Posts tagged Julius Caesar

Happy Tyrannicide Day (observed)

Happy Tyrannicide Day (observed)! To-day, March 15th, commemorates the assassination of two notorious tyrants. On the Ides of March in 2014 CE, we mark the 2,057 anniversary — give or take the relevant calendar adjustments — of the death of Gaius Julius Caesar, ruthless usurper, war-monger, slaver and military dictator, who rose to power in the midst of Rome’s most violent civil wars, who boasted of butchering and enslaving two million Gauls, who set fire to Alexandria, who battered and broke through every remaining restraint that Roman politics and civil society had against unilateral military and executive power. Driving his enemies before him in triumphs, having himself proclaimed Father of His Country, dictator perpetuo, censor, supreme pontiff, imperator, the King of Rome in all but name, taking unilateral command of all political power in Rome and having his images placed among the statues of the kings of old and even the gods themselves, he met his fate at the hands of a group of republican conspirators. Led by Marcus Junius Brutus and Gaius Cassius Longinus, calling themselves the Liberators, on March 15, 44 BCE they surrounded Caesar and ended his reign of terror by stabbing him to death on the floor of the Senate.

Here's a painting of

Die Ermordung Cäsars, Karl von Piloty (1865)

By a coincidence of fate, March 13th, only two days before, also marks the anniversary (the 133rd this year) of the assassination of Alexander II Nikolaevitch Romanov, the self-styled Imperator, Caesar and Autocrat of All the Russias. A group of Narodnik conspirators, acting in self-defense against ongoing repression and violence that they faced at the hands of the autocratic state, put an end to the Czar’s reign by throwing grenades underneath his carriage on March 13th, 1881 CE, in an act of propaganda by the deed.

Here's a color drawing of

Das Attentat auf Zar Alexander II. am 13. März 1881 in St. Petersburg. Anonymous.

In honor of the coinciding events, the Ministry of Culture in this secessionist republic of one, together with fellow republics and federations of the free world, is happy to proclaim the 15th of March Tyrannicide Day (observed), a commemoration of the death of two tyrants at the hands of their enraged equals, people rising up to defend themselves even against the violence and oppression exercised by men wrapped in the bloody cloak of the State, with the sword of the Law and in the name of their fraudulent claims to higher authority. It’s a two-for-one historical holiday, kind of like President’s Day, except cooler: instead of another dull theo-nationalist hymn on the miraculous birth of two of the canonized saints of the United States federal government, we have instead one day on which we can honor the memory, and note the cultural celebrations, of men and women who defied tyrants’ arbitrary claims to an unchecked power that they had neither the wisdom, the virtue, nor the right to wield against their fellow creatures.

Here's a photo of a silver coin with the caption EID MAR. Above the caption are two daggers, flanking a Liberty Cap to the left and the right.

My favorite collectible coin. This silver denarius was actually minted and circulated in Macedonia by M. Junius Brutus after he and his fellow conspirators stabbed Caesar to death. The obverse features Brutus’s head in profile. The thing in the middle, above EID MAR (Ides of March) and flanked by the two daggers, is a Liberty Cap, traditionally given to emancipated slaves on the day of their freedom.

It is worth remembering in these days that the State has always tried to pass off attacks against its own commanding and military forces (Czars, Kings, soldiers in the field, etc.) as acts of terrorism. That is, in fact, what almost every so-called act of terrorism attributed to 19th century anarchists happened to be: direct attacks on the commanders of the State’s repressive forces. The linguistic bait-and-switch is a way of trying to get moral sympathy on the cheap, in which the combat deaths of trained fighters and commanders are fraudulently passed off, by a professionalized armed faction sanctimoniously playing the victim, as if they were just so many innocent bystanders killed out of the blue. Tyrannicide Day is a day to expose this for the cynical lie that it is.

There are in fact lots of good reasons to set aside tyrannicide as a political tactic — after all, these two famous cases each ended a tyrant but not the tyrannical regime; Alexander II was replaced by the even more brutal Alexander III, and Julius Caesar was replaced by his former running-dogs, one of whom would emerge from the carnage that followed as Imperator Gaius Julius Son-of-God Caesar Octavianus Augustus, beginning the long Imperial nightmare in earnest. But it’s important to recognize that these are strategic failures, not moral ones; what should be celebrated on the Ides of March is not the tyrannicide as a strategy, but rather tyrannicide as a moral fact. Putting a diadem on your head and wrapping yourself in the blood-dyed robes of the State confers neither the virtue, the knowledge, nor the right to rule over anyone, anywhere, for even one second, any more than you had naked and alone. Tyranny is nothing more and nothing less than organized crime executed with a pompous sense of entitlement and a specious justification; the right to self-defense applies every bit as much against the person of some self-proclaimed sovereign as it does against any other two-bit punk who might attack you on the street.

