gifs: the ides of march

When I was a freshman in high school, on March 15 we were studying Julius Caesar in English class, and we spent our first period writing quotes on paper daggers. At an agreeed time, our entire class stormed the Latin classroom, yelling “THE IDES OF MARCH HAVE COME!” And taped daggers on everything and everyone.

Basically proving my theory that Shakespeare is only boring if it’s made boring.

Because it’s the Ides of March and I’m a Romanophile, I feel compelled to debunk a bunch of wildly inaccurate things I keep seeing regarding the assassination of Julius Caesar.

  • The problem: Most people only know about the Ides of March from Shakespeare’s play, Julius Caesar. As lovely as the play is, it is horribly inaccurate, partially because Shakespeare wasn’t a historian. He was a playwright, and he didn’t care if he got his facts wrong, so long as it made a good story. Shakespeare’s one and only source was a Greek moralist called Plutarch, writing in c. 100 CE, a full 150 years after Caesar’s death. Plutarch a) didn’t like Caesar and wasn’t very favourable towards him, and b) was frequently inaccurate anyway. Which explains why so many of you are confused on what actually happened 2056 years ago. That doesn’t allow you to be wrong, however. So here’s me, fixing it.
  • Et tu, Brute? Nope. He didn’t say it. The only historian to record Caesar’s last words put it down as “And you, my child?” and he did it in Greek. Of course, a) the historian is widely known for propagating rumours b) he did 150 years after Caesar’s death, and c) even he said it was likely that Caesar didn’t say anything.
  • 22 Senators and his best friend. Probably too late to kill this one, but I’ll give it a try. Caesar was stabbed 23 times, courtesy of the first recorded autopsy. But all of the reports of the assassination say that it was a frenzy, that there were many people crowded around him, and that they were stabbing so frantically that some of the assassins themselves were stabbed. So 1) You can’t say 23 wounds = 23 assassins. 2) Any reports that give numbers give much larger ones, between 40 and 60 people involved, not all of whom were Senators. (On a related note, only two of the wounds were fatal, both in his heart.)
  • Brutus. Dear gods Brutus. 1) Brutus was not Caesar’s best friend. 2) He wasn’t Caesar’s son either. 3) They actively disliked each other, hence why Brutus shoved a knife into Caesar. Brutus fought on the opposite side in the Civil Wars, was captured and pardoned by Caesar, who didn’t want to kill more noblemen than he had to. This turned out to be a bad idea, because Brutus ended up in contact with Cassius, who was probably the actual mastermind behind the assassination. Meanwhile, in order for Brutus to be Caesar’s son, he would have had to been sired while Caesar was 14, in political disfavour, and not in contact with Brutus’ mum.
  • The assassins were Good, Caesar Evil. Can we not? I know a lot of you are good enough at History to tell that this is not the best way to talk about anything, but seriously, I see Caesar as the bad guy a lot. Here’s a factoid for you: the people who disliked Caesar? Were plutocrats who wanted him to stop giving rights to the people. The situation was a lot more complicated than most people realize: both sides were gathering power, but one had one man in charge (Caesar), while the other had a group, and the one with the Dictator actually wanted to distribute the power more equally.
  • Those speeches. Brutus was nowhere near Rome during Caesar’s funeral, for the plain and simple reason that he would have been very very dead if he had been. The 800,000 people living in Rome at that point loved Caesar and were extremely pissed off that he was dead. One of the things that is  correct about the play is that a poet named Cinna was stabbed in the streets for having the same name as one of the assassins. There is no way Brutus was in Rome to give a funeral speech for the guy he had killed. Antony probably also didn’t give any sort of rousing speech; the crowd didn’t need it. In fact, the most interesting thing to happen at Caesar’s funeral was the reading of his will, which revealed that Antony wasn’t Caesar’s heir, Octavian was.

I think I covered most of it. I’m sure I’ll have to reblog this next year, but it’s a start.

happy ides of march! i have a song for you!
“caesar’s getting stabbed in the back again” parody of “dj’s got us falling in love again”

lyrics:

so we back in the senate

old roman dudes rockin from side to side

hiding knives in their togas

looks like a certain roman’s about to die die die


hands up suddenly they all have their hands up

reachin for caesar’s body


ain’t i seen you before

i should have bewared those ides ides ides

cuz baby tonight caesar’s getting stabbed in the back again

baby tonight caesar’s getting stabbed in the back again


so dance dance like it’s the last last night of your life life

gonna get you right

cuz baby tonight caesar’s getting stabbed in the back again


keep stabbing him like there’s no

tomorrow there’s just right now now now

saying “et tu brute”

gonna take this dictator down down down


hands up suddenly they all have their hands up

reachin for caesar’s body


ain’t i seen you before

i should have bewared those ides ides ides

cuz baby tonight caesar’s getting stabbed in the back again

baby tonight caesar’s getting stabbed in the back again


so dance dance like it’s the last last night of your life life

gonna get you right

cuz baby tonight caesar’s getting stabbed in the back again