Today is the Ides of March, the famous date on which the Roman politician, general, and dictator Julius Caesar was assassinated. Rome had been a republic for centuries, proud of its heritage of having overthrown its ancient kings. But when Caesar, returning victorious from a military campaign in the west, ordered his soldiers into the city (“crossed the Rubicon”) in 49 B.C. and declared himself dictator for life, his opponents in the republican senate conspired to have him murdered. They accomplished their aim on this day, the “Ides” or midpoint of the month of March, in 44 B.C.
In the end, the senate’s coup failed. After several years of internal turmoil Caesar’s designated successor, Octavian, consolidated power and became Rome’s first emperor, Augustus. The old republic was swept away.
❡ Filling in the background: For a quick homeschool review of the life and times of Julius Caesar, and of his assassination on the Ides of March in 44 B.C., turn to pages 108–109 in your River Houses history encyclopedia (riverhouses.org/books).
If you want to show your students today a really tangible artifact of this one famous moment in history, you need look no further than the “EID MAR denarius” issued in the name of the assassin Brutus to pay the senatorial army in months following Caesar’s overthrow:
A denarius was a standard silver coin of ancient Rome, usually said to represent about a day’s pay for a common soldier.
The front or obverse of this denarius features the head of Brutus the senator (“BRUT”) and the back or reverse tells the story of what has just happened: two daggers for the assassination, a “liberty cap” representing freedom, and the date “EID MAR” — the Latin abbreviation for “Ides of March.”
The EID MAR denarius isn’t an exceptionally rare coin, but it’s in high demand, as you might imagine: fine specimens today have sold for more than half a million dollars — not bad pay for a common soldier.
On this historical anniversary, be sure to introduce your homeschool students to the name of Julius Caesar, and how he met his fate. And to make this ancient event seem a bit less distant, ask them to imagine themselves as Roman soldiers with a handful of Ides-of-March denarii in their pockets, shiny and fresh from the mint of Brutus.
What holidays or anniversaries will you be marking in your homeschool this week? 😊