It was about 2,056 years ago this day, (give or take a few calendrical corrections in the interval) on 15 March, 44 BC, known in the Roman calendar as “The Ides” (“IDVS” meaning, most likely, “mid-month”) that the last leader of the Roman Republic, the dictator Gaius Julius Caesar, was murdered by a group of well‐meaning, if arguably incompetent conspirators as the Senate gathered to conduct business in Pompey’s theater in Rome.
These men styled themselves saviors of the Roman Republic and had coins minted which featured the phrase IDVS MARTIVS (The Ides of March) and depicted a “Liberty Cap”, the emblem of a freed slave, hoping to convince the people of Rome that Caesar’s murder had freed them from tyranny. Unfortunately, and quite oppositely, in the wake of the assassination of Caesar, civil strife and chaotic uncertainty dominated the political landscape for years, ending only when Julius Caesar’s adopted son, his nephew Octavius, took control of Rome as the first true Emperor of Rome, Caesar Augustus.
Under Augustus, Rome’s political situation stabilized and the economy regained its former vigor. Materially, Rome prospered, but her cherished heritage of more than 500 years of civil liberty and republican government had vanished, killed more by decades of short‐sighted petty politics among Rome’s competing factions, coupled with the indifference of the electorate, than by the daggers of Caesar’s assassins.
Whether one admires Caesar or detests him, it nevertheless remains that he’s still a pretty big part of our lives: our calendar is the one he promulgated (with one amendment by Pope Gregory XIII in the 16th century) and we have the month “July” to honor him (and “August” to honor his heir, Augustus.) Many of the checks and balances in the U.S. Constitution were emplaced by our founders specifically to prevent a modern‐day Caesar from arising here.
Because the name Caesar became so inextricably associated with imperial power, it came to mean “emperor.” The German term Kaiser and the Russian term Царь, “Czar” (or “Tsar”) both derive from Caesar. From early 44 BC when the Senate conferred the status of Dictator Perpetuo upon Caesar, (dictator without a fixed term) until the forced abdication of Simeon II, last Tsar of Bulgaria, in 1946 — nearly 2,000 years — the world was never without a ruler somewhere whose title derived from Caesar’s name!
“Caesar salad”, however, is not named for Julius at all, or at least not very directly: it was created at Caesar’s Hotel in Tiajuana, Mexico during the prohibition era when the Hollywood elite would drive to Mexico for cocktails and dinner. A “Caesar” salad was named for Caesare Cardini, the hotel’s Italian-born proprietor.
Flower Mound, Texas
The strangest poison ever known
Came from Caesar’s laurel crown.
— William Blake