March 15, 2020
Day 75 of 366
March 15th is the seventy-fifth day of the year. It is World Consumer Rights Day, an annual occasion for celebration and solidarity through the promotion of rights of consumers and protesting of market abuses. It is also International Day Against Police Brutality.
Historical items of note:
- In 1783, Commander-in-Chief George Washington delivered an emotional speech to his officers at Newburgh, New York. He was imploring his troops to not support the Newburgh Conspiracy, which appeared to be a planned military coup by the Continental Army. The plea was successful and the threatened coup d’état never took place.
- In 1819, French physicist Augustin Fresnel was judged as winner of the Grand Prix of the Académie des Sciences for his “Memoir on the Diffraction of Light”. This work verified the Fresnel integrals, accounted for the limited extent to which light spreads into shadows, and eliminated Sir Isaac Newton’s initial objections to the wave theory of light.
- In 1820, Maine was admitted as the 23rd U.S. state.
- In 1835, Austrian composer and conductor Eduard Strauss was born.
- In 1906, Rolls-Royce Limited was incorporated.
- In 1921, Madelyn Pugh was born. An American television writer and producer, she was well known for her work on I Love Lucy.
- In 1932, astronaut Alan Bean was born. He was the fourth person to walk on the moon.
- In 1933, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was born.
- In 1954, the CBS Morning Show premiered with Walter Cronkite and Jack Paar.
- In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson advocated for the Voting Rights Act in response to the crisis in Selma, Alabama. This was the site of his famous quote to Congress: “We shall overcome.”
- In 1969, actress Kim Raver was born.
- In 1972, The Godfather premiered in New York City. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola and starring Marlon Brandon and Al Pacino, the highly regarded film was based on a book by Mario Puzo.
- In 1977, Eight is Enough premiered on ABC.
- Also in 1977, Three’s Company premiered on ABC.
- In 1990, Mikhail Gorbachev was elected as the first President of the Soviet Union.
In 44 BC, Marcus Junius Brutus the Younger and his fellow conspirators – Gaius Cassius Longinus, Decimus Junius Brutus, and several other Roman senators – marched to the Capitol following the assassination of Julius Caesar. There was no response to their appeals to the population, who instead fled the streets in fear. Caesar’s body remained in place.
Previously known for coinciding with several Roman religious observances and as a notable deadline for settling debts among Romans, this date became famous for this particular assassination.
Unlike our modern calendar, the Romans did not number days of the month from first to last. Instead, they counted back from three fixed points of the month: the Nones (the 5th or 7th, nine days inclusive before the Ides), the Ides (the 13th for most months, but the 15th in March, May, July, and October), and the Kalends (the 1st of the following month).
The Ides of each month were considered sacred to the supreme deity Jupiter. Jupiter’s high priest, the Flamen Dialis, would lead an “Ides sheep” (ovis Idulis) in procession along the Via Sacra (sacred way) to be sacrificed at the arx.
In addition to this monthly sacrifice, the Ides of March was also marked by the Feast of Anna Perenna, a goddess of the annus – Latin for year – whose festival originally concluded the ceremonies of the new year. It was a day of picnics, drinking, and revelry among commoners.
The Mamuralia also occurred on the Ides of March, which has aspects of scapegoat or ancient Greek pharmakos ritual. This involved beating an old man dressed in animal skins and driving him from the city, presumably to represent the expulsion of the old year.
In the later Imperial period, the Ides began a “holy week” of festivals celebrating Cybele and Attis. On the day Canna intrat (“The Reed enters”) when Attis was born and found among the reeds of a Phrygian river, he was discovered by shepherds. Depending on the narrative, he may have been discovered by the goddess Cybele, who was also known as the Magna Mater (“Great Mother”).
A week later, on March 22nd, a commemoration of Arbor intrat (“The Tree enters”) commemorated the death of Attis under a pine tree. A college of priests called the dendrophoroi (“tree bearers”) cut down a tree each year, hung from it an image of Attis, and carried it to the temple of the Magna Mater with lamentations. A three-day period of mourning followed, culminating with celebrating the rebirth of Attis on the vernal equinox.
Back to that famous assassination…
On the Ides of March, Caesar was stabbed to death at a meeting of the Senate by sixty conspirators. According to Plutarch – and as dramatized by William Shakespeare in Julius Caesar – a seer had warned that harm would come: “Beware the Ides of March.” On his way to the Theatre of Pompey, Caesar passed the seer and joked about the prophecy: “The Ides of March are come.” The seer replied, “Aye, Caesar; but not gone.”
Caesar was assassinated at the Theatre of Pompey.
This ended the nearly 100-year crisis of the Roman Republic and triggered a civil war that would eventually lead to the rise of the Roman Empire.
The Thing About Today is an effort to look at each day of 2020 with respect to its historical context.
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