Posts Tagged ‘Julius Caesar’

Beware the Ides of March

March 15, 2016

That is what a soothsayer says to Julius Caesar in Shakespeare’s play. Caesar had reason to be wary of that particular date since that was the day the conspirators planned to assassinate him. Caesar ignored the warning, either out of fatalism or foolhardiness, and his assassination began the course of events that led to the rise of his grand-nephew Augustus and the end of the Roman Republic.

But what are the ides anyway? The Roman calendar was somewhat complicated and was reformed several times in the history of the Republic, until Julius Caesar straighten things out with his Julian calendar. Originally, the Roman calendar seems to have been a lunar calendar with the months corresponding to the lunar cycle. Thus each month began with the New Moon. The Romans did not count days from the beginning of the month, as we do, but instead counted before and after certain key days perhaps corresponding with the phases of the moon. The first day of the month corresponding with the new moon was called the Kalends, from which our word calendar is derived. The ides of the month was the day in the middle of the month, corresponding to the full moon. The ides was either on the thirteenth or fifteenth day depending on whether the month was a long or short one. The nones was eight days before the ides and corresponds to the half moon or first quarter. I would think that they would also make the third quarter of the moon one of the special days but it doesn’t seem to have been.

The day before the kalends, nones, or ides was referred to as the pridie, or the day before in Latin. So, yesterday, March 14, was pridie ides March. Other dates were simply counted back from the nearest reference day. So March 12 would be the the fourth day, ( the reference days were counted) before the ides of March, or a.d. (ante diem) IV id March. March 2 was six days before the nones or a. d VI non. March 25 would be 8 days before the kalends of April, or a. d. VIII kal. This seems to be a rather cumbersome system, having to remember how many days between the kalends and ides, etc, but I suppose the Romans were used to it, and maybe it wasn’t much worse than having to remember which months have thirty or thirty-one days. I’m glad we don’t do that though.

In any case, today is the Ides of March, so if you happen to be Julius Caesar, watch out.

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Leap Day 2016

February 29, 2016

Since today, a leap day, occurs only once every four years, I thought I might like to write a little about why we have leap years and where the idea originated. Our calendar ultimately comes from the calendar used by the Romans. The names of the months and the number of days in each month are basically the same, though the year originally began in March and the Romans did not count the days from the beginning of the month but counted backwards from three fixed days, the kalends, the nones, and the ides.

The Roman calendar was, like many ancient calendars, a lunisolar calendar with a intercalary month added at intervals to keep the dates aligned with the seasons. The responsibility for inserting the intercalary month lay with the Pontifex Maximus, the leader of the order of Priests called the Pontiffs. (One of the titles of the Pope is the Pontiff.) Unfortunately this position was a political one and the Pontiffs got in the habit of inserting the extra month to prolong the terms of their political allies, or not inserting it if their enemies were in office. By the time of Julius Caesar the date was three months behind the seasons.

In 46 BC, Caesar returned to Rome from Egypt. The Egyptians had long used a solar calendar of 365 days. Caesar brought mathematicians and astronomers from  Alexandria with him and he directed them to reform the Roman calendar. The calendar they developed is called the Julian Calender. In this new calendar, they changed the first month to January and gave each month the number of days it now contains. Most importantly, they did away with the intercalary months altogether. The Julian calendar was to be solely a solar calendar and the months would have no relation to the moon. Caesar lengthened the year 46 BC to 445 days to bring the date back in alignment with the seasons. This year was called the year of confusion, but it was the last year of confusion as the Julian calendar was adopted throughout the Roman world and is used with some modifications to this day.

The most important reform the Greek astronomers made was the introduction of the Leap Year. The problem is that the year is not exactly 365 days. Instead, as the astronomers had learned, the year is closed to 365 1/4 days. So, it seemed that an easy way to keep the date aligned was to simply add a day every four years. And so, since Caesar’s reform of the calendar, we have had leap years every four years.

NewYear’s Day

January 1, 2014

We didn’t do anything to celebrate the New Year. We didn’t watch the ball drop last night because we needed our sleep. I had to work. So, it was just another day today.

I have often felt that our calendar begins the New Year at a very bad time. New Year’s Day is only a week after Christmas so there is something of an anti-climax. The year begins in the dead of winter when days are still short and it is often cloudy, so the year begins at the most depressing time of the year. I think it would be better if the new year began at the end of one season and the beginning of another, preferably at the first day of spring, March 21. Beginning the year in the middle of a month might be awkward, so I would settle for either March 1 or April 1.