Every victory for human liberation in history — whether against the crowned heads of Europe, the cannibal-empires of modern Fascism and Bolshevism, or the age-old self-perpetuating oligarchies of race and sex — has had these moral insights at its core: the moral right to deal with the princes and potentates of the world as nothing more and nothing less than fellow human beings, to address them as such, to challenge them as such, and — if necessary — to resist them as such.

How did you celebrate Tyrannicide Day? (Personally, I toasted the event at home, watched the Season 1 finale of Rome, posted some special-occasion cultural artifacts to Facebook, and re-read Plutarch’s Life of Brutus from a nice little Loeb edition that I picked up from Jackson Street Books in Athens, Georgia.) And you? Done anything online or off for this festive season? Give a shout-out in the comments.

Toasting the Ides at home…

Thus always to tyrants. And many happy returns!

Beware the State. Celebrate the Ides of March!

Happy Tyrannicide Day (observed)!

Here's a Tyrannicide Day logo, with a cartoon silhouette of a T. rex with a crown on its head and an asteroid hurtling at it from the sky, with the slogan SIC SEMPER TYRANNIS printed on top.

Happy Tyrannicide Day (observed)!

Today, March 15th, commemorates the assassination of two notorious tyrants. On the Ides of March in 2010 CE, we mark the 2,053rd anniversary — give or take the relevant calendar adjustments — of the striking down of Gaius Julius Caesar — the military dictator who rose to power by butchering his way through Gaul, by boasting of enslaving millions of war captives, by setting fire to Alexandria, and, through years of conquest, perfidy and proscription, battering and breaking through every restraint that Roman politics and civil society had placed in the way of unilateral military and executive power — until he finally had himself proclaimed dictator perpetuus, the King of Rome in everything but name. On March 15th, 44 BCE, a group of republican conspirators, naming themselves the Liberators — rose up and ended his reign of terror by stabbing Caesar to death on the floor of the Senate. By the coincidence of fate, only two days before, on March 13th, is also the anniversary (129th this year, give or take the relevant calendar adjustments) of the assassination of Czar Alexander II Nikolaevitch, the self-styled Caesar and Autocrat of All the Russias. A group of anarchist conspirators, acting in self-defense against the ongoing repression and violence of the autocratic state, put an end to the Czar’s reign by throwing grenades underneath his carriage on March 13th, 1881 CE, in an act of propaganda by the deed. In honor of the coinciding events, the Ministry of Culture in this secessionist republic of one, together with fellow republics and federations of the free world, is happy to proclaim the 15th of March Tyrannicide Day (observed), a commemoration of the death of two tyrants at the hands of people rising up in the conviction of their own equal freedom to defend themselves from violence and oppression, even the violence and oppression exercised by men in the name of the State and its fraudulent claims to authority. It’s a two-for-one historical holiday, kind of like President’s Day, except cooler: instead of another dull theo-nationalist hymn on the miraculous births of two of the canonized saints of the United States federal government, Tyrannicide Day gives us one day in which we can commemorate the deaths of two tyrants at the hands of their equals — men and women who defied the tyrants’ arbitrary claims to an unchecked authority that they had neither the wisdom, the virtue, nor the right to exercise. Men and women who saw themselves as exercising their equal right of self-defense, by striking down the would-be tyrants just like they would be entitled to strike down any other two-bit thug who tried to kill them, enslave them, or shake them down.

It is worth remembering in these days that the State has always tried to pass off attacks against its own commanding and military forces (Czars, Kings, soldiers in the field, etc.) as acts of terrorism. That is, in fact, what almost every so-called act of terrorism attributed to 19th century anarchists happened to be: direct attacks on the commanders of the State’s repressive forces. The linguistic bait-and-switch is a way of trying to get moral sympathy on the cheap, in which the combat deaths of trained fighters and commanders are fraudulently passed off, by a professionalized armed faction sanctimoniously playing the victim, as if they were just so many innocent bystanders killed out of the blue. Tyrannicide Day is a day to expose this for the cynical lie that it is.

