04 March 2013

The Ides of March: Betrayal and Why We Love to Read (and Write) About It


This month we are going to be discussing betrayal in the stories that we write and read. Before we begin, I thought I’d talk about the Ides of March because I have to admit that I’d heard the expression but wasn’t real clear on its history. And I still haven’t seen the Clooney movie either.
Thank goodness for the internet.

The word “ides” comes from the Latin “idus”, which was used in the Roman calendar to depict the middle of the month. The Ides of March would therefore be March 15th. As a side note, this date used to be the day to celebrated and honor the god, Mars.
So where in the world did the idea of betrayal come from?

The 15th of March 44 B.C was the day Julius Caesar was stabbed to death by the Roman Senate. In his biography, Parallel Lives, the Greek historian Lucius Plutarchus wrote that a seer had warned Caesar that he would be harmed but no later than the Ides of March. While on his way to the Theatre of Pompey, the place where he was to be killed, a very much alive Caesar met the seer once again.
“The Ides of March have come,” Caesar said, clearly poking fun at the seer for prophesizing falsely.

The seer replied, “Aye, Caesar; but not gone.”
That night Caesar himself would be gone, murdered by a group of senators including his close friend, Marcus Junius Brutus. In modern times the phrase “You too, Brutus?” comes from the scene in William Shakespeare’s play, Julius Caesar (1599) where Caesar resisted his attackers until he recognized his dear friend in the mix. After after uttering the line, “Et tu, Brute?” he resigned himself to his fate and stopped struggling.

This ultimate betrayal by a friend has forevermore been linked to the Ides of March. And now we know.

Do you have any favorite betrayal stories?

For some reason, spy stories come to mind for me. Possibly because I just rented the new James Bond thriller, Skyfall. Without giving away too much, the theme in this action adventure is all about betrayal and the breaking of trust. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it.

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