Today is The Ides of March [Opinion: The Arena]


julius-caesar-in-1864 wordpress.jpgLincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth, Edwin Booth, and Junius Booth, Jr. appeared in a production of Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar," in 1864. Although Shakespeare did not coin the word assassin, which means hash eater, the first recorded use of the word assassination occurred in his play, "Macbeth." Assassin John Wilkes Booth was a skilled and popular Shakespearean actor. 

Caesar was quite an accomplished phrase-maker. He is famous for saying “Jacta est!” (literally, “Let’s shoot dice,” and “Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres,” (literally, “Omnia Gallia in tres partes divisa est,” or, “You can never get three Frenchmen to agree on anything.”)

Orange_Julius-Wiki.jpgCaesar also said, “Veni, vidi, vici,” (literally, “I came, I saw, I conquered”). There is no evidence that he ever said “Veni, vidi, visa,” (“I came, I saw, I maxed out my credit card”).

The dictator's last words are not known with certainty, and are a contested subject among scholars and historians alike. The version best known in the English-speaking world is the Latin phrase Et tu, Brute? (literally, "and you Brutus?" It can also be read as, "even you, Brutus?" or "you too, Brutus?", or “WTF, Brutus!”); this derives from Shakespeare's play, Julius Caesar.  Shakespeare's version evidently follows a tradition hinted at, but discounted, by the Roman historian Suetonius, who reports that there have been claims that Caesar's last words had been the Greek phrase "κα σ, τ κνον;" (transliterated as "Kai su, teknon?": "You too, my child?" in English), although why a stabbed Roman would say something in Greek is not explained. Plutarch also reports that Caesar said nothing, pulling his toga over his head when he saw Brutus among the conspirators.

Gaius_Julius_Caesar Wiki.jpgIt is probably not true that Caesar’s last words were: “Is that a dagger you’ve got in your toga, or are you just glad to see me?”

In any event, today is the day we celebrate the murder of the first Roman dictator who was, by all accounts, a pretty nasty piece of work. We should probably credit Brutus, Cassius, and the rest of the dastardly sixty (space will not permit a complete listing of their names) as heroes. After all, they “impeached” the guy who destroyed democracy in Rome. Like Michael Corleone said: “It was only business.”

mcveigh.jpgInterestingly (to us historians; perhaps not to you), Brutus was alleged to have exclaimed “Sic semper tyrannis!” (“Thus always to tyrants!”) right after he knifed his boss. Actor John Wilkes Booth, who often played the part of Brutus on the stage, shouted the phrase after shooting President Abraham Lincoln on April 14, 1865.  Timothy McVeigh was wearing a T-shirt with this phrase and a picture of Lincoln on it when he was arrested on April 19, 1995, the day of the Oklahoma City Bombing. 

seal_virginia.jpgThe phrase was recommended by George Mason to the Virginia Convention in 1776, as part of the state's seal. The Seal of the Commonwealth of Virginia shows Virtue, sword in hand, with her foot on the prostrate form of Tyranny, whose crown lies nearby. The Seal was planned by Mason and designed by George Wythe, who signed the United States Declaration of Independence and taught law to Thomas Jefferson. Historians just love this sort of thing.

In one of those ironic twists which make the study of history such a joy, Julius Caesar’s birth was by Caesarian section. It’s a coincidence right up there with the fact that Lou Gehrig died of Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Go figure.


Read the play:  Julius Caesar (1623)

Listen to the play:  Julius Caesar

John_Belushi_toga.jpgDownload free E-Book: Project Gutenberg

See the movie:  Julius Caesar (1953)

See the movie:  Julius Caesar (2002)

See the movie:  Cleopatra (1963)

See more of Elizabeth Taylor


---------------'s The Arena section features opinions from active participants in the city's politics. Their viewpoints are not those of (a website is an inanimate object and, as such, has no opinions).  The Arena is read by more people in Louisville than in any other city in America. Photo credits:  WikiMedia, Orange Julius, Commonwealth of Virginia, WordPress.


About Thomas McAdam
At various times I have been a student, a soldier, a college Political Science teacher, a political campaign treasurer, and legal adviser to Louisville's Police Department and Board of Aldermen. I now practice law and share my political opinions with anyone who will listen.
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