There are in fact lots of good reasons to rule out tyrannicide as a political tactic — after all, these two famous cases each ended a tyrant but not the tyrannical regime; Alexander II was replaced by the even more brutal Alexander III, and Julius Caesar was replaced by his former running-dogs, one of whom would emerge from the abattoir that followed as Augustus Caesar, to begin the long Imperial nightmare in earnest. But it’s important to recognize that these are strategic failures, not moral ones; what should be celebrated on the Ides of March is not the tyrannicide as a strategy, but rather tyrannicide as a moral fact. Putting a diadem on your head and wrapping yourself in the blood-dyed robes of the State confers neither the virtue, the knowledge, nor the right to rule over anyone, anywhere, for even one second, any more than you had naked and alone. Tyranny is nothing more and nothing less than organized crime executed with a pompous sense of entitlement and a specious justification; the right to self-defense applies every bit as much against the person of some self-proclaimed sovereign as it does against any other two-bit punk who might attack you on the street.

Every victory for human liberation in history — whether against the crowned heads of Europe, the cannibal-empires of modern Fascism and Bolshevism, or the age-old self-perpetuating oligarchies of race and sex — has had these moral insights at its core: the moral right to deal with the princes and potentates of the world as nothing more and nothing less than fellow human beings, to address them as such, to challenge them as such, and — if necessary — to resist them as such.

How did you celebrate Tyrannicide Day? (Personally, I got back into town from San Francisco, got down to sorting my books from the Bay Area Anarchist Bookfair, and gave my wife a Tyrannicide Day gift that I picked up for her while I was out — a copy of the The Tragic Procession: Alexander Berkman and Russian Prisoner Aid, just barely cooled from the presses from the Kate Sharpley Library.) And you? Done anything online or off for this festive season? Give a shout-out in the comments.

Thus always to tyrants. And many happy returns!

Beware the State. Celebrate the Ides of March!

Other Celebrations

See also:

T-shirt: Celebrate Tyrannicide Day

Tyrannicide Day 2008

Happy Tyrannicide Day (observed)!

Today, March 15th, commemorates the assassination of two tyrants. Today is the 2,051st anniversary — give or take the relevant calendar adjustments — of the death of Gaius Julius Caesar, the military dictator who butchered his way through Gaul, set fire to Alexandria, and, through years of conquest, perfidy, and proscription, battered and broke every barricade that republican institutions had put in the way of military and executive power, until he finally had himself proclaimed dictator perpetuus, the King of Rome in everything but name. On March 15th, 44 BCE, a group of republican conspirators, naming themselves the Liberatores, rose up and stabbed Caesar to death on the floor of the Senate. Meanwhile, Thursday, March 13th, was also the 127th anniversary (give or take the relevant calendar adjustments), of the death of Czar Alexander II Nikolaevitch, the self-styled Caesar of all the Russias. Alexander was killed by grenades thrown by a group of anarchist conspirators on March 13th, 1881 C.E., in an act of propaganda by the deed. In honor of the events, the Ministry of Culture in this secessionist republic of one has proclaimed March 15th Tyrannicide Day (observed), which is kind of like President’s Day, except cooler. Instead of another dull theo-nationalist hymn on the miraculous births of two of the canonized saints of the United States federal government, Tyrannicide Day gives us one day in which we can commemorate the deaths of two tyrants at the hands of their equals — men and women who defied the tyrants’ arbitrary claims to an unchecked authority that they had neither the wisdom, the virtue, nor the right to exercise. Men and women who saw themselves as exercising their equal right of self-defense, by striking down the would-be tyrants just like they would be entitled to strike down any other two-bit thug who tried to kill them, enslave them, or shake them down.

It is worth remembering in these days that the State has always tried to pass off attacks against its own commanding and military forces (Czars, Kings, soldiers in the field, etc.) as acts of terrorism. That is, in fact, what almost every so-called act of terrorism attributed to 19th century anarchists happened to be: direct attacks on the commanders of the State’s repressive forces. The linguistic bait-and-switch is a way of trying to get moral sympathy on the cheap, in which the combat deaths of trained fighters and commanders are fraudulently passed off, by a professionalized armed faction sanctimoniously playing the victim, as if they were just so many innocent bystanders killed out of the blue. Tyrannicide Day is a day to expose this for the cynical lie that it is. As many reasons as there are to criticize the strategy behind the assassinations of Czars, Princes, and Dictators Perpetual, the fact that the brutal absolute monarch of a monster State lay dead at the end is not among them.

