Beware the Ides of March
Three Ominous Moons In Capricorn
Three Ominous Moons In Capricorn

"Beware the Ides of March", ancient Rome's most famous prediction, was a warning given Julius Caesar by the "haruspex" Titus Vestricius Spurinna perhaps a month before Caesar's assassination in the assembly hall of Pompey's theater where the Roman senate was meeting that day. Since a haruspex, who read the future in the innards of animals, did not normally make precisely dated predictions, the modern consensus is that Spurinna was also an astrologer.

Since we can recreate the positions of the ancient planets with greater accuracy than the ancient astrologers themselves, why did the configuration of the "stars" on the Ides of March (March 15, 44 BC) bode ill for Julius Caesar who had just been elected Roman Dictator for life?

In an insightful article, astronomer Michael Molnar reminds us that because Venus was the legendary ancestress of the Julian family, the planet Venus held special significance for Caesar who had her zodiacal house Taurus emblazoned on the shields of his favorite legion (the 10th). Molnar points out that on the ill-omened day Venus moved to within eight degrees of the sun on her way from being the morning to the evening star. According to ancient astrological lore, during this period of "combustion" by the sun, when she was invisible, Venus would be weakened. Her predicament was rendered even more dire since at the same time she was in an unlucky square aspect (90 degrees) with the malefic planet Saturn.

However ancient astrologers, like their modern counterparts, were primarily concerned with the position of a person's birth planets - planetary configurations at subsequent dates had a powerful but only transitory influence on birth planets because planets are of course nearly always on the move.

To cast an accurate horoscope astrologers need to know not only a person's birthday but also his birth time. Not even Caesar's birth year is known with certainty. We are fairly sure he was born on July 13 (or possibly July 12), the month that took his name. His birth year has been variously argued to be 100 BC, 101 BC or 102 BC. I have cast horoscopes for July 12 and July 13 of all three years and compared the alignment of their planets to March 15, 44 BC. Only one of these comparisons reveals a startling result. It requires Caesar to be born on July 13, 102 B.C.

Other arguments for Caesar's 102 BC birth date are:

Caesar was made a priest of Jupiter at the age of 16 when Marius and Cinna were consuls together in January 86 BC, therefore Caesar would have been born in 102 BC.

If he were born in 100 BC (the traditional date), he would have held each of his official ranks two years before the minimum age.

The historian Eutropus writing in the 4th century AD records that Caesar was 56 at the battle of Munda on March 17th 45 BC which again means he was born in 102 BC.

In 49 BC Caesar issued a coin with LII (52) on it. If that were a reference to his age at the time, he would have been born in 102 or 101 BC.

The 102 BC birth date for Caesar was the one favored by the great Roman historian and Nobel laureate Theodor Mommsen.



Ides of March
Inner circle: Julius Caesar 12:00 PM July 13, 102 BC Rome, Italy.
Outer circle: Ides of March (March 15) 12:00 PM 44 BC Rome, Italy

The inner circle of planets in this chart is Caesar's, the outer circle the position of the planets of the ominous Ides of March, 44 BC. The Roman historian Suetonius tells us that Caesar set out for the senate at the end of the fifth hour (at that time of year in Rome about 11.15 a.m.). It was on his way there that he had his famous exchange with the seer Spurinna. "The Ides of March have come and I am still alive," Caesar said. "Yes, they have come, but they have not yet gone," replied Spurinna. The assassination took place shortly after Caesar's arrival in the senate at about midday.

Comparing Caesar's planets with those of the fatal Ides, it is immediately obvious that the moon in both charts occupies precisely the same degree in the zodiac, 29 degrees of Capricorn. Because we do not know Caesar's birth time we do not know the precise position of his moon. The moon advances through the zodiac at about 14 degrees per day, so the position of Caesar's moon could be displaced up to 7 degrees in either direction from the median position (noon chart) that I have chosen. Even this much of a displacement would still make the Caesarian moon conjunct the moon of the Ides - planets were thought to influence each other when they were up to 10 degrees apart.

However if this was an astrologically inspired conspiracy, a precise conjunction of Caesar's moon and the moon of the Ides of March would have been favored by the conspirators' astrologers. The more precise a conjunction, the more significant it was believed to be. Therefore I assume here that the time of Caesar's death gives us the time of his birth.

Why was the moon decided on as the trigger for the evil hour? According to the astrologer Julius Firmicus Maternus, writing in the 4th century AD, the waxing moon was fortunate but the waning moon "indicates destruction for everyone". The moon of the Ides of March was in her last quarter and Caesar's moon was also waning.

