From ancient byways to modern highways, glimpses of faith are everywhere...

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Ides of March: Caesar and the Jews

Beware the Ides of March
Although the Ides of March are the most famous, they are by no means the only Ides.  Every month of the early Roman calendar had one.  During March, May, July and October they fell on the 15th .  During all other months, they fell on the 13th.  All of the Ides are thought to have originally coincided with the full moon.

Caesar had certainly been repeatedly warned not to attend the Senate on the 15th of March in 44 BCE.  One seer had predicted that harm would come to him “no later than the Ides of March.”  On the way to his fateful date with destiny, Caesar saw this seer and joked, “Well, the Ides of March have come.”  “Ay, but they have not gone,” the seer somberly replied.

Many earnestly mourned the passing of Julius Caesar, but none so vigorously as the Jews.  Caesar’s biographer, Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, wrote this:  At the height of the public grief a throng of foreigners went about lamenting each after the fashion of his country, above all the Jews, who even flocked to the place for several successive nights.  Why were the Jews so shattered over the passing of this former high priest of Jupiter (who had also claimed to be a direct descendent of Venus)?

The proverb “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” definitely applies in this case.  Although Hyrcanus, Judea’s high priest, had been somewhat in alliance with Pompey (the great Roman general), he later allied with Caesar against Pompey.  Hyrcanus’change of heart might have been partially motivated by Pompey’s
harsh decrees and burdensome taxes, and partially motivated by the power that Caesar was rapidly gaining over Pompey.

If Hyrcanus hadn’t committed thousands of Jewish soldiers to Caesar’s Alexandrian siege, Caesar’s ending might have come a lot sooner than 44 BCE.  As it were, the Jews were instrumental in helping Caesar to win this civil war and become the sole ruler of Rome.  Caesar never forgot this.  According to,
not only did Caesar revoke Pompey’s decrees and taxes, but he also “allowed the walls and fortifications of Jerusalem to be rebuilt and restored Jaffa as well as a number of other coastal cities to Jewish rule.”


Copyright March 15, 2011 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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