Ides of March

Today the Ides of March is remembered because Shakespere wrote a play in which a particular Roman was stabbed on this day. The dramatization of the violent event is what we remember, but there is another lesson here to observe relevant to our situation today.

To the Senate in 44 BCE, Gaius Iulio was the direct and obvious threat to the Republic, much as today’s tangerine conman appears to be a threat to our democracy. The assassination of Caesar was not an act of one man or even one Senator, but of a fraction of the Senate who acted to confront what they perceived as an existential threat.

Here’s your lesson: the Senate’s attempt to prevent the dissolution of the Republic failed spectacularly, splitting the Senate and igniting a three-sided civil war resulting in the formal introduction of the very tyranny they had tried to prevent. Arguably, it was a desperation move, and misdirected at that. The Senate had been gradually losing power as the boundaries of the Republic ballooned, and saw the popular generals who were gaining in land and power as the reason for this loss.

In retrospect, the development of imperial tyranny was the inevitable result of rapid growth without making adequate governmental adjustments for oversight in all the new lands: after the Senate had essentially lost control, there was no lack of egotistical narcissists willing to try taking control of all or part by force. The direction of history may have gone a completely different way had Caesar lived to rule, but it’s entirely likely that everything would have turned out about the same.

The situation was one created by the Roman Republic itself, one the Senate in its hubris and greed failed to resolve. Caesar was a prime example of the best and brightest created by Rome, and he was one of several such popular and powerful generals. If it hadn’t been him, there would have been many others to step into the void left by the Senate – it was already a powder-keg. As it turned out, the Senate only had to start the stabbing, as Roman fought Roman until Octavian wrested control from his countrymen and called himself a god.

Perhaps a better lesson to take away from this is that power dynamics are complex, and it’s easy to confuse intention with momentum. What we perceive as a wave may simply be the latest manifestation, while the real power driver is completely out of our tactile range, like the Moon. In the case of our current political system, the traitorous baboon appears to be the driving force, yet in his absence, the forces that were set up and set into motion long in the past are on the march almost despite him. Another figurehead will emerge after he finally succumbs to jail or mortality or we might see civil conflict if the Christian nationalists decide to take things into their own hands. The danger he represents will continue.


One response to “Ides of March”

  1. Katrina Avatar

    Interesting and scary!

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