Now a third moon enters Capricorn - the fortunate, waxing natal moon of Octavian, the grand nephew and adopted son of Caesar, whom history knows as Augustus. Octavian had a lifelong fascination with astrology. We know Octavian's day and time of birth (shortly before sunrise on September 23, 63 BC). It was common knowledge after his ascent to power because he published his horoscope.


Suetonius reports that when the astrologer Publius Nigidius Figulus heard at what time the infant Octavian was delivered he announced to the startled father, "The ruler of the world is now born". Shortly before Caesar's assassination Octavian, an 18-year-old cadet with the army in Apollonia, in what is now Albania, visited the astrologer Theagenes. After casting his horoscope the sage rose from his desk and threw himself at Octavian's feet. In his final will written on September 18, 45 BC, six months before his death, Caesar gave Octavian his name and most of his fortune. It is unlikely that the brilliant and ambitious teenager did not know he was the heir of the most powerful man in the world. What the stars foretold of his future relationship with Caesar would have been enormously important to him.

According to astrological lore, the fated interaction of two people can be predicted by superimposing their birth charts because this shows whether their planets interact harmoniously. If Caesar was in fact born in 102 BC, this is close to what Theagenes would have shown Octavian:


Ides of March
Inner circle: Julius Caesar 12:00 PM July 13, 102 BC Rome, Italy.
Outer circle: Octavian (later Augustus) 5:45 AM September 23, 63 BC Rome, Italy.

What immediately strikes the eye is that Caesar's moon and Octavian's moon are almost perfectly aligned (conjunct) in Capricorn. Because Apollonia was about a two day sail from Italy at that time of year, it is probable that Octavian heard the Ides of March prediction shortly after it was made - according to our sources it had been the talk of Rome since the middle of February.

Octavian would of course have been anxious how he would fare when his adoptive father's planets were accosted by the planets of the Ides of March and how this ominous configuration influenced his own destiny. So he would have made another visit to his astrologer Theagenes who would have cast a chart superimposing the planets of Caesar's birth, Octavian's own birth planets and the transiting planets of the Ides of March:



Ides of March
Inner circle: Julius Caesar 12:00 PM July 13, 102 BC Rome, Italy.
Middle circle: Octavian (later Augustus) 5:45 AM September 23, 63 BC Rome, Italy.
Outer circle: Ides of March (March 15) 12:00 PM 44 BC Rome, Italy

Because astrology originated in Mesopotamia where the moon god Sin was paramount, to the ancients a person's moon sign (the sign in which the moon was placed at his birth) was much more significant than his sun sign. Capricorn was of course Octavian's moon sign and, if I have his birth time correct, also Caesar's.

To Theagenes the alignment of the three moons in Capricorn, one of them his client's, would probably have suggested both a promise and a warning. If his colleagues in Rome were correct and Caesar was about to be struck down on the Ides, his prediction of Octavian's glorious future looked like it was going to be fulfilled which would make him one of the great astrologers of all time. No matter what the actual position of Caesar's natal moon, Octavian's natal moon was undoubtedly conjunct the moon during the evil hour of the assassination which clearly implicated him in the astrology of the conspiracy. We can be sure Theagenes advised his young client to take the famous warning seriously.

The central mystery of the Ides of March prediction is why Caesar ignored it. As a master of intelligence gathering he must have known of a plot that involved so many loose lips. According to Suetonius his health was failing (apparently due to a degenerative case of temporal-lobe epilepsy). He told his friends and family he did not wish to live much longer. Perhaps he was searching for an honorable way out of his military campaign against the Persians for which he was scheduled to depart in three days' time (March 18, 44 BC). What more glorious and strategic a death than one that would outlaw his rivals for defiling the sanctity of the senate and therefore ensure the success of his bloodline?

augustus coins

The man who became Augustus struck millions of coins, many of which have survived, that depict his head on one side and his fortunate moon sign Capricorn on the other. They trumpet a successful prediction that inspired the triumph of astrology in the early Roman empire.

FURTHER READING

Michael Molnar, The Ides of March, The Celator, Vol. 8, no.11 Nov. 1994, p 6.
Michael Molnar, The Star of Bethlehem, Rutgers University Press, 1999.
Tamsyn Barton, Augustus and Capricorn, Journal of Roman Studies 85 (1995) pp. 33-51
Frederick Cramer, Astrology in Roman Law and Politics, American Philosophical Society, 1954.
James Herschel Holden, A History of Horoscopic Astrology, Hoover's 1996.

Humphry Knipe is author of The Nero Prediction, Process, 2005.
humknipe@gmail.com

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