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The Ides of March
March 14, 2007

On Thursday, March 15, the Calvin College classics club SPQR is staging a re-enactment of the stabbing of Julius Caesar by Brutus in recognition of the “Ides of March,” the anniversary of Caesar’s assassination.

Caesar, a Roman military and political leader, was one of the most influential men in world history and played a critical role in the transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire. His dramatic assassination occurred on the Ides of March in 44 BC and led to another Roman civil war (the Ides of March is a term from the ancient Roman calendar).

The re-enactment at Calvin will take place at 10:10 am in Johnny’s (the on-campus coffee shop) with two SPQR members taking the roles. Senior and group co-chair Ben Wright will play the role of Caesar and junior classical studies major Stephen Mellis will play Brutus. Both students will be classically garbed.

The entire event it in keeping with the mission of SPQR, whose acronym stands for the motto of ancient Rome: “Senatus Populusque Romanus,” or “the Senate and the people of Rome.”

The group, which attracts 20 to 30 members to events, exists to raise awareness of classical culture and classical history. SPQR also stages readings of classical offerings from Cicero and Homer in the original languages.

The event on March 15 will take the group into new territory says one of the co-chairs.

“As far as I know, I don’t know anyone has ever staged an assassination in Johnny’s,” says Kory Plockmeyer. “We’re just hoping that Campus Safety will not come after us.”

Organizers of the event are pretty sure that the majority of Johnny’s patrons won’t understand why two students in togas are mimicking a brutal stabbing—and that’s the idea, says Plockmeyer.

“We wanted to commemorate the death of Julius Caesar and we thought, ‘Why not?’ At least it will make people realize that March 15 is the day he died.”

If all goes as planned, he says, the assassination will not lack for dramatic impact, though it won’t resemble the Shakespearean version of the event.

“We want it to be explosive: Julius Caesar running into Johnny’s pursued hotly by Brutus,” Plockmeyer explains. “Was the actual assassination explosive? Probably not. But when you’re dealing with a place like Johnny’s, as soon as you start making speeches, the attention tends to dissipate,” he said. “There will be some pronouncement that Julius Caesar is dead, so people don’t wonder what just happened.”

From 10 a.m. through noon, the SPQR will also be offering a quiz on the Ides of March to Johnny’s patrons. The winner will receive two tickets to the new movie, 300.

“It’s about the battle where 300 Spartans held off the massive Persian army for as long as possible in order to allow their allies to reach safety,” Plockmeyer says. “And so we figured even though the Persian wars don’t have any direct relationship to the life of Julius Caesar, it’s nice when a movie has any kind of reference to a classical topic and we like to encourage people to see it.”

Another favorite event is their regular movie night. “We watch movies with classical topics and discuss what happens when Hollywood takes hold of classical stories,” Plockmeyer said. “Things change, and the story gets adjusted. The movie Troy is the story of the Trojan War. It’s a tremendous story in ancient literature, and Hollywood gets a hold of it and it becomes an excuse to show off Brad Pitt’s astounding good looks.”

Plockmeyer is looking forward to Calvin’s Ides of March: “If we can make five people learn something new about classical history by making fools of ourselves in Johnny’s then we will be pleased with the results.”

~written by Calvin staff writer Myrna Anderson

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