Friday, March 15, 2013

The Ides of March - I'm Your Vehicle Baby

"Hey, well I'm the friendly stranger
In the black sedan
Oh won't you hop inside my car?
I got pictures, got candy, I am a lovable man
I'd like to take you to the nearest star
I'm your vehicle baby
I'll take you anywhere you wanna go"

                                                   "Vehicle," Written by Jim Peterik, "The Ides of March"

March 15, 44BEC, gave birth to the ancient cultural meme, "Beware the Ides of March." There's a couple of things to note about this famous line, first this is dialogue from William Shakespeare's play, "Julius Caesar," and second, every month has Ides in them. Romans didn't mark the passage of each day of the month by assigning a specific number to it.  The first of the month was referred to as the Kalends (kind of similar to 'calendar,' don't you think?), the 5th through the 7th, as the Nones and the 13th through the 15th, as the Ides.

History tells us that Caesar was assassinated during a meeting of the Roman senate on March 15th.  Plutarch, a Greek historian and biographer of Julius Caesar, took the assassination story a step further and described an incident where a seer proclaimed that Caesar wouldn’t live past the Ides of March.  Plutarch claims that Julius Caesar met the seer on his way to the theater and told him, “Well, it’s the Ides and I’m still here.”  The seer replied with words to the effect of, “Oh yeah? Well, the day’s not over yet, Julius.”  Something tells me that Plutarch also had a flair for drama.  A later historian would claim the seer actually made his prediction after reviewing the entrails on an animal.  That’s why I prefer tarot.  Less messy. Well,...usually.

What makes the most sense historically is that the festival of Annae Perennae, or the Great Mother was held on the Ides of March.  This was a festival celebrated by the lower classes, or plebeians, who left the city in droves to frolic and drink along the banks of the Tiber.  The patricians, or nobility were the only large group left in the city and Julius Caesar had many enemies among them.  According to history, sixty senators supported Caesar’s assassination by Brutus.  Remember Shakespeare’s equally famous line, “Et tu Brute?” or “Even you, Brutus?”

If you catch yourself looking over you today, remember that any portents of doom for the Ides of March simply come from ancient history and a couple of writers who had excellent turns of phrase.


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