Beware the Ides of March! Today is always a big day in the world of ancient history lovers, because traditionally it marks the anniversary of the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 BC.
Gaius Julius Caesar was a Roman general, Consul, statesman, and notable author of Latin prose. He was both a conquering hero… and a dictator.
He played an essential role in the history of Ancient Rome, acting out pivotal parts in events that led to the demise of the Republic and the rise of the Empire. He invaded Britain, he changed the calendar, he wrote extensive histories, just name a few of his accolades.
Julius Caesar

Bust of Caesar

He also managed to piss enough people off to get himself seriously stabbed in the back. It’s this latter point that folks seem to forget. Not the fact that he was assassinated (pretty sure no one forgets that), but that he was so unpopular as to warrant assassination in the first place.
In fact, a recent article we posted on Caesar’s potential contemporary parallel seemed to bring out everyone’s ire, no matter where they stood on the political spectrum. It really was only when this point was made by a reader, illustrating how divisive the man really was, that the conversation calmed down.
And so it is to this end I’d like to ask you, dear reader. Today we remember Caesar, but should we praise him?
We have a tendency to romanticize and glorify these bigger than life historical characters, whether they are Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great or Pericles… but we also know that they wouldn’t last a moment in our current culture.

“Alexander and Diogenes” by Caspar de Crayer. Diogenes once asked Alexander the Great to stand out his light.

They accomplished ‘Great’ things, but often at the expense of others… and when I say ‘expense,’ I mean that literally. Even if we don’t try to hold them up to our modern sensibilities, their praiseworthy attributes are still in question. We can’t forget that they were also feared and despised by many in their own time period.
Enough even to get murdered by a best friend!!!
Death of Caesar

Assassination of Caesar by William Holmes Sullivan, c. 1888, Royal Shakespeare Theatre

So this Ides of March, I ask:
Should we glorify Caesar? And those like him?
As always, you can write to me directly at [email protected] or comment below.