We have much to learn from Rome, and particularly from the conflict between friends Gaius Julius Caesar and Marcus Junius Brutus. From the Founding until today, America has always seen her shadow in Rome's reflection. It was the greatest republic to exist before our own, and so much of our republic is purposefully connected to the Roman tradition-- from the structure of our public places to the Latin mottos on our various symbols. The Framers had Rome, and particularly Caesar, in mind when they crafted our Constitution; how do we get a Republic without the threat of what happened two thousand and fifty five years ago happening again?
Both Brutus and Caesar loved Rome and believed they were fighting for what was best; the former for liberty, the latter for peace. The success of the American Republic is that we have managed to take these better parts of Caesar and Brutus and combine them-- for now. It is constant work to keep this balance, as Ben Franklin famously admonished when he left the Constitutional Convention. So, on these Ides of March, it is good and noble to remember both Caesar and Brutus for their better parts. I shall leave this commemoration to Shakespeare's Antony, who spoke best of these two titans of history. The first quote is when Antony comes upon the butchered body of his master, Caesar, and the second is when he comes upon the man who did that, Brutus:
"O! Pardon me, thou bleeding piece of earth,
That I am meek and gentle with these butchers;
Thou art the ruins of the noblest man
That ever lived in the tide of times.
Woe to the hand that shed this costly blood."
"This was the noblest Roman of them all;
All the conspirators save only he
Did that they did in envy of great Caesar;
He, only, in a general honest thought
And common good to all, made one of them.
His life was gentle, and the elements
So mixed in him that Nature might stand up
And say to all the world, 'This was a man!'"