In a word . . . Ides

‘That’s where Caesar was assassinated 2,062 years ago next March 15th. On the Ides of March’

 

Rome. All that slaughter. What’s not to love? I was there at the brim of this year during the beginning of January. Good was it to be alive with day temperatures in the mid-teens, brilliant blue skies, excellent company, better food, and wine. Lots of wine.

In short I was designated tour guide for a family party of nine, including outlaws. It being decided that, as I had been to the Eternal City many times before, I must surely know my way around. I do. Maybe...

So, between myself and Dan Brown novels we, when lost, were soon found again. Indeed I recommend Brown’s daft Angels and Demons for one reason only, Rome. It is a homage to the city. And slaughter!

And so I could point “over there. That’s where Caesar was assassinated 2,062 years ago next March 15th. On the Ides of March. He was stabbed 23 times but only one was fatal. Bled to death, really.” Such lovely detail.

A bit further on was Piazza Venezia and the balcony from where Mussolini addressed crowds in his glory days and declared war on the UK and France in 1940. “He was shot in 1945 near Lako Como when caught by locals while trying to escape to Switzerland as Allied forces advanced. They hung his corpse upside down and stoned it.” Useless, but true.

And so we strolled to the Colosseum, or what’s left of it after millenniums of earthquakes and plunder. “Built by 100,000 Jews, prisoners after the Siege of Jerusalem in 70AD, and using materials from the Jewish Temple there, all that remains of which (in Jerusalem) now is the Western or Wailing Wall.”

Getting into my stride I mused “so there was something appropriate about the Colosseum itself being plundered in turn to build St Peter’s and other Churches in Rome”. Such lovely symmetry and totally irrestible to a would-be Rome guide nonpareil.

Then to a favourite theme. “In its almost 400 years of entertainment up to 400,000 people were killed here and a million animals. But no Christians, not a one was killed or fed to the lions in the Colosseum,” I said.

Once again my family was disappointed as yet another cherished Christian myth bit the dust.

Roma locuta est, causa finita est (Rome has spoken, the case is closed).

Ides, as in Ides of March, meaning middle day of Roman month, from Latin idus

inaword@irishtimes.com

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