Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Beware the Ides of March!

Today marks an important milestone in the history of freedom loving people everywhere. On this day, March 15th (the Ides of the Roman calendar) in 44BC, Marcus Brutus, Gaius Cassius, Decimus Brutus, Gaius Trebonius and nineteen other Romans took the life of the Man Who Would Be King, Gaius Iulius Caesar. I have read the accounts that many make- that the assassins acted out of personal ambition, rather than an altruisitic desire to restore Republican freedom. And in some cases among the other nineteen, I don't doubt the strong possibility. But history doesn't dispute the disinterested idealism of Marcus Brutus.

For those who are interested in such things, Gaius Iulius Caesar was not an oil company baron. On the contrary, his politics were what we would call Leftist today. He was one of the "great champions of the poor" who asks for more power than the Constitution allows, ostensibly for the good of the people, NEVER for their personal advancement! (YEAH RIGHT!!)

Brutus was inspired by Cato Uticensis, his uncle, who had been a mentor and father-figure to him during his life. Cato had chosen to die at Utica in the wake of the deafeat of the Republican cause at the battle of Thapsus in 46 BC. He chose death rather than bowing down to the tyrant Caesar. Cato had been the heart and soul of the Republican cause from Caesar's crossing of the Rubicon in 49 BC. However Caesar, through his superior generalship, defeated the Republicans at Pharsalus in Greece (48 BC), Thapsus in North Africa (46 BC) and Munda in Spain (45 BC).

The plot to kill the tyrant came about after Munda. While the Republicans were holding in North Africa and later in Spain, there was always hope, hope for a restoration from Caesar's dictatorship. But after that last triumph for Gaius Iulius, there was no bright spot anywhere for those who wanted to have no King. Decimus Brutus, Gaius Trebonius and Gaius Cassius contrived the plot. Trebonius and Decimus Brutus had served as Generals in Caesar's Gallic War. When Caesar was a lawful General of the Republic, fighting external enemies, they were very much on his side. In the case of Decimus Brutus, he had even shared Caesar's Leftist politics in his youth. The plotters, "the Liberators", as they would call themselves after the deed was done, knew they needed Marcus Brutus involved, who was descended from that Brutus who drove out the last of the Kings from Rome, as well as Servilius Ahala (through his mother Servilia Caepionis) who had foiled the plot Spurius Maelius to become King. When sounded out, Marcus got on board.

Sneaking daggers into the Curia Pompeia (the Senate's meeting house), the Liberators at first pretended to beg Caesar for the recall of an exiled friend. While thus distracted, Casca, one of the Liberators, pulled his dagger and plunged it into Caesar's back. The others drew and Caesar died of 23 dagger thrusts.

I do not revell in bloodshed or the taking of human life. But the Liberators had no choice. One man was taking away the freedoms of all. Sadly, the cause of the Liberators did not endure. They came heart-wrenchingly close to full resotration of the Republic in the wake of the Battle of Mutina in April, 43 BC. But with the formation of the Second Triumvirate by Marcus Antonius, Gaius Octavius and Marcus Lepidus not long after, Civil War was to break out and the position in Italy was untenable for Republicans. The Triumvirate launched a bloody and brutal purge worthy of a Stalin in Italy. The great Orator, Cicero, was killed like a common street rat and his head and hand chopped off and put on display. This was done by Antonius because Cicero had dared criticize his policies in his famous Phillippics.

The Republican cause would fall at last at the Battle of Phillippi in 42 BC. No serious attempt at a Republic would come about until the Dutch Reform Calvinists of the 16th Century and the English Puritans of the 17th Century. Our Founding Fathers had to look back to Ancient Greece and Rome for Republican examples. Our Constitution is designed to prevent some Leftist like Caesar or Napoleon from seizing control. The Founding Fathers knew a Caesar would one day come.

So take a moment this March 15th. Honor those long dead Romans like Cato and Brutus (who greatly inspired men such as George Washington) who died fighting for freedom, and who pledged their lives and fortunes to make others free. We may one day need a Brutus in America.


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