On This Day
44 BC – Julius Caesar, Dictator of the Roman Republic, is stabbed to death by Marcus Junius Brutus, Gaius Cassius Longinus, Decimus Junius Brutus, and several other Roman senators on the Ides of March.
The Ides of March (/aɪdz/; Latin: Idus Martiae, Late Latin: Idus Martii) is a day on the Roman calendar that corresponds to 15 March. It was marked by several religious observances and was notable for the Romans as a deadline for settling debts. In 44 BC, it became notorious as the date of the assassination of Julius Caesar which made the Ides of March a turning point in Roman history.
The Romans did not number days of a month from the first to the last day. Instead, they counted back from three fixed points of the month: the Nones (5th or 7th, depending on the length of the month), the Ides (13th or 15th), and the Kalends (1st of the following month). The Ides occurred near the midpoint, on the 13th for most months, but on the 15th for March, May, July, and October. The Ides were supposed to be determined by the full moon, reflecting the lunar origin of the Roman calendar. On the earliest calendar, the Ides of March would have been the first full moon of the new year.
The Ides of each month were sacred to Jupiter, the Romans’ supreme deity. The Flamen Dialis, Jupiter’s high priest, led the “Ides sheep” (ovis Idulis) in procession along the Via Sacra to the arx, where it was sacrificed.
In addition to the monthly sacrifice, the Ides of March was also the occasion of the Feast of Anna Perenna, a goddess of the year (Latin annus) whose festival originally concluded the ceremonies of the new year. The day was enthusiastically celebrated among the common people with picnics, drinking, and revelry. One source from late antiquity also places the Mamuralia on the Ides of March. This observance, which has aspects of scapegoat or ancient Greek pharmakos ritual, involved beating an old man dressed in animal skins and perhaps driving him from the city. The ritual may have been a new year festival representing the expulsion of the old year.
In the later Imperial period, the Ides began a “holy week” of festivals celebrating Cybele and Attis, being 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 or the goddess Cybele, who was also known as the Magna Mater (“Great Mother”) (narratives differ). A week later, on 22 March, the solemn commemoration of Arbor intrat (“The Tree enters”) commemorated the death of Attis under a pine tree. A college of priests, the dendrophoroi (“tree bearers”) annually cut down a tree, hung from it an image of Attis, and carried it to the temple of the Magna Mater with lamentations. The day was formalized as part of the official Roman calendar under Claudius (d. 54 AD). A three-day period of mourning followed, culminating with celebrating the rebirth of Attis on 25 March, the date of the vernal equinox on the Julian calendar.
Assassination of Caesar
Main article: Assassination of Julius Caesar
In modern times, the Ides of March is best known as the date on which Julius Caesar was assassinated in 44 BC. Caesar was stabbed to death at a meeting of the Senate. As many as 60 conspirators, led by Brutus and Cassius, were involved. According to Plutarch, a seer had warned that harm would come to Caesar no later than the Ides of March. On his way to the Theatre of Pompey, where he would be assassinated, Caesar passed the seer and joked, “The Ides of March are come”, implying that the prophecy had not been fulfilled, to which the seer replied “Aye, Caesar; but not gone.” This meeting is famously dramatised in William Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar, when Caesar is warned by the soothsayer to “beware the Ides of March.” The Roman biographer Suetonius identifies the “seer” as a haruspex named Spurinna.
Caesar’s death was a closing event in the crisis of the Roman Republic, and triggered the civil war that would result in the rise to sole power of his adopted heir Octavian (later known as Augustus). Writing under Augustus, Ovid portrays the murder as a sacrilege, since Caesar was also the Pontifex Maximus of Rome and a priest of Vesta. On the fourth anniversary of Caesar’s death in 40 BC, after achieving a victory at the siege of Perugia, Octavian executed 300 senators and knights who had fought against him under Lucius Antonius, the brother of Mark Antony. The executions were one of a series of actions taken by Octavian to avenge Caesar’s death. Suetonius and the historian Cassius Dio characterised the slaughter as a religious sacrifice, noting that it occurred on the Ides of March at the new altar to the deified Julius.
Born On This Day
1868 – Grace Chisholm Young, English mathematician (d. 1944)
Grace Chisholm Young (née Chisholm) was an English mathematician. She was educated at Girton College, Cambridge, England and continued her studies at Göttingen University in Germany, where in 1895 she became the first woman to receive a doctorate in any field in that country. Her early writings were published under the name of her husband, William Henry Young, and they collaborated on mathematical work throughout their lives. For her work on calculus (1914–16), she was awarded the Gamble Prize for Mathematics by Girton College, University of Cambridge.
She was the youngest of three surviving children. Her father was a senior civil servant, with the title Warden of the Standards in charge of the Weights and Measures Department. The two girls were taught at home by their mother, father and a governess which was the custom during that time. Her family encouraged her to become involved in social work, helping the poor in London. She had aspirations of studying medicine, but her family would not allow this. However, Chisholm wanted to continue her studies. She passed the senior examination for entrance into Cambridge University at the age of 17.