There are in fact lots of good reasons to rule out tyrannicide as a political tactic — after all, these two famous cases each ended a tyrant but not the tyrannical regime; Alexander II was replaced by the even more brutal Alexander III, and Julius Caesar was replaced by his former running-dogs, one of whom would emerge from the abattoir that followed as Augustus Caesar, to begin the long Imperial nightmare in earnest. But it’s important to recognize that these are strategic failures, not moral ones, and what should be celebrated on the Ides of March is not the tyrannicide as a strategy, but rather tyrannicide as a moral fact. Putting a diadem on your head and wrapping yourself in the blood-dyed robes of the State confers neither the virtue, the knowledge, nor the right to rule over anyone, anywhere, for even one second, any more than you had naked and alone. Tyranny is nothing more and nothing less than organized crime executed with a pompous sense of entitlement and a specious justification; the right to self-defense applies every bit as much against the person of some self-proclaimed sovereign as it does against any other two-bit punk who might attack you on the street.

Every victory for human liberation in history — whether against the crowned heads of Europe, the cannibal-empires of modern Fascism and Bolshevism, or the age-old self-perpetuating oligarchies of race and sex — has had these moral insights at its core: the moral right to deal with the princes and potentates of the world as nothing more and nothing less than fellow human beings, to address them as such, to challenge them as such, and — if necessary — to resist them as such.

I have been informed that March 15th is also commemorated as the International Day Against Police Brutality. Make of that what you will; what the Ministry of Culture will make of it is an excellent opportunity for a program of commemorative song.

Our first piece is a skolion for the Athenian lovers Aristogeiton and Harmodius, who assassinated the tyrant Hipparchus in 514 BCE, using swords they had concealed in ceremonial myrtle wreaths. In the Athenian democracy, the couple were celebrated as martyrs for liberty, and often remembered in hymns and songs sung before banquets. This is Edgar Allan Poe’s 1827 translation of the most famous surviving Hymn to Aristogeiton and Harmodius; feel free to sing it at your Tyrannicide Day holiday dinner:

Wreathed in myrtle, my sword I’ll conceal
Like those champions devoted and brave,
When they plunged in the tyrant their steel,
And to Athens deliverance gave.

Beloved heroes! your deathless souls roam
In the joy breathing isles of the blest;
Where the mighty of old have their home
Where Achilles and Diomed rest

In fresh myrtle my blade I’ll entwine,
Like Harmodius, the gallant and good,
When he made at the tutelar shrine
A libation of Tyranny’s blood.

Ye deliverers of Athens from shame!
Ye avengers of Liberty’s wrongs!
Endless ages shall cherish your fame,
Embalmed in their echoing songs!

— Hymn to Aristogeiton and Harmodius, trans. Edgar Allan Poe (1827)

Our second piece, in honor of the combined occasions for the day, is one of the most famous outlaw corridos from the south Texas borderlands, The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez, a cowboy and small-time farmer in Karnes County, Texas, who became a legal cause celebre, and a folk hero for many Tejan@s, after he fought back against a racist sheriff in June 1901. Sheriff W. T. Brack Morris was interrogating Cortez and his brother, and accused them of horse-thieving — based on nothing more than the fact that they did have a horse, and Cortez met the description of the suspect in a recent horse-theft — a suspect who had been described only as a middle-sized Mexican. Morris tried to arrest Cortez; Cortez told him off, and said that Morris had no reason to arrest him. The deputy who was translating mistakenly claimed that Cortez had said No white man can arrest me; that was enough for Morris, who pulled his gun and shot down Cortez’s brother. Cortez fired back, killing Morris, and then fled across the state on foot. He managed to elude capture for ten days, repeatedly making daring and close escapes when surrounded and outnumbered by sheriffs, posses, and the rinches (Texas Rangers). The cops threw his wife, his mother, and his children into jail. Anglo papers called for him to be lynched, and Anglo mobs rioted against Latin@s in Gonzales, Refugio, and Hayes counties. After Cortez was finally captured and put on trial for murder, his supporters organized legal defense campaigns, arguing that Cortez had killed only in to defend himself and his family; eventually they got all but one of the murder convictions reversed on appeal. In 1913, they convinced governor Oscar Colquitt to grant Cortez a conditional pardon. Meanwhile, his fame spread in the countryside through this ballad.

Like all corridos, there as many different versions of Gregorio Cortez as there are performances of it. This version is stitched together from my favorite parts of some of the several variants transcribed by Américo Paredes; cf., for example 1, 2, 3.

Gregorio Cortez

Traditional (1900s–1920s).

En el condado de El Carmen
miren lo que ha sucedido,
murió el Cherife Mayor
quedando Román herido.

Se anduvieron informando
como media hora después
supieron que el malhechor
era Gregorio Cortez.

Decía Gregorio Cortez
Con su pistola en la mano:
—No siento haberlo matado,
lo que siento es a mi hermano.—

Soltaron los perroes jaunes
pa’ que siguieran la huella,
pero alcanzar a Cortez
era seguir a una estrella.