We start the new year on January 1, because our calendar, the Gregorian Calendar is ultimately based on the calendar used by the ancient Romans. Under the old Roman calendar, the new year began when the two consuls began their terms. This was on May 1 before 222 BC, March 15 from 222 BC until 153 BC, and then January 1. When Julius Caesar reformed the calendar, he kept January 1 as the first day of the year and we have been stuck with it ever since. Actually, during the Middle Ages, some countries in Europe did begin the year in spring.For example, England began the year on March 25. When the Gregorian Calendar was introduced and adopted throughout Europe, this regional diversity came to an end and everyone acknowledged January 1 as New Year’s Day, unfortunately.

Maybe I could start some sort of campaign to change the date of New Year’s. I could put up petitions on the Internet, lobby Congress, request the change from President Obama, even appeal to Pope Francis. Nah. It’s cold outside and dark and we’re expecting snow and it all seems like an awful amount of work. Maybe I’ll wait until spring.

I hope everyone has a wonderful 2014.

Hail Caesar

November 30, 2013

Last week, Forbes ran an opinion piece which called for impeaching President Obama on the grounds that a president with such contempt for the constitution and the rule of law ought not to remain unpunished. As if to confirm the point, when President Obama traveled to San Fransisco recently, he was met by protesters who demanded that he stop abiding by the constitution and make laws by decree, or executive order. Zombie, the last sane person in San Fransisco, reported on this at PJMedia.

When Obama’s motorcade rocketed around San Francisco on Monday, very few locals even noticed his presence, and fewer still cared. The crowds awaiting him at each presidential fundraiser were by far the smallest I’d seen in over five years of covering his visits here. Ticket sales to at least one of the events were so sluggish that prices had to be lowered to fill the empty seats. Out in the street, rubberneckers and protesters had dwindled to the bare minimum. This is what happens when a hero disappoints: you don’t turn on him in anger, but rather just tune him out and move on to other interests.

Yet even with the small turnout, there was a theme amongst Obama’s protesters/supporters (supportesters?): They didn’t want him to change his political agenda — instead, they demanded that he assume dictatorial powers so that he could finally implement the radical plans with which they already agree. The message of the day was: Stop dilly-dallying around, Mr. President: Ignore the Constitution and just make The Revolution happen, as you promised!

That message would be disturbing enough all on its own, but it becomes much more disturbing when you suspect (as I do) that many of these pro-totalitarian protesters were astroturfed. In other words: Is the White House scripting/encouraging/guiding protesters on the left to beg him to become a dictator? So that later, he can explain, “I had no choice — the people demanded it!” Or is Obama simply telegraphing to his supporters that they should not be so disappointed when he throws in the towel and gives up even trying to achieve anything in his second term?

Zombie includes a video from BBC News of an apparently planted heckler and Obama’s response.

This reminds me of a scene at the beginning of William Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar. While the two conspirators, Brutus and Cassius discuss Caesar’s ambition and fret that he means to make himself king, they hear the crowds offstage cheering three times in the forum where Caesar is speaking. When Caesar is done he appears briefly on stage looking upset and the two men ask a Senator named Casca who had witnessed the event what had happened. Casca explains that Mark Antony had offered a crown to Caesar three times and Caesar had rejected it. Each time the crowds cheered louder and Caesar rejected the crown more reluctantly.

Apparently Julius Caesar had staged this show in order to show the Senators that he was not planning to make himself king, while hoping that the masses would demand his crowning. He could then be king, saying that he had to bow to the popular will. Is Obama playing a similar game? Zombie has two theories.

There are two ways to interpret these bizarre theatrical skits involving Obama and his supporters.

Innocent Theory #1 is that Obama is essentially announcing to his base via these symbolic heckling exchanges that he no longer has the political will to issue as many power-grabbing executive orders as he’s done up til now, and that The Revolution has been put back on hold. “Ram through the progressive wish list with brazen executive orders? Why, I couldn’t do that (any more, at least) — it’d be unconstitutional!” Theory #1, if true, would certainly be in response to plummeting poll numbers and the sobering reality that the Republicans are now almost certain to maintain control of the House of Representatives in 2014, meaning Obama is conceding that he has been effectively stymied, and is thus warning his supporters not to get their hopes up.

Sinister Theory #2 is that Obama is staging these repeated calls for him to assume dictatorial powers as a way to later justify his actions when he amps up and redoubles his unconstitutional executive orders. “I wanted to be a passive and humble president, I really did — but the public demanded that I seize power, so I had to obey the people!” Theory #2, if true, would be based on the fact that Obama is a lame duck president and thus immune from any need to remain “electable”: He could basically do whatever he wanted for the next three years, however extreme, and “get away with it” since he never has to run for office again and Congress obviously will never impeach him at this stage of the game.

