upon becoming a Roman citizen, Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus, was a Greek biographer and essayist, known primarily for his Parallel Lives and Moralia. He is classified as a Middle Platonist. Plutarch's surviving works were written in Greek, but intended for both Greek and Roman readers.

Caesar's death was a closing event in the crisis of the Roman Republic, and triggered the civil war that would result in the rise to sole power of his adopted heir Octavian (later known as Augustus). [23] Writing under Augustus, Ovid portrays the murder as a sacrilege, since Caesar was also the Pontifex Maximus of Rome and a priest of Vesta. [24] On the fourth anniversary of Caesar's death in 40 BC, after achieving a victory at the siege of Perugia, Octavian executed 300 senators and knights who had fought against him under Lucius Antonius, the brother of Mark Antony. [25] The executions were one of a series of actions taken by Octavian to avenge Caesar's death. Suetonius and the historian Cassius Dio characterised the slaughter as a religious sacrifice, [26] [27] noting that it occurred on the Ides of March at the new altar to the deified Julius.

See also

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References

  1. Anscombe, Alfred (1908). The Anglo-Saxon Computation of Historic Time in the Ninth Century (PDF). British Numismatic Society. p. 396.
  2. "Ides of March: What Is It? Why Do We Still Observe It?". 15 March 2011.
  3. Scullard, H.H. (1981). Festivals and Ceremonies of the Roman Republic. Cornell University Press. pp. 42–43.
  4. Scullard, H.H. Festivals and Ceremonies of the Roman Republic. p. 43.
  5. Scullard, H.H. Festivals and Ceremonies of the Roman Republic. p. 90.
  6. Lydus, John (6th century). De mensibus 4.36. Other sources place it on 14 March.
  7. Salzman, Michele Renee (1990). On Roman Time: The Codex-Calendar of 354 and the Rhythms of Urban Life in Late Antiquity. University of California Press. pp. 124 & 128–129.
  8. Fowler, William Warde (1908). The Roman Festivals of the Period of the Republic. London. pp. 44–50.
  9. Lancellotti, Maria Grazia (2002). Attis, Between Myth and History: King, Priest, and God. Brill. p. 81.
  10. Lançon, Bertrand (2001). Rome in Late Antiquity. Routledge. p. 91.
  11. Borgeaud, Philippe (2004). Mother of the Gods: From Cybele to the Virgin Mary & Hochroth, Lysa (Translator). Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 51, 90, 123, 164.
  12. Gary Forsythe, Time in Roman Religion: One Thousand Years of Religious History (Routledge, 2012), p. 88; Lancellotti, Attis, Between Myth and History, p. 81.
  13. Michele Renee Salzman, On Roman Time: The Codex Calendar of 354 and the Rhythms of Urban Life in Late Antiquity (University of California Press, 1990), p. 166.
  14. Jaime Alvar, Romanising Oriental Gods: Myth, Salvation and Ethics in the Cults of Cybele, Isis and Mithras, translated by Richard Gordon (Brill, 2008), pp. 288–289.
  15. Firmicus Maternus, De errore profanarum religionum, 27.1; Rabun Taylor, "Roman Oscilla: An Assessment", RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics 48 (Autumn 2005), p. 97.
  16. Lydus, De Mensibus 4.59; Suetonius, Otho 8.3; Forsythe, Time in Roman Religion, p. 88.
  17. Forsythe, Time in Roman Religion, p. 88.
  18. Macrobius, Saturnalia 1.21.10; Forsythe, Time in Roman Religion, p. 88; Salzman, On Roman Time, p. 168.
  19. 1 2 Plutarch, Parallel Lives , Caesar 63
  20. "William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, Act 1, Scene II". The Literature Network. Jalic, Inc. 2010. Retrieved 15 March 2010.
  21. "William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, Act 3, Scene I". The Literature Network. Jalic, Inc. 2010. Retrieved 15 March 2010.
  22. Suetonius, Divus Julius 81.
  23. "Forum in Rome," Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece and Rome, p. 215.
  24. Ovid, Fasti 3.697–710; A.M. Keith, entry on "Ovid," Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece and Rome, p. 128; Geraldine Herbert-Brown, Ovid and the Fasti: An Historical Study (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994), p. 70.
  25. Melissa Barden Dowling, Clemency and Cruelty in the Roman World (University of Michigan Press, 2006), pp. 50–51; Arthur Keaveney, The Army in the Roman Revolution (Routledge, 2007), p. 15.
  26. Suetonius, Life of Augustus 15.
  27. Cassius Dio 48.14.2.