Saturday, 15 March 2008

Cavafy: The Ides of March



The Ides of March
Guard, O my soul, against pomp and glory.
And if you cannot curb your ambitions,
at least pursue them hesitantly, cautiously.
And the higher you go,
the more searching and careful you need to be.

And when you reach your summit, Caesar at last—
when you assume the role of someone that famous—
then be especially careful as you go out into the street,
a conspicuous man of power with your retinue;
and should a certain Artemidoros
come up to you out of the crowd, bringing a letter,
and say hurriedly: ‘Read this at once.
There are things in it important for you to see,’
be sure to stop; be sure to postpone
all talk or business; be sure to brush off
all those who salute and bow to you
(they can be seen later); let even
the Senate itself wait — and find out immediately
what grave message Artemidoros has for you.

(CP Cavafy)

g A soothsayer had warned Julius Caesar to beware the Ides of March (15 March). On the day, the sophist Artemidoros tried to inform Caesar of the conspiracy to assassinate him, but was ignored.

The clip above shows the scene as depicted in Joseph Mankiewicz' 1953 film version of Shakespeare's play, Julius Caesar.

Shakespeare records Caesar's last words as ‘Et tu, Brute? Then fall, Caesar!' ('And you, Brutus? Then fall, Caesar.') Plutarch says he said nothing, pulling his toga over his head when he saw Brutus among the conspirators. However, Suetonius gives Caesar's last words, spoken in Greek, as 'καί σύ τέκνον;' ('Kai su, teknon?'; 'You too, my child?').

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