Ides of March: Rome remembers Julius Caesar

Rome remembers the assassination of Julius Caesar on the Ides of March in 44 BC.

The Ides of March was the 74th day in the Roman calendar, determined by the full moon, and corresponded to 15 March.

It was traditionally marked by several religious observances and festivals and was also used by Romans as a landmark deadline for settling debts.

However the date took on a whole new significance in 44 BC when the assassination of Julius Caesar made the Ides of March a turning point in Roman history.

Immensely popular with the people in Rome, Caesar was a successful military leader who expanded the republic to include parts of what are now Spain, France, Germany, Switzerland and Belgium.

The Death of Julius Caesar (1806) by Vincenzo Camuccini.

Caesar, who had seized power from the Roman Republic and declared himself a dictator for life, was killed by a group of 60 conspirators led by his senator friends, Brutus and Cassius.

The assassination took place during a meeting of the senate in the Curia Pompeia, within the larger Pompey’s Theatre complex in Rome’s Torre Argentina archaeological area, today home to cat sanctuary among the ruins.

According to legend a soothsayer had warned Caesar of his impending murder, immortalised by William Shakespeare with the ominous phrase "Beware the Ides of March" from his play Julius Caesar.

Caesar was said to have been stabbed 23 times and he was cremated in the Roman Forum. The site is marked by the remains of the Temple of Divus Iulius, an altar located to the eastern side of the central Forum area.

Gruppo Storico Romano at the Temple of Divus Iulius. Photo: Isabel Eve / Shutterstock.com.

Caesar's assassination would result in a long series of civil wars that ended in the demise of the Roman Republic and the birth of the Roman Empire.

Eventually it led to the rise of his grand-nephew and adopted heir Octavian, later known as Augustus, who became the first emperor of Rome in 27 BC. It also saw the deification of Caesar 14 months after his murder.

Each year people commemorate Caesar's death by leaving flowers inside the temple however this year, due to Italy's coronavirus restrictions, the Forum will remain closed.

The Gruppo Storico Romano normally stages a spectacular historical re-enactment of the assassination, as well as a funeral procession to the Forum, but this too is cancelled due to covid-19.

Cover photo Gruppo Storico Romano