The Ides of March

The Ides of March

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by Thornton Wilder

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Drawing on such unique sources as Thornton Wilder's unpublished letters, journals, and selections from the extensive annotations Wilder made years later in the margins of the book, Tappan Wilder's Afterword adds a special dimension to the reissue of this internationally acclaimed novel.

The Ides of March, first published in 1948, is a brilliant


Drawing on such unique sources as Thornton Wilder's unpublished letters, journals, and selections from the extensive annotations Wilder made years later in the margins of the book, Tappan Wilder's Afterword adds a special dimension to the reissue of this internationally acclaimed novel.

The Ides of March, first published in 1948, is a brilliant epistolary novel set in Julius Caesar's Rome. Thornton Wilder called it "a fantasia on certain events and persons of the last days of the Roman republic." Through vividly imagined letters and documents, Wilder brings to life a dramatic period of world history and one of history's most magnetic, elusive personalities.

In this inventive narrative, the Caesar of history becomes Caesar the human being. Wilder also resurrects the controversial figures surrounding Caesar — Cleopatra, Catullus, Cicero, and others. All Rome comes crowding through these pages — the Rome of villas and slums, beautiful women and brawling youths, spies and assassins.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Wilder is on a roll, with several of his titles coming back into print. Heaven's My Destination (1934) offers protagonist George Brush, a traveling salesman attempting to live a virtuous life despite peddling his wares in less than virtuous places. The epistolary Ides of March (1948) retells the tragedy of Julius Caesar through letters among the major players. Both volumes feature new introductions by J.D. McClatchy and Kurt Vonnegut, respectively, along with scholarly notes and a biographical portrait of Wilder. Jump on 'em. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

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Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
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The Ides of March
A Novel

I  The Master of the College of Augurs to Caius Julius Caesar, Supreme Pontiff and Dictator of the Roman People.

(Copies to the Priest of Capitoline Jupiter, etc.; to Madam President of the College of the Vestal Virgins, etc., etc.)
[September 1, 45 B.C.]

To the most reverend Supreme Pontiff:
Sixth report of this date.

Readings of the noon sacrifice:
A goose: maculations of the heart and liver. Herniation of the diaphragm.

Second goose and a cock: Nothing to remark.

A pigeon: ominous condition, kidney displaced, liver enlarged and yellow in color. Pink quartz in crop. Further detailed study has been ordered.

Second pigeon: Nothing to remark.

Observed flights: an eagle from three miles north of Mt. Soracte to limit of vision over Tivoli. The bird showed some uncertainty as to direction in its approach toward the city. Thunder: No thunder has been heard since that last reported twelve days ago.

Health and long life to the Supreme Pontiff.

I-A  Notation by Caesar, confidential, for his ecclesiastical secretary.

Item I. Inform the Master of the College that it is not necessary to send me ten to fifteen of these reports a day. A single summary report of the previous day's observations is sufficient.

Item II. Select from the reports of the last four days three signally favorable and three unfavorable auspices. I may require them in the Senate today.

Item III. Draw up and distribute a notification to the following effect:

With the establishment of the new calendar the Commemoration of the Founding of the City on the seventeenth day of each month will now be elevated to a rite of the highest civic importance.

The Supreme Pontiff, if resident in the City, will be present on each occasion.

The entire ritual will be observed with the following additions and corrections:

Two hundred soldiers will be present and will deliver the Invocation to Mars as is customary on military posts.

The Adoration of Rhea will be rendered by the Vestal Virgins. The President of the College will herself be held responsible for this attendance, for the excellence of the rendition, and for the decorum of the participants. The abuses which have crept into the ritual will be corrected at once; these celebrants will remain invisible until the final procession, and no resort will be made to the mixolydian mode.

The Testament of Romulus will be directed toward the seats reserved for the aristocracy.

The priests exchanging the responses with the Supreme Pontiff will be letter perfect. Priests failing in any particular will be given thirty days' training and sent to serve in the new temples in Africa and Britain.

I-B  Caesar's Journal-Letter to Lucius Mamilius Turrinus on the Island of Capri.

[For a description of this journal-letter see the opening of Document III.]

968. [On religious rites]

I enclose in this week's packet a half-dozen of the innumerable reports which, as Supreme Pontiff, I receive from the Augurs, Soothsayers, Sky Watchers, and Chicken Nurses.

I enclose also the directions I have issued for the monthly Commemoration of the Founding of the City.

What's to be done?

I have inherited this burden of superstition and nonsense. I govern innumerable men but must acknowledge that I am governed by birds and thunderclaps.

All this frequently obstructs the operation of the State; it closes the doors of the Senate and the Courts for days and weeks at a time. It employs several thousands of persons. Everyone who has anything to do with it, including the Supreme Pontiff, manipulates it to his own interest.

One afternoon, in the Rhine Valley, the augurs of our headquarters forbade me, to join battle with the enemy. It seems that our sacred chickens were eating fastidiously. Mesdames Partlet were crossing their feet as they walked; they were frequently inspecting the, sky and looking back over their shoulders, and with good reason. I too on entering the valley had been discouraged to observe that it was the haunt of eagles. We generals are reduced to viewing the sky with a chicken's eyes. I acceded for one day, though in my capability of surprising the enemy lay one of my few advantages, and I feared that I would be similarly impeded in the morning. That evening, however, Asinius Pollio and I took a walk in the Woods; we gathered a dozen grubs; we minced them into fine pieces with our knives and strewed them about the sacred feeding pen. The next morning the entire army waited in suspense to hear the will of the Gods. The fateful birds were put out to feed. They first surveyed the sky emitting that chirp of alarm which is sufficient to arrest ten thousand men; then they turned their gaze upon their meal. By Hercules, their eyes protruded; they uttered cries of ravished gluttony; they flew to their repast, and I was permitted to win the Battle of Cologne.

Most of all, however, these observances attack and undermine the very spirit of life within the minds of men. They afford to our Romans, from the street sweepers to the consuls, a vague sense of confidence where no confidence is and at the same time a pervasive fear, a fear which neither arouses to action nor calls forth ingenuity, but which paralyzes. They remove from men's shoulders the unremitting obligation to create, moment by moment, their own Rome. They come to us sanctioned by the usage of our ancestors and breathing the security of our childhood; they flatter passivity and console inadequacy.

I can cope with the other enemies of order: the planless trouble making and violence of a Clodius; the grumbling discontents of a Cicero and a Brutus, born of envy and fed on the fine-spun theorizing of old Greek texts; the crimes and greed of my proconsuls and appointees; but what can I do against the apathy that is glad to wrap itself under the cloak of piety ...

The Ides of March
A Novel
. Copyright © by Thornton Wilder. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Thornton Wilder (1897-1975) was an accomplished novelist and playwright whose works, exploring the connection between the commonplace and cosmic dimensions of human experience, continue to be read and produced around the world. His Bridge of San Luis Rey, one of seven novels, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1928, as did two of his four full-length dramas, Our Town (1938) and The Skin of Our Teeth (1943). Wilder's The Matchmaker was adapted as the musical Hello, Dolly!. He also enjoyed enormous success with many other forms of the written and spoken word, among them teaching, acting, the opera, and films. (His screenplay for Hitchcock's Shadow of Doubt [1943] remains a classic psycho-thriller to this day.) Wilder's many honors include the Gold Medal for Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the National Book Committee's Medal for Literature.

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Ides of March 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
To expand a plot seems to have deminshed his appeal with readers i can renember readibg one or two of his novels but nothing much about any of them