This is the day past the Ides of March and what does that mean to you?
a) One day closer to St. Patty’s
b) Another mispronunciation of Idina Menzel
c) Vae! Vae! Vae! The first night has passed since great tragedy! (Or, if you’re Shakespeare, then the first night has passed FOR a great tragedy)
d) It’s almost Spring. Except in Canada where it’s still snowing.
While answer A is acceptable, the most correct answer is of coarse C, and also D but that’s beside the point, this is the first full day after one of the most monumental in history. The tale of Gauis Julius Caesar’s assassination has been passed down to us from the pen of the victor which automatically makes us predisposed to believing that Caesar’s early exit from life is one of the greatest thieveries to have happened to humanity. In 44 B.C. when Caesar was assassinated he had been in the seat of sole power for about 4 years meaning that he pretty much WAS the law. Having non-expiring powers to override the Senate and the Roman citizens, both having been theoretical safety nets to protect the Roman people from tyrant-kings, though their ability to protect from tyrannical behaviour decreased wildly in the latter part of the Republic, Julius Caesar put himself on a mission to craft a stable and glorious Rome fixing the problems which had threatened to destroy the great empire from the inside out for over a century.
The effectiveness of Caesar’s measures can be divisive to those who study them as we’ll never know if they would have actually worked as Caesar envisioned them. The biggest question about Caesar’s reforms is once the problem of instability was fixed, would Caesar have relinquished his power back to a restabilized Senate so that the glory of the Republic could continue on again? History tells us that the odds are oppressively stacked against the belief that he would have relinquished his hard fought authority, and if he did, as his predecessor Sulla miraculously did when he seized the dictatorship to “fix” Rome , then someone else would have invariably stepped into the vacancy; at this point in history Rome was too broken to ever go back to a the ways of the Republic. Some people side with Brutus, Cassius and the other conspirators who believe Rome would have been no better off under Caesar’s reforms and it was best that he was assassinated. Others believe that Caesar was onto something great and he was one of Rome’s greatest losses. So let us take a quick look through some of Julius Caesar’s great reforms that were left incomplete by his untimely demise.
1) He wanted to rebirth a strong governing body, one not so weakened by infighting and vanity that it was held nearly useless and even detrimental. The head of the Roman senate, the consuls, changed every year by election and the rapid turnover made consistent law making and enforcement difficult at best. The Man with a Plan, Julius Caesar, made himself the constant governmental force so that the vision didn’t get lost.
2) By increasing and decreasing the powers of certain offices, Caesar restructured how political power was wielded, both by increasing the powers associated with his office as dictator, and also by minimizing the more pesky or overbloated offices.
3) The size of the senate was dramatically increased. Decimated by civil wars and proscriptions, Caesar repopulated it at its new cap of 900 people (up from 300). These 600 new senators were loyal to Caesar and they also represented much of northern Italy and other pockets of citizens which had been in Rome’s fold for quite some time but had no representation in the Senate. Six hundred new senators also meant severely diluting the power held by the 300 traditional families beforehand.
4) Provincial governors were limited in how long they could hold office in their province having to leave office after either one or two years depending on the category of province. While this would help curb the severe mismanagement that tended to happen, it also prevented any governor from forming a position of power with which to challenge Caesar. Which, incidentally, is exactly the path to power Ceasar had taken to get to where he was in 44 B.C.
5) Caesar took great strides to making Italy a province and tightening the bond between the different Italian tribes addressing some of the greatest grievances the Italians had against the Romans. He also tightened the bond with the other provinces creating greater equality with them. Ultimately bringing the provinces closer to Rome and increasing the relationship with them was a measure brought to deeper completion under Augustus.
6) Large land owners were forced to have at least 1/3 of their labour force to be employed freed citizens to help alleviate the jobless mob. He also founded numerous colonies to help settle many others into productive lives.
Interested in learning a bit more? While you could go to Wikipedia, I would first suggest this page here: Caesar the Dictator guaranteed to be written by someone who knows what they’re talking about, in easy language and short in length.
Happy Ides of March everyone!!