I’d say that both theories are true. Perhaps Obama staged these events to show that he does not intend to rule as a dictator, and yet is hoping to rouse public pressure that he do just that. To be fair, Barack Obama is not the first president to chafe at the limitations of his office and to consider that his job would be a whole lot easier if he were a dictator. I recall that one of the Bushes, I think the elder, made such a comment once. But, no other president planted hecklers in a crowd to demand that he simply ignore those limitations. It sounds crazy to be writing this, but I have never had the sort of feeling about any other president, that if he could get away with it, he really would do away with the constitution in order to effect the radical change he believes this country needs.

And then there is this, from the Examiner.

The recent “surge purge,” by the Obama administration, of senior military officers is astounding.

This year nine generals and flag officers have been relieved of command. In the five years, Obama has been in office 197 officers have been removed.

It’s being reported that a veteran U.S. Army intelligence official has said about the “surge purge” that it’s part of creating a “compliant officer class.”

WND said the veteran Army intelligence official told them there is a major concern brewing in our military about the “compliant officer class.” He spoke to WND on the condition of anonymity and said the following:

“It’s becoming harder and harder to find senior officers with a pair of balls in there [the military] now that would say no to anything. Maybe at the rank of major or below, and possibly there are some in SOF (Special Operations Forces), but to make colonel and higher is all politics.”

The veteran Army intelligence official also said, “I didn’t read one piece of resistance to the DADT repeal, and I haven’t seen one peep about females in the infantry.” According to him, there wasn’t any real “public concern expressed by officers” about either of these polices.

What the intelligence official said mirrors what other retired generals have said about the “surge purge.” These generals have grave concerns about the “high rate of senior military officials dismissed” by the Obama administration.

It would appear that the Obama administration has almost accomplished the work of extinguishing the morale of our military. Retired Army Maj. Gen. Patrick Brady told WND the following: “There is no doubt he (Obama) is intent on emasculating the military and will fire anyone who disagrees with him over such issues as “homosexuals, women in foxholes, and the Obama sequester.”

Gen. Brady is the winner of our military’s highest award, The Medal of Honor. Retired Army Lt. Gen. William G. “Jerry” Boykin had the following to say about the “surge purge:”

“Over the past three years, it is unprecedented for the number of four-star generals to be relieved of duty, and not necessarily relieved for cause. I believe there is a purging of the military, the problem is worse than we have ever seen. I talk to a lot of folks who don’t support where Obama is taking the military, but in the military they can’t say anything.”

When it comes to compliance with Obama’s new social order, the Army intelligence official told WND it would probably be accomplished by any means necessary. This includes the Army cheating to ensure at least one woman would pass through basic training.

It’s said the reason for creating the officer compliant class is so that our military will follow orders without question. The Policy and Issues Examiner Joe Newby reports the following:

“President Obama wants military leaders who will fire on U.S. citizens.” This was according to Dr. Jim Garrow, whom the Examiner had an exclusive interview with in Jan. of this year. Garrow is a renowned author and humanitarian who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2009.

The Examiner also reported Garrow as saying, it’s part of the effort to weed out those who won’t swear loyalty to President Obama and obey orders to fire on American citizens who refuse to give up their guns.”

The new social order of Obama’s military also includes creating a compliant soldier. Last month, the Marine Corps Examiner reported the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) was being used as a source to define extremism.

We also reported that soldiers at Fort Hood were told: “Evangelical Christians and tea party members are extremists and a threat to America.” Creating the compliant officer class seems to run hand in hand with how the Army has recently been training our soldiers.

It would appear indoctrinating our soldiers and using the SPLC as a reliable source is an effort to ensure our military will heed the orders from the Obama administration instead of the Constitution.

What is really going on here? Is Obama preparing for some kind of coup? It seems crazy to even ask the question, but somehow I can’t simply dismiss the possibility. Maybe, because it is not just President Obama. By himself he can do little. But there seems to be a certain number of my fellow Americans who are willing to give up their freedom in order to get certain policies enacted or even just to destroy the opposition. I wonder if we will still be a free country twenty years from now.

 

Caesar: Life of a Colossus

April 17, 2012
Cover of "Caesar: Life of a Colossus"

Cover of Caesar: Life of a Colossus

There are, perhaps, only a handful of names from the ancient world that are still well known to this day. Among these, Gaius Julius Caesar must surely be one of the most familiar, even to those who don’t know much about history. A strong case could be made that Caesar was the most influential secular figure in ancient times. The changes he made to the Roman state shaped the course of history and politics for the next two millennia. We still use the calendar he introduced in Rome, with only minor changes. His name is synonymous with king or ruler in many languages (Kaiser, Tsar, Czar, and possibly Shah). Caesar truly was a colossus among men.