Chisholm entered Girton College in 1889 aged 22, four years after she passed the senior entrance examination having been awarded the Sir Francis Goldsmid Scholarship by the college. At this time the college was only associated with the University of Cambridge with men and women graded on separate but related lists. Although she wanted to study medicine, her mother would not permit this, so, supported by her father, she decided to study mathematics. At the end of her first year, when the Mays list came out, top of the Second class immediately below Isabel Maddison. In 1893, Grace passed her final examinations with the equivalent of a first-class degree, ranked between 23 and 24 relative to 112 men.
She also took (unofficially, on a challenge, with Isabel Maddison) the exam for the Final Honours School in mathematics at the University of Oxford in 1892 in which she out-performed all the Oxford students. As a result, she became the first person to obtain a First class degree at both Oxford and Cambridge Universities in any subject.
Chisholm remained at Cambridge for an additional year to complete Part II of the Mathematical Tripos, which was unusual for women.
She wanted to continue her studies and since women were not yet admitted to graduate schools in England she went to the University of Göttingen in Germany to study with Felix Klein. This was one of the major mathematical centres in the world. The decision to admit her had to be approved by the Berlin Ministry of Culture and was part of an experiment in admitting women to university studies. In 1895, at the age of 27, Chisholm became the first woman to be awarded a doctorate in any field in Germany. Again government approval had to be obtained to allow her to take the examination, which consisted of probing questions by several professors on sections such as geometry, differential equations, physics, astronomy, and the area of her dissertation, all in German. Along with her test she was required to take courses showing broader knowledge as well as prepare a thesis which was entitled Algebraisch-gruppentheoretische Untersuchungen zur sphärischen Trigonometrie (Algebraic Groups of Spherical Trigonometry).
After returning to England in 1896 to marry, she resumed research she had initiated at Gӧttingen into an equation to determine the orbit of a comet. Her husband continued his work coaching in mathematics. However, in 1897 they both returned to Gӧttingen, encouraged by Felix Klein. Both attend advanced lectures and while she continued her mathematical research her husband started to work creatively for the first time. They visited Turin in Italy to study modern geometry and under Klein’s guidance they becan to work in the new area of set theory. From about 1901, the Youngs began to publish papers together. These concerned the theory of functions of a real variable and were heavily influenced by new ideas with which she had come into contact with in Gӧttingen. In 1908 they moved to Geneva in Switzerland where she continued to be based while her husband held a series of academic posts in India and the UK.
Although most of their work was published jointly it is believed that Grace did a large amount of the actual writing, and she also produced some independent work which, according to expert opinion, was deeper and more important than her husband’s. In total, they published about 214 papers together. and four books. She began to publish in her own name in 1914, and was awarded the Gamble Prize for Mathematics by Girton College for an essay On infinite derivates in 1915. This work was stimulated by developments in microscopy that allowed real molecular motion to be viewed. Her work between 1914-16 on relationships between derivatives of an arbitrary function contributed to the Denjoy-Young-Saks theorem.
They also wrote an elementary geometry book (The First Book of Geometry, 1905) which was translated into 4 languages. In 1906 the Youngs published The Theory of Sets of Points, the first textbook on set theory.
Chisholm married William Henry Young in 1896, the year after she received her Ph.D. from Göttingen. He had been her tutor for one term at Cambridge and they had become friends after he was one of the people that she sent a copy of her doctoral thesis. He suggested collaboration in a publication about astronomy but they did not pursue this. They had six children within nine years.
In addition to her career as a pioneering woman in what was then a discipline with significant barriers to entry, she completed all the requirements for a medical degree except the internship. She also learned six languages and taught each of her children a musical instrument. In addition, she published two books for children (Bimbo:A Little Real Story for Jill and Molly (1905) and Bimbo and the Frogs: Another Real Story (1907)). The former was aimed to explain where babies came from to children while the latter was about cells. In 1929 she started a historical novel The Crown of England set in the sixteenth century. She worked on this for five years but it was never published.
With the approach of World War II, she left Switzerland in 1940 to take two of her grandchildren to England. She planned to return immediately, but because of the fall of France, she could not. This left William alone, and he died two years later in 1942. Two years after that, Grace Chisholm Young died of a heart attack.
Of their six children, three continued on to study mathematics (including Laurence Chisholm Young and Cecilia Rosalind Tanner), one daughter (Janet) became a physician, and one son (Patrick) became a chemist and pursued a career in finance and business. Their eldest son (Frank) was killed in World War I and his death had a profound effect on his parents, reducing their mathematical creativity. One of Grace’s fourteen grandchildren, Sylvia Wiegand (daughter of Laurence), is a mathematician at the University of Nebraska and is a past president of the Association for Women in Mathematics.
In 1996 Sylvia Wiegand and her husband Roger established a fellowship for graduate student research at the University of Nebraska in honor of Grace Chisholm Young and William Henry Young, called the Grace Chisholm Young and William Henry Young Award. Sylvia is one of Grace’s fourteen grandchildren.
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