Day in History 15 March – Julius Caesar – Aristotle Onassis

Beware the Ides of March!

julius_Caesar_in_NaplesOn this day in 44BC, Roman general, statesman, Consul, and notable author of Latin prose, Julius Caesar was assassinated by a group of rebellious senators led by Marcus Junius Brutus, on the steps of the Senate in Rome.  He was 55.  born into a patrician family, the gens Julia, which claimed descent from Iulus, son of the legendary Trojan prince Aeneas, supposedly the son of the goddess Venus, in July 100 BC, in Rome.  Caesar played a critical role in the events that led to the demise of the Roman Republic and the rise of the Roman Empire.  In 60 BC, Caesar, Crassus, and Pompey formed a political alliance that was to dominate Roman politics for several years.  Their attempts to amass power through populist tactics were opposed by the conservative ruling class within the Roman Senate, among them Cato the Younger with the frequent support of Cicero.  Caesar’s victories in the Gallic Wars, completed by 51 BC, extended Rome’s territory to the English Channel and the Rhine.  Caesar became the first Roman general to cross both when he built a bridge across the Rhine and conducted the first invasion of Britain.  These achievements granted him unmatched military power and threatened to eclipse the standing of Pompey, who had realigned himself with the Senate after the death of Crassus in 53 BC.  With the Gallic Wars concluded, the Senate ordered Caesar to step down from his military command and return to Rome.  Caesar refused the order, and instead marked his defiance in 49 BC by crossing the Rubicon with a legion, leaving his province and illegally entering Roman Italy under arms.  Civil war resulted, and Caesar’s victory in the war would put him in an unrivaled position of power and influence.  After assuming control of government, Caesar began a programme of social and governmental reforms, including the creation of the Julian calendar.  He centralised the bureaucracy of the Republic and was eventually proclaimed “dictator in perpetuity”, giving him additional authority.  But the underlying political conflicts had not been resolved, which resulted in his assassination.   The Final Footprint – According to Plutarch, after the assassination, Brutus stepped forward as if to say something to his fellow senators; they, however, fled the building.  Brutus and his companions then marched to the Capitol while crying out to their beloved city: “People of Rome, we are once again free!”  They were met with silence, as the citizens of Rome had locked themselves inside their houses as soon as the rumor of what had taken place had begun to spread.  Caesar’s dead body lay where it fell on the Senate floor for nearly three hours before other officials arrived to remove it.  Caesar’s body was cremated, and on the site of his cremation the Temple of Caesar was erected a few years later (at the east side of the main square of the Roman Forum).  Only its altar now remains.  A lifesize wax statue of Caesar was later erected in the forum displaying the 23 stab wounds.  A crowd who had gathered there started a fire, which badly damaged the forum and neighboring buildings.  A new series of civil wars broke out, and the constitutional government of the Republic was never fully restored. Caesar’s adopted heir Octavius, later known as Augustus, rose to sole power after defeating his opponents in the civil war.  Octavius set about solidifying his power, and the era of the Roman Empire began.  Much of Caesar’s life is known from his own accounts of his military campaigns, and from other contemporary sources, mainly the letters and speeches of Cicero and the historical writings of Sallust.  The later biographies of Caesar by Suetonius and Plutarch are also major sources.  Caesar is considered by many to be one of the greatest military commanders in history.

 

aristotleonassisOn this day, the Ides of March, in 1975, prominent Greek shipping magnate, Aristotle Onassis, died in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France, of respiratory failure at the age of 69.  Born Aristotle Socrates Onassis on 15 January 1906 in Karatass, a suburb of Smyrna (now İzmir, Turkey).  During his lifetime he was one of the wealthiest and most famous men in the world.  Onassis married twice; Athina Livanos (1946 – 1960 divorce), daughter of shipping magnate Stavros Livanos and Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy (1968 – 1975 his death).  Onassis reportedly had a notorious affair with Maria Callas shortly after the two met in 1957.  Onassis was quoted as saying,   “There [was] just a natural curiosity; after all, we were the most famous Greeks alive in the world.”  Livanos divorced Onassis over the affair.  He ended his relationship with Callas to marry Kennedy.  The Final Footprint – Onassis was entombed in a sarcophagus beside the chapel next to his son Alexander in the Island of Skorpios Cemetery on Skorpios Island in the Ionian Sea off the western coast of Greece, a private island owned by Onassis.

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