On this day, 2061 years ago, Roman Dictator Julius Caesar was brutally assassinated by Roman Senators in the Roman Senate.
The event was the culmination of Caesar’s victory in the Civil War with his rival Consul Pompey the Great. After the victory, Caesar contributed on to a regime change in Egypt, and returned to Rome as triumphant leader. As he concentrated his power, Caesar reportedly denied the offer to make him King of Rome. He reportedly did this three times. Instead, Caesar took to Roman law, and had himself declared dictator for 10 years, and then for life.
Recognizing a threat to their own power, former friend of Caesar, Marcus Brutus collaborated in the plot to assassinate the dictator and return the Roman Republic to its former glory. Carrying out the act, Brutus delivered the final blow to the fallen dictator, ending his reign.
However, thinking that the death of Caesar would return Rome to its former glory turned out to be foolish. The fall of the Republic had begun years before Caesar with the former Dictator Sulla. Sulla secured Rome with his army, appointed himself dictator, and used his powers to eliminate those who did not share his views of the Roman Republic.
After Sulla, a new form of governing came to power, the Triumvirate was born. The first Triumvirate consisted of Caesar, Pompey and Crassus. Using their influence, power and wealth, these three individuals soon concentrated the power of Rome into their partnership and changed Roman politics forever.
However, as the old saying goes, “This town aint big ’nuff for the two of us?”. The rivalry of Caesar and Pompey lead to the attempt to arrest Julius Caesar for his acts in the Gallic Wars. Recognizing a threat to his power, Caesar crossed the Rubicon and marched on Rome, officially starting the great civil war.
The death of Caesar created a power vacuum that most powerful Romans were looking to fill. Brutus and his allies were soon forced out of Rome by Mark Antony and his allies. Soon, Antony added Caesar’s adopted heir, Octavian, and both sides began another civil war.
After years of fighting, Antony and Octavian defeated Brutus, and secured their hold on Rome. Adding Lepidus to their ranks, the three formed the Second Triumvirate and split the rule of the Republic into thirds. Peace came to the republic, but it wasn’t going to last.
Soon, the three began another civil war that consumed the entire Roman world. At the end of the battle of Actium, Octavian remained the sole ruler of Rome. Learning from his uncle, Octavian had himself declared Imperator (Emperor) and used his armies to solidify his rule.
The Roman Republic had officially ended.
The Roman civilization provided us many wonderful ideas that continue to be used in our lives. Our current calendar is based off the Roman calendar and we have Julius Caesar and Augustus Caesar to thank for the months of July and August. More importantly, our founding fathers used the Roman Republic as a template for the founding of our constitution. These inspirations include the Roman consuls as the chief executive for our president, checks and balances were developed based on the idea that a Roman Tribune or consul could veto an act of legislation from the Roman Senate and the idea that a people could vote for their leaders. These ideas were new to the Roman world and the founding fathers recognized its perils and possibilities.
However, the actions of Sulla, Caesar, Pompey, Brutus, Antony and Octavian were not being ignored. The founding fathers recognized that a republic is a delicate form of government. The lives and freedoms of the entire populace can be affected by their representatives and the political agreements they make.
No matter what political party a citizen choose to associate with, it should be their first and most precious duty to protect the republic.
We are living in a period of heightened political tensions and plethora of information. This has led to an age where our leaders can stir emotions of millions with a single tweet or news story, while at the same time not easily hide from their backroom decisions. Although our political ideals may separate us, we as Americans should always remember the Ides of March and that on a single day, our world can change forever.