Why Julius Caesar Is Important Today
“Beware the Ides of March” is a line out of the Shakespearian play, “Julius Caesar” that is still remembered today. Ironically, Shakespeare stole this famous line from the Roman historian, Plutarch. Honestly, why do we care? Julius Caesar was a famous Roman, true, but he was killed more than 2050 years ago. How can this one man still be relevant today? Caesar has come down in history to be one of the most famous rulers of all time, yet he did not rule anything. He was killed on the day he proclaimed himself emperor. However, because of him, many of the ordinary things in our lives can be attributed to this great man. Here are five of them.
Every four years there is an extra day added onto the year to “catch up” to the earth’s rotation around the sun. This is because of Julius Caesar. When Caesar was alive, there were only 355 days in a year. That’s because the Romans based their calendar on the cycles of the moon. They didn’t even number their days like we do. The month was split into three parts. The “Nones” or 5th-7th of the month. The “Ides” or middle of the month. And the “Kalends” or first of the following month. Caesar was killed on the “Ides” or March 15th. So what happened to the extra 10 days? Politicians just added them into the year wherever they wanted to. There wasn’t any sort of system. That is until Caesar came along. The year before his death, he hired an astronomer, named Sosigenes, and they came up with a new system which became known as the Julian Calendar. Since the real year is a quarter day longer than 365, he made leap year every four years and added the extra day. He also changed the name of one month to be called “Julius”. You know that month as July.
IT’S ALL IN THE NAME
The name Caesar wasn’t Julius’ last name. His full name was Gaius Iulius Caesar. There were no letter “J”s in Roman times. That didn’t come around until centuries later when the French started using it in the alphabet. His last name was Iulia and his family was supposed to be descendants of Aeneas, a Trojan prince. The name of Caesar, according to historian Pliny the Elder, was because one of his relatives was born by caesarian section. This is probably not true, though. It most likely comes from the Latin word, caesaries, which means “long, wavy hair”. Caesar is a nickname or title. Today, everyone thinks that his name was Julius Caesar, but in his day, the name stood for “Joe (Gaius) Julia the guy with the long, wavy hair”. His friends would have called him Caesar. That nickname has come down through history to mean “ruler”. Think about that the next time you hear some leader called, a “Czar”, “Tsar”, or “Kaiser”. If those names sound familiar, it is because they lasted over 2000 years until these people who used the name was overthrown. Because of this, we fought in WW1 and saw the rise of Communism in Russia.
This is probably not as important as some of the things on this list, but it still affects many people in their daily lives. Caesar is the template for the playing card, The King of Diamonds. Each of the kings in a deck of playing cards is based upon a famous ruler. Caesar (Diamonds), Charlemagne (Hearts), Alexander the Great (Clubs) and King David (Spades). While the pictures are not exact copies of what they actually looked like, because there were no cameras back in Biblical times, these are the people they are intended to represent. Think about that next time you have a straight flush, king of diamonds high…
Julius Caesar did not invent the library. There were a few of them around when he was living, most prominently, The Great Library of Alexandaria in Egypt. The irony behind this is that Caesar is blamed for the destruction of this library. He made up for it, though. Wherever he went, Caesar built libraries. His concept was to have a library in every city. He felt that literacy helped with the power of Rome. He was right and this idea has followed through to today. Just about every town in America has a library in it, thanks mainly to philanthropist Andrew Carnegie who was quite familiar with Julius Caesar.
JULIUS CAESAR THE PROPHET
…or should that be profit? Similar to what is happening in America today, Julius Caesar’s life had some very profound lessons. He started off small, built his empire through war and manipulation, and then declared himself a god and changed the government to suit his own agenda. After that, the people rose up and killed him. Doesn’t that parallel some of the things going on in our own country, today, with big business buying their way into government? Should the Koch brothers and the Walton’s look back through history and see what happens when they put themselves above the country they live in? Spanish writer, George Santayana, is quoted as writing, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it“. This should be a lesson to all of those who try to buy power and rule the masses.