Yet, in many ways, Caesar was an enigma.  We know a lot about his policies and military campaigns from his own books and the writings of his contemporaries, yet his motives and ultimate designs remain a mystery. Did Caesar plan all along to overthrow the Roman Republic, or was he improvising, or was he an ambitious aristocrat in an age in which all the conventions were breaking down. Was he planning a major new campaign of conquest in the East when he was assassinated? Why did some of his supporters assassinate him? Did he intend to make himself King?

Adrian Goldsworthy attempts to answer these questions and more in his comprehensive biography of Julius Caesar, Caesar: Life of a Colossus. He begins by exploring the world of the late Republic in which Caesar was born. Even in his youth, there were signs that the Republic no longer worked as well as it did in centuries past. There were class struggles, military coups, and increasing lawlessness and egregious lust for power among the ambitious Senatorial Class. As he grew up, Caesar learned to play the game of power as well as any of his peers, becoming a prominent young lawyer and politician. Then he embarked on his remarkable military career.

Goldsworthy notes that while he made some mistakes early in his conquest of Gaul, Caesar learned from them and soon became one of the greatest generals in ancient history. Although he was from the highest nobility, he developed a unique rapport with his men, who were willing to follow him anywhere.  Caesar’s most controversial decision was to cross the Rubicon into Italy with his army, thereby seizing power and provoking a civil war. Goldsworthy explores Caesar’s motivations for this fateful decision and concludes that Caesar was more interested in preserving his safety and honor than in becoming dictator.  Nevertheless, he did seize absolute power after he emerged victorious over his enemies.

Caesar could be ruthless at need but, according to Goldsworthy, he was not a cruel man, and whenever possible, he preferred to pardon former opponents and sought their support. This proved to be his undoing, since several of his assassins, including Brutus and Cassius, were just such former enemies.

Goldsworthy deals with each portion of Caesar’s life in as much detail as possible. He tries to stick, as close to the known facts as possible, but any biography of a person who lived so long ago must necessarily include much that is speculation.  He also takes the opportunity to correct popular misconceptions about life and war in ancient times, which Hollywood and popular entertainment has been all too apt to spread. Overall, Colossus is a solid and readable biography about a most remarkable man.

Leap Day

February 29, 2012

Since today, a leap day, occurs only once every four years, I thought I might like to write a little about why we have leap years and where the idea originated. Our calendar ultimately comes from the calendar used by the Romans. The names of the months and the number of days in each month are basically the same, though the year originally began in March and the Romans did not count the days from the beginning of the month but counted backwards from three fixed days, the kalends, the nones, and the ides.

The Roman calendar was, like many ancient calendars, a lunisolar calendar with a intercalary month added at intervals to keep the dates aligned with the seasons. The responsibility for inserting the intercalary month lay with the Pontifex Maximus, the leader of the order of Priests called the Pontiffs. (One of the titles of the Pope is the Pontiff.) Unfortunately this position was a political one and the Pontiffs got in the habit of inserting the extra month to prolong the terms of their political allies, or not inserting it if their enemies were in office. By the time of Julius Caesar the date was three months behind the seasons.

In 46 BC, Caesar returned to Rome from Egypt. The Egyptians had long used a solar calendar of 365 days. Caesar brought mathematicians and astronomers from  Alexandria with him and he directed them to reform the Roman calendar. The calendar they developed is called the Julian Calender. In this new calendar, they changed the first month to January and gave each month the number of days it now contains. Most importantly, they did away with the intercalary months altogether. The Julian calendar was to be solely a solar calendar and the months would have no relation to the moon. Caesar lengthened the year 46 BC to 445 days to bring the date back in alignment with the seasons. This year was called the year of confusion, but it was the last year of confusion as the Julian calendar was adopted throughout the Roman world and is used with some modifications to this day.

The most important reform the Greek astronomers made was the introduction of the Leap Year. The problem is that the year is not exactly 365 days. Instead, as the astronomers had learned, the year is closed to 365 1/4 days. So, it seemed that an easy way to keep the date aligned was to simply add a day every four years. And so, since Caesar’s reform of the calendar, we have had leap years every four years.

The Fall of the Republic

October 13, 2011

Here is what started me on such gloomy reflections.

Illinois Democratic Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. told The Daily Caller on Wednesday that congressional opposition to the American Jobs Act is akin to the Confederate “states in rebellion.”

Jackson called for full government employment of the 15 million unemployed and said that Obama should “declare a national emergency” and take “extra-constitutional” action “administratively” — without the approval of Congress — to tackle unemployment.

“I hope the president continues to exercise extraordinary constitutional means, based on the history of Congresses that have been in rebellion in the past,” Jackson said. “He’s looking administratively for ways to advance the causes of the American people, because this Congress is completely dysfunctional.”

The Republic no longer functions. Hail Caesar Obama!!


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