It was about 2,067 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, fell victim to a bloody, brutal murder by a group of generally 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 Marcus Junius Brutus, in his capacity as the commanding general of the “Republican” forces, had coins minted which featured the phrase IDVS MARTIVS abbreviated “EID MAR” (The Ides of March) and depicted a “Liberty Cap”, the emblem of a freed slave, between two of the assassin’s daggers. Brutus and his co-conspirators hoped to convince the people of Rome that Caesar’s murder had saved their ancient republic and freed them from tyranny. Unfortunately, and quite oppositely, in the wake of the assassination of Caesar, civil war, domestic strife, and chaotic uncertainty dominated the political landscape for the next 17 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. Rome regained its international prestige and expanded its already unprecedented empire. Materially, Rome prospered, but its proudly 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 daily lives: our calendar is the one he promulgated (with one small but important 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.) Notably, the famous checks and balances in the Constitution of the United States of America 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,” meaning “emperor,” as well as the words for “emperor” in Danish, Dutch, Estonian, Faroese, Finnish, Hungarian, Icelandic, Indonesian, (via the Dutch) Norwegian, Swedish, and Swahili (most likely from German) all derive from Gaius Julius Caesar’s cognomen. Likewise, in the Slavic languages, terms such as the Czech “Car” and the Russian term “Царь,” “Tsar,” derive from Caesar, as do the words for “emperor” in Macedonian, Polish, Slovak, and Slovenian. It is nearly astonishing to consider: 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 (and future prime minister) of Bulgaria, in 1946 — nearly 2,000 years — the world was never without a ruler somewhere whose title derived from Caesar’s name. (The former Simeon II is with us yet at the age of 85, though no longer entitled Tsar.)
“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