“Aye, Caesar; but not gone.”
Today is the Ides of March, the famous date on which the ancient Roman politician, general, and dictator Julius Caesar was assassinated. Rome had been a republic for centuries, proud of having overthrown its ancient kings. But when Caesar, returning victorious from a military campaign in the west, crossed the Rubicon River and marched his army into the capital in 49 B.C., and then eventually had himself declared dictator for life, his opponents in the republican senate conspired to have him murdered as a would-be king. They accomplished their aim on this day, the Ides, or midpoint, of the month of March in 44 B.C.
In the end, the senatorial attempt to recapture control of the Roman state failed. After several years of civil strife, Caesar’s designated heir and successor, Octavian, consolidated power and became Rome’s first emperor, taking the name 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 page 108 in your River Houses history encyclopedia.
If you want to show your homeschool students a really tangible artifact of this one famous moment in history, you need look no further than the “EID MAR denarius” that was used to commemorate the event and to pay the senatorial army in the months following Caesar’s overthrow.
A denarius was a standard coin of ancient Rome, about the size of our American penny but made of silver, and usually said to represent about a day’s pay for a common soldier. Ancient armies, like the senatorial army after Caesar’s assassination, usually traveled with their own mints so they could coin money (often from captured bullion) and pay their soldiers during the course of a campaign. The coin types issued by these traveling mints often track with contemporaneous events and so provide a distinctive window into history.
The front or obverse of this denarius features a portrait of Brutus the senator and assassin (“BRVT”), while the back or reverse illustrates the event being commemorated: two daggers for the assassination, a “liberty cap” or pileus representing release from dictatorial slavery, and the date “EID·MAR” — a Latin abbreviation for Eidibus Martiis (Ides of March).
The EID MAR denarius isn’t the rarest of ancient coin types, but it’s highly sought after because of its historical significance, 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, invite them to imagine themselves as soldiers of the Roman Republic with a handful of Ides-of-March denarii in their pockets, shiny and fresh from the mint of Brutus.
What historical events are you studying in your homeschool this Leo Term? 😊
❡ The Ides of March are come: This is one of our occasional posts on Homeschool Holidays & History. Print your own copy of our River Houses calendar of educational events to follow along with us, and add your name to our weekly mailing list to get great homeschool teaching ideas delivered right to your mailbox all through the year. 🗞
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