Just what was the Ides of March? A Mini-Guide to the Assassination of Julius Caesar for Ages 7+.
Updated: Mar 13
The Ides of March, March 15th in the Roman calendar, has become one of the most memorable dates in history. This is because, in 44 BC, on the Ides of March, Julius Caesar was murdered, assassinated, by his fellow senators in Rome.
Prior to the whole murdering thing, the Ides of March, or the Ides of any month for that matter, was an important religious date to Romans. Ides are simply the middle day of the month, usually, the 13th though sometimes the 15th too. It’s an important date to Jupiter, the king of the Roman gods, and the day is marked with feasting and a spot of friendly sheep sacrificing. On the 15th of March 44 BC though, the date instead became known as the day of Caesar’s premature death. A day that historians know more about than any other in Ancient History, thanks to all the people alive at the time who wrote about it.
The Assassination of Caesar took place during a meeting of the Senate, the Roman government, in the Theatre of Pompey in Rome. At this time, Rome was a Republic. A Republic is a bit like the Democracy we have in the UK today, just, you know, not as good.
The Republic was run by hundreds of senators who were all, kind of, voted into power. Though they were only voted into power by other rich and powerful people. Many Romans had little say or sway in the running of Rome as most people in Rome didn’t have the right to vote.
But, one democratic rule that the Senators did abide by was to leave power once their term was up.
That all changed with Julius Caesar.
Caesar and his Roman Legions were very good at winning battles. They had successfully conquered all of Gaul (modern-day France), adding it to the already vast Roman Empire. They had even had a go at invading Britain, though that had been rather less successful. Regardless, all this military success and newfound vast wealth meant that Caesar liked to push his weight around a fair bit.
There were several stunts that Caesar pulled off that really peeved the Senators right off. Firstly, he refused to disband his legions before crossing the Rubicon to re-enter Rome, a definite no-no. Secondly, he refused to show Senators the correct respect by rising and standing to greet them. Thirdly, he had some weird regal sounding stuff that made the Senators think that he wanted to be a King. And, if there is one thing the Romans hate (other than Barbarians) it is Kings.
To save the Republic, several of the Senators decided to kill Caesar before he could make himself King. When the Ides of March came to pass, Caesar was surprised by a Senator called Lucius Tillius Cimber, who grabbed him by the toga. As he was distracted, the other Senators who were in on the conspiracy fell upon Caesar with their knives, stabbing him until he fell beneath the weight of their strikes. In total, Caesar was stabbed a, very painful sounding, 23 times.
As Caesar lay dying on the senate floor he muttered his final words "You too, child?" as even his close friend and relative Marcus Junius Brutus had been involved in the stab fest.
However, for the murderers, or Liberators as they named themselves, things didn’t go too well. Whilst they had a solid plan for killing Caesar, they did not have a plan for how to rule Rome afterward.
Not a single one of them could agree on what should happen next. The result? Chaos and civil war, with every single rich and powerful fella in a toga fighting over who should rule Rome. In the end, there was only one man left standing, Julius Caesar’s nephew, Gaius Octavius.
Octavius went on to become the first in a long line of Roman Emperors, Augustus. Responsible for ruling the Roman Empire all on their own, the Emperor was a king in all but name. There were some good Emperors, there were some really really bad Emperors, but, either way, they were the boss and the Senators were just there to look nice.
In attempting to save the Roman Republic, the Liberators had just sped up its demise.
Is your class loving learning about the Romans? Then you'll definitely want to bring Imagining History's 'Roman Britain: A Time Travel Tour' workshop to your school!