Mar 15: The Ides of March; The Spear of Destiny; Old Hickory
Death of Caesar (see below)
Readers might have heard of the Spear of Destiny, a legendary magical weapon reputed to have been owned by Herod the Great, Roman emperors Constantine and Justinian, Charlemagne, Otto the Great, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, the Habsburg Emperors, Adolf Hitler, and US General George Patton. It is associated in Christian folklore with the Holy Grail, and its origins lie with this saint.
Biblical authors Matthew and Mark both tell of the Roman centurion who said "Truly this man was the son of God", and tradition calls him Longinus. He was popular in medieval legend, and said to have been blind. Presumably in medieval times a blind centurion was believable. However, he didn't remain blind forever. Pontius Pilate ordered Longinus to spear Jesus Christ in the side – according to the legend's version by Jacobus de Voragine (c. 1230 - '98) in the Golden Legend, the blood ran down his spear, into his eyes and restored his sight:
"Some say that when he smote our Lord with the spear in the side, the precious blood avaled by the shaft of the spear upon his hands, and of adventure with his hands he touched his eyes, and anon he that had been tofore blind saw anon clearly, wherefore he refused all chivalry and abode with the apostles, of whom he was taught and christened, and after, he abandoned him to lead an holy life in doing alms and in keeping the life of a monk about thirty-eight years in Cæsarea and in Cappadocia, and by his words and his example many men converted he to the faith of Christ." Source: Golden Legend, translated by William Caxton
When Longinus was 27, he was living at Caesaria of Cappadocia, when news of his zealous Christian witness made its way to the governor, Octavius, who summoned him. After a religious discussion, Longinus was commanded to worship the Roman idols, and eat of the sacrifice offered to them. Tradition says that he refused, so his tongue and teeth were removed.
After more torture, he offered Octavius a deal; if he could destroy the idols, Octavius must be converted. But if the pagan gods did him any injury, Longinus would become a pagan. Presumably in medieval times a tongueless man making a deal was believable as well.
Governor Octavius smashed all the idols and demons fled from their stone casings, but Longinus captured them and interrogated them. They said that his god, Jehovah, was the greatest god and that they had set up in the stone because it was a nice place to live and had not been sanctified. These dreadful demons claimed, too, that they were also dwelling in the pagan people. The demons begged not to be thrown into the abyss.
When the citizens heard this they shouted for joy and were converted. But Octavius was afraid lest the emperor heard about this apostasy, and cut off the head of the saint. Then he repented and became a Christian. A bit bloody late. These things happened on the ides of March.
The Spear of Destiny
"A legend grew around the lance that whoever possessed it would be able to conquer the world. Napolean [sic] attempted to obtain the lance after the battle of Austerlitz, but it had been smuggled out of the city prior to the start of the fight and he never got a hold of it. According to the legend, Charlemagne carried the spear through 47 successful battles, but died when he accidentally dropped it. Barbarossa met the same fate only a few minutes after it slipped out of his hands while he was crossing a stream.
"The spear finally wound up in the possession of the House of the Hapsburgs and by 1912 was part of the treasure collection stored in Hofburg Museum. According to Ravenscroft it was in September of that year, while living in Vienna and working as a watercolor painter, that a young Adolf Hitler visited the Museum and learned of the lance and its reputation. Dr. Walter Stein, who accompanied Hitler on that visit, remembered, 'when we first stood side by side in front of the Spear of Destiny it appeared to me that Hitler was in so deep a condition of trance that he was suffering almost complete sense-denudation and a total lack of self-consciousness.'
"Hitler later said, 'I stood there quietly gazing upon it for several minutes quite oblivious to the scene around me. It seemed to carry some hidden inner meaning which evaded me, a meaning which I felt I inwardly knew yet could not bring to consciousness ... I felt as though I myself had held it before in some earlier century of history. That I myself had once claimed it as my talisman of power and held the destiny of the world in my hands ...'
"Hitler saw the lance as his mystical connection with generations of conquering Germanic leaders that had come before him. On March 14, 1938, after he had risen to power as the chancellor of Germany, Hitler annexed the state of Austria and ordered that the spear, along with the rest of the Habsburg collection, be sent to the city of Nuremberg, heart of the Nazi movement." Source
"Beware the Ides of March"
Ides: "In the ancient Roman calendar the 15th of March, May, July, and October, and the 13th of all the other months; always eight days after the Nones."
Ivor H Evans, Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, Cassell, London, 1988
"… the ides of March were selected for the sacrifice to the goddess Anna Perenna, in whose name we have nothing more than the feminine form of the word annus, which, whether written with one n or two, whether in its simple form annus, or diminutive annulus, still always signifies a circle. Hence, as the masculine form was easily adopted to denote the period of the sun's course, so the feminine in like manner might well be employed to signify, first the moon's revolution, and then the moon herself." Source
This saying is given as a warning of impending danger. The allusion is to the warning received by Julius Caesar before his assassination on March 15, 44 BCE.
On the night preceding his assassination, Caesar dreamed that he was soaring above the clouds on wings, and that he placed his hand in the right hand of Jupiter, king of the Roman gods. Coincidentally, in Rome, about 24 hours before his death, a small species of sparrow, known to the Romans by a regal name, was observed to fly towards the senate house, consecrated by Pompey, whilst a crowd of other birds was seen to follow it, towards Pompey's Hall. The little bird was overtaken by his enemies, and they tore him to pieces.
Caesar's wife Calpurnia dreamed that their house had fallen in, that he had been killed by assassins, and that he had taken refuge in her bosom.
The arms of Mars, deposited in Caesar's house, rattled at night.
The doors of his bedroom flew open spontaneously.
Solitary birds appeared in the Forum.
There were lights in the sky and nocturnal noises.
A flame issued from the hand of a soldier's slave without hurting him.
The attendant mistakenly removed his throne from the senate room, thinking it would not be needed.
It is said that as he was stabbed he adjusted his mantle so that the lower part of his body would not be exposed as he fell.
Caesar's classic: lucky escape
Julius Caesar wrote the Commentaries on the Wars of Gaul, a book that would have been lost forever, had he not swum in the Bay of Alexandria from his ship with the book in one hand and his weapons in the other.
Coin of Brutus
"In February 44, Caesar showed clearly that he would never restore the republic that he had overthrown. He received the senators as a king (not rising from his seat when they entered the room), wanted himself to be crowned (text) and had himself proclaimed dictator for ever. All this was extremely unrepublican, and Brutus decided that he had to act.
"Some 60 senators conspired to assassinate the dictator, and Brutus, who was close to Caesar, became one of the leaders of the plot." Source
"• He was the first president to ride on a railroad train, the first to be born in a log cabin and the first president to be nominated by a political party.
• He survived the first attempt to assassinate a president.
• He is known historically for creating a strong executive branch.
• At age 13, while serving in the army, he was captured by the British. The British officer in charge ordered Jackson to clean his boots. Jackson refused; the officer struck him with his sword, leaving Jackson's face and hand permanently scarred." Source