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March 25, 2011

Beware the Ides of March

"Beware the Ides of March" is a popular line in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. It was actually the line of the soothsayer who warned Caesar of his impending doom. "Beware the Ides of March" said the soothsayer but as we all know, Caesar dismissed the warning as mere rubbish. By this time, Caesar has become the most powerful man in all of Rome. He was declared dictator and became ruler of all of Italy and its conquered lands. He started as a soldier, in fact, the General of the Roman army. When he defeated his former friend and ally Pompey, he went back to Rome as conqueror and beloved by the masses. But the nobilities of the Senate were envious of him. They wanted to preserve the "Republic" and the likes of Caesar threatened their way of life and politics. In a republic, the Senators are the rulers of Rome, the powerful men of Rome. So they plotted against Caesar.

We all know the story of Julius Caesar. On March 15, 44 BC, while in the Theater of Pompey, Julius Caesar was assassinated. His assassination was accomplished by 40 Senators who called themselves the Liberatores. According to the autopsy, Julius had 23 stab wounds. He died of severe blood loss due to multiple stab wounds. After his death came the Civil war between the Liberatores and those loyal to Caesar.

There is actually nothing special or mysterious about the "Ides of March" which is actually the 15th of March. However, since its popular inclusion by Shakespeare in his play, the phrase "Ides of March" has become attuned with superstition almost to the equivalent of Friday the 13th.

If there is one lesson we can get from the "Ides of March" it is about Pride. Caesar has been warned many times. He knew that in his ascendancy to power there will be enemies surrounding him. The tension between him and the Senate did not grow overnight. In Shakespeare's play, his wife Calpurnia even warned him about a dream she had concerning his death. but Caesar did not heed these warnings. He was after all the most powerful man in Rome. Who could be against him as to ensure his fall from power?

It was his Pride that blinded him to the obvious signs that cautioned him of his doom.

"Beware the Ides of March" is a warning to check our own Pride. It is about being warned against our arrogance. Leaders who think they are comfortable in their position, should they abuse it, must be told to "Beware the Ides of March". People blinded by their own arrogance and pride must be told to "Beware the Ides of March". "The truest character of ignorance," says Samuel Butler, "is vanity, pride and arrogance." When we are vain and proud and arrogant we are ignorant of the things that surround us, especially of the signs of our own downfall. Indeed, "Arrogance diminishes wisdom" according to the Arabs.

So Beware of the Ides of March. "We come nearest to the great when we are great in humility," according to Rabindranath Tagore.

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