The ancient Roman historian Suetonius documented the fate of Julius Caesar. He wrote that the soothsayer Spurinna warned the ruler in mid-Februarius (February) that 30-days hence were to be perilous and that the danger would end on the Ides of Martius (March).
On the day of the Ides of Martius the soothsayer met Caesar again. The Emperor said, “You are aware, surely, that the Ides of Martius have passed.” Spurinna replied, “Surely you realize that the Ides have not yet passed.”
Later that day in 44 BCE Caesar was assassinated. The ruler was betrayed by Marcus Brutus and several other senators. From that date onward, the Ides of March has been linked to betrayal and loyalty.
As an aside, let’s remind ourselves about what the Ides of each month were. The ancient Roman calendar counted backwards instead of forwards from three times in lunar months. The times were called “Nones”. The first None was on the 5th on 30-day months and the 7th on 31-day months. The Ides fell on the 13th on 30-day months and the 15th on 31-day months. The Kalends was on the 1st of the following month. So the Ides were not restricted only to Martius, all of them had Ides. For instance the Ides of Augustus (August) was on the 15th.
So today is the Ides of March, the day we can think about the concept of loyalty. For the most part loyalty is regarded as a positive ideal. We think about people who are loyal to their country, form of government, cause, and duty. Personally, we can have dear friends upon whom we can depend for loyalty to us. True friendship is based upon mutual loyalty.
Obviously Marcus Brutus and his colleagues were not loyal to Julius Caesar. They were jealous of his status, and fearful of his tyrannical, absolute rule of Rome. The Senators conspired to commit the ultimate act of betrayal–murder.
What is the state of loyalty in the year 2018? This is the age of social media. We can “friend” someone in an instant and “unfriend” them the moment we disagree with something she posts on Facebook. Such friendships are based only on hyperlinks and not unselfish sincerity.
We have world leaders whose patriotism and allegiances are questioned because of their possible loyalty to foreign powers. In the United States, we question the loyalty of our elected Representatives, Senators, and Chief Executives. We should not place our trust in these people naively. Some of our leaders betray us due to their love of money and power.
Without basic loyalty there is no concrete foundation for society, communities, and nations. This is why treason and coups d’etat are fundamentally destructive to society and civility. Betrayal by one’s family and friends strike at the heart of humanity.
The writer Algernon Charles Swinburne said, “The highest spiritual quality, the noblest property of mind a man can have, is this of loyalty … a man with no loyalty in him, with no sense of love or reverence or devotion due to something outside and above his poor daily life, with its pains and pleasures, profits and losses, is as evil a case as man can be.”
Of course, loyalty has its limits in even the most ethical people. When a friend shows that he has no true appreciation for you, it is time to question his loyalty to you. Likewise, when an ideal or belief does not serve to help make you a better person it is time to question why you remain loyal to that point of view. Mark Twain wrote, “Loyalty to a petrified opinion never yet broke a chain or freed a human soul.”
So we understand that while loyalty is a matter of black and white allegiance, loyalty is also a very fragile thing.
I hope you have an auspicious Ides of March today.
The Blue Jay of Happiness thinks about this anonymous saying: “The only people I owe my loyalty to are those who never made me question theirs.”