BEWARE THE IDES OF MARCH
Although the Romans were the most level-headed
and fearless people the world has ever known, they were obsessed
with prophecies and omens. Arguably the most famous prediction in
history is the one concerning the fate of Julius Caesar, made by
the see Vestricius Spurinna: 'Beware the Ides of March.' This
warning was made in 44 BC. That year the oligarchic republic was
collapsing, and Pompey, the champion of the Roman nobility had
been killed in a battle. Julius Caesar, his father-in-law and
conqueror, at the age of 55 had been declared dictator for life,
and he dreamed of a Pax Romana stretching from Parthia to the
western shores of Spain. Then came a terrible omen which even
made Caesar shudder. In the city of Capua, Roman settlers
unearthed the tomb of Capys, the city's founder, and discovered a
bronze plaque which was inscribed with the chilling warning:
'When once the tomb of Capys is brought to light, then a branch
of the Julian house will be slain by the hand of one of his
It wasn't widely known at the time, but a relative was involved in an assassination plot against Caesar. This person was Marcus Brutus, who was commonly believed to have been a descendant of Lucius Junius Brutus, who had routed an earlier monarchy of Rome. Marcus Brutus was cruelly goaded into joining in the conspiracy to assassinate Caesar by sixty conspirators who scrawled graffiti on the statue of Lucius Brutus which read: 'Your posterity is unworthy of you.' This message to Brutus was ambiguous, because it also intimated that he was the son of Caesar, and many thought that this was so, including Caesar himself.
There were more 'omens' which intimated that something dire was in the offing. WIld birds fluttered and roosted in the Forum, and strange vision of fiery human-like figures were seen fighting. Caesar killed a wild animal, and when it was cut open, it was seen to have no heart. The respected augur Vestricius Spurinna told Caesar that a monstrous evil would manifest itself and threaten his life on the Ides (the fifteenth day) of March. Caesar never took the prophecy seriously, but as the 15th of March approached, many strange incidents took place around him. On the evening of 14th March, Caesar remarked to his wife that the best death would be the swiftest one, and no sooner had he ended the sentence when there was a loud unearthly howl somewhere outside. Later that evening while he and his wife Calpurnia were in bed, the couple were awakened by a tremendous howling gale which blasted open the doors and windows. Calpurnia awoke screaming and told Caesar that she had just suffered a vivid bloody nightmare about his fate. In the dream she had seen their home crumble and had been cradling her dead husband in her arms She begged him to postpone tomorrow's Senate meeting, and Calpurnia gave Caesar great cause for concern, because he had never known her to be superstitious.
On the following day, Caesar, feeling confident and assuming all the so-called omens were but tricks of his mind, laughingly told his augur: 'Well Spurinna, the Ides of March have come.'
'Yes Caesar, come but not yet gone.' Spurinna replied. It was still only midday after all.
Within minutes, Caesar had entered the Senate chambers and was distracted by Tillius Cimber until the other assassins had assembled close by. Then Cimber gave the signal to attack by baring Caesar's neck. The first blood was drawn by Casca, and Caesar grabbed his sword and shouted for help, but none came. The gaggle of assassins closed in, daggers drawn, ready to strike, when Brutus was allowed through. He stepped forward and stabbed Caesar in the groin.
Struck with horror and despair, Julius Caesar gasped, 'You too, my child?' He knew by then that there was no hope of escape, and in a final act of pride, he covered his face with his robe and fell at the foot of Pompey's statue, with his blood ebbing away from the 23 stab wounds he'd sustained.
Caesar's heir, the Emperor Augustus was another leader who consulted seers. When Augustus built a temple of Peace he asked the famous Oracle at Delphi how long the structure would stand. The answer he received was seemingly nonsensical at the time: 'Until a virgin gives birth to a child and yet remains a virgin.'
Augustus interpreted the answer as an indication that the temple would last forever, but at the time of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, the Temple of Peace suddenly collapsed on its foundations for no apparent reason. Furthermore, shortly before the temple crumbled, Augustus consulted another prominent prophetess known as the Tiburtine Sibyl. He asked her whether he should accept the title of God of Nations which had been conferred on him from the Senate.
As the Sibyl muttered an unintelligible phrase in a trance-like state, a meteor flashed across the sky. The seeress suddenly broke out of her trance and stated: 'A Child has just been born who is the true God of the World. He is of humble birth and from an obscure race. He will work miracles but will be persecuted as a result. In the end though, he will be victorious over death itself, rising from where his killers entombed him.'