The Ides of March

I was introduced to ancient Rome as a young reader. Rosemary Sutcliff (1920-1992) wrote such fine historical fiction that it appeals to young readers and adults alike. A film version of The Eagle of the Ninth was made just last year. And I’m a sucker for a good Roman movie (wherein “good” excludes all of the so-called spaghetti gladiator films made in the fifties and sixties).

As a student of Rome, I find it worth noting today’s date. Even those who know “nothing” about Rome should understand its significance. You don’t need to have studied Latin or the classics to understand the warning “Beware the Ides of March.” The Ides is the fifteenth day of the month. And it was on this day that Julius Caesar was murdered by members of the Roman Senate.

It was left to his adopted son, Caesar Augustus, to transform the Republic into an autocratic Empire. It was this Caesar who ruled Rome at the time of Jesus’ birth, and he bequeathed the title of “Caesar” to his heirs. When Jesus requested that the Pharisees and Herodians “show him the coin for the tax,” we do not know whether Augustus or Caesar Tiberius adorned it. It matters not, since the image of Caesar was tantamount to representing Rome itself.

Jesus taught his disciples to be discerning in the loyalties we offer. We are to be responsible citizens. But we are also required to remember our true citizenship rests in the New Jerusalem.

C.S. Lewis astutely illustrated this truth. He lived during two global conflicts, and served in combat defending his homeland. Yet Lewis recognized the dangers of placing our trust (faith) in even the “noble” things of this world.

A man may have to die for our country: but no man must, in any exclusive sense, live for his country. He who surrenders himself without reservation to the temporal claims of a nation, or a party, or a class is rendering to Caesar that which, of all things, most emphatically belongs to God: himself. (“Learning in War-Time” – a sermon preached in Oxford in 1939).

So, on this day when Julius’ dreams of glory bled out in Rome . . . may you and I find refuge, hope, peace and meaning in the One who bled and died for each of us on Calvary.

7 thoughts on “The Ides of March

  1. I am so excited to see that how often you reference C.S. Lewis and his works!

    I have to admit, I have had a very hard time with this issue (as I’m sure many others have), especially in regards to how it affects our relationship with our military. I have read Lewis’s thoughts on the subjects extensively, and have been moved closer to understanding how my fighting in a war might be good or right, but I still land on the side that is confused as to how spending my time in a war, and potentially killing people, for a nation that is not following the leadership of King Jesus.

    Still, I am provoked to dig deeper on the subject by your post. Thank you!

    1. Daniel, I’m glad you found the post helpful. The Christian church has invested (throughout its history) a great deal of energy to understanding its role in war. “Just War Theology” offers specific requirements that Christians need to abide by. Extreme pacifism, however, can only exist where there are people willing to sacrifice their own lives to defend the pacifists. If Christians hadn’t resisted Hitler, for example, we would all be speaking German and pacifists would not be able to avoid compulsory national service. (Short of imprisonment or death, of course.) Most wars are “grays,” but history provides enough examples of the “black and white” distinctions that we can be certain their are times to take up arms in defense.

  2. When I’ve had all the “junk food” information/news I can take, I know I can come here and find something solid. Thanks for the care and efforts you take in your posts – and the information and wisdom you include. War has been so disturbing this week: the war dogs, their handlers, the ones on the front lines pushed beyond tolerance – and those waiting to return to battle yet again ( despite the talk of “all coming home”). Thanks for the insights.

  3. It’s a wise, sage point, and one worth remembering, especially since so many Christians seem to forget it. For a similar reason I dislike denominational names; call me only a Christian, because my identity is in Christ alone, that’s all that matters.

    Incidentally, although your blog appears right down my alley, with its references to Christianity, Church history (especially medieval), and Lewis, I only found it by way of your Rosemary Sutcliff reference. She is easily my favorite author outside of Lewis and Tolkien, and her Lantern Bearers my abiding literary love. I’ve reviewed some of her books on my blog (as well as the movie), and some of my readers are fans of her as well. Have you read her much? She also inspired me to pursue my undergraduate degree in medieval and classical history.

    1. Ah, Rosemary Sutcliff… yes, her Roman books made quite an impression on me at an early age. Helped lay a foundation which grew into an interest in mythology and imperial Roman numismatics. One of my B.A.s is in history, focusing on Rome, and my M.Th. (Master of Theology) is in Patristics. Yes, dear Rosemary helped plant some seeds that have deeply influenced my life.

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