Remembering the Life and Death of Julius Caesar in Rome
On March 15 each year we celebrate the anniversary of the assassination of Gaius Julius Caesar, dictator perpetuo of Rome. The City of Rome puts on an elaborate reenactment of the plot of the Senate, and the assassination, in Largo di Torre Argentina in the city center of Rome.
As you walk up to this archaeological site, only uncovered in the 1920’s, you get a feeling of stepping back in time. As the senators and armed guards stand milling about preparing last minute details and practicing their lines, you are transported back to the 21st century when they start to check their cellphones and take a few selfies before the show begins.
The Celebration of The Ides of March
This monumental moment in history is celebrated by locals and tourists alike. The fact that they used the site where Caesar was actually killed, results in an extremely moving experience for the onlookers. To be in this city, one of the oldest in the world, still thriving and celebrating its history, is one of the reasons I have chosen to live here. When you’re in Rome, you get to feel like this daily, and on days like these, the feeling becomes even more powerful.
Largo di Torre Argentina doesn’t look like much when you’re passing by, whether in an attempt to get the bus to work, or as a tourist on your way to the Colosseum or Piazza Navona, it doesn’t draw much attention. But when you stop to learn the history of this place you realize what a hidden gem it truly is.
From the Theater of Pompey to Largo Argentina
Having nothing to do with the ancient archaeological site, it was named for the Argentina Tower, built here by Johannes Burckardt in the 15th century and destroyed in the 19th century. This site has been home to ancient Roman temples, medieval homes, and a Renaissance palace. In the 1920’s, it was excavated when the buildings had been demolished for new construction. Some of the ruins were discovered during the demolition process and the decision was made to excavate the site to uncover the 4 Ancient Roman temples and the entrance (curia) to the Theater of Pompey.
Cleverly named A, B, C, and D (from right to left when facing the site), you can see what is left of the 4 temples, the oldest of which dates back to the 4th century BC. The theater of Pompey, upon whose curia is where Julius Caesar was assassinated sits just behind the Temples B and C. Built around 52 BC by once Caesar’s ally, turned enemy, Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus, the site can still be seen today.
The Assassination Plot
The event unfolded with the Senators plotting their assassination, followed by Caesar being warned outside the curia, and Marc Antony being distracted. Once inside, the ever trusting Caesar is overcome by the conspirators as they one by one pull their daggers from the hiding places within their robes. After being stabbed 23 times, Caesar falls to the floor, dead. Marc Antony returns to the scene and utters the Shakespearean “Friends, Romans, Countrymen…” giving the famous speech in Italian, bringing chills to all those present. This is followed by a roar of applause from the crowd, and the funeral procession to the Roman Forum and the Temple Divus Julius to end the day.
This special reenactment began in 2015, but unfortunately due to the covid-19 pandemic the celebrations in 2020 and 2021 were cancelled. We can only hope that the city of Rome and the actors who participate will pick up where they left off when life returns to something resembling normal post covid. If you are lucky enough to be here on March 15 in the future, you will want to be sure not to miss this event.