Tiró con rumbo a Gonzales
sin ninguna timidez:
—Síganme, rinches cobardes,
yo soy Gregorio Cortez.—

Y en el condado del Kiansis
lo llegaron a alcanzar
y a pocos más de trescientos
allí les brincó el corral.

Decía Gregorio Cortez,
con pistola en la mano:
—¡Ay, cuánto rinche cobarde
para un solo mexicano!—

Cuando les brincó el corral,
según lo que aquí se dice,
se agarraron a balazos
y les mató otro cherife.

Decían Gregorio Cortez
con su alma muy encendida:
—No siento haberlo matado,
la defensa es permitida.

Salió Gregorio Cortez,
salió con rumbo a Laredo,
no lo quisieron seguir
porque le tuvieron miedo.

Decían Gregorio Cortez:
¿Pa’ qué se valen de planes?
No me pueden agarrar
ni con esos perros juanes.

Decían los americanos:
—Si lo alcanzamos ¿qué hacemos?
Si le entramos por derecho
muy poquitos volveremos.—

Allá por El Encinal,
Según lo que aquí se dice,
le formaron un corral
y les mató otro Cherife.

Ya se encontró a una mexicana,
le dice con altivez:
—Platícame qué hay de nuevo,
yo so Gregorio Cortez.

—Dicen que por culpa mía
han matado mucha gente,
pues ya me voy a entregar
porque eso no es conveniente.—

Venían todos los rinches,
por el viento volaban,
porque se querían ganar
diez mil pesos que les daban.

Cuando rodearon la casa
Cortez se les presentó:
—Por la buena sí me llevan
porque de otro modo no.

Deciá el Cherife Mayor,
como queriendo llorar:
—Cortez, entrega tus armas,
no te vamos a matar.—

Decía Gregorio Cortez,
gritaba en alta voz:
—Mis armas no las entrego
hasta estar en calaboz’.—

Ya agarraron a Cortez,
ya terminó la cuestión,
la probre de su familia
lo lleva en el corazón.

Ya con ésta me despido
a la sombra de un ciprés;
aquí se acaba el corrido
de don Gregorio Cortez.

Gregorio Cortez

Trans. (2008) Charles Johnson.

In the county of El Carmen,
Look what’s gone down
The Big Ol’ Sheriff is dead,
Leaving Roman dying on the ground.

They walked around asking questions
and in half an hour or so
they found out the man who did it
was Gregorio Cortez.

And so said Gregorio Cortez,
with his pistol in his hand,
I don’t feel sorry that I killed him;
what I feel sorry about is my brother.

They unleashed the hound dogs,
to follow on his trail,
but chasing after Cortez
was like following a star.

He tore off down toward Gonzales
Not timid in the least;
Come after me, cowardly rinches;
I am Gregorio Cortez.

And in the county of Kiansis,
They showed up to try and grab him,
A bit more than three hundred
There, and he jumped out of their corral.

And so said Gregorio Cortez,
With his pistol in his hand:
Man, look how many cowardly rinches
For just one Mexican!

But when he jumped the corral,
What they say around here is,
The bullets started flying,
And he killed them another sheriff.

And so said Gregorio Cortez,
With his soul burning bright,
I don’t feel sorry that I killed him.
A man’s got a right to defend his life.

Then Gregorio Cortez got away,
got away down the way to Laredo;
they wouldn’t have wanted to follow,
Now he had them scared to.

And so said Gregorio Cortez:
What’s the good of your plots?
You can’t get your hands on me,
Not even with those hound dogs.

And so said the Americanos:
If we catch up to him, what can we do?
If we go after him in a straight-up fight,
There won’t be many coming back.

Out there by El Encinal,
What they say around here is,
They got him in another corral
And he killed them another sheriff.

Then he met another Mexican,
And he said with some arrogance,
What’s the news? Tell me—
I am Gregorio Cortez.

They say that because of me,
They’re killing lots of folks
So now I’ll turn myself in,
because that ain’t fit at all.

Down came all the rinches,
Flying through the wind,
Because they wanted to get ahold of
Ten thousand pesos like they were offered.

When they surrounded his house
Cortez showed himself to say:
You’ll take me in by my own will,
And not any other way.

And so said the Big Ol’ Sheriff,
like he was about to cry:
Cortez, hand over your guns,
and you won’t have to die.

And so said Gregorio Cortez,
With a great big yell,
I’m not handing my guns over
Until you’ve locked me in my cell.

And so they took in Cortez,
And that’s where it came to an end.
His poor family
Carry him in their hearts.

And with that I’ll say my goodbye
In the shade under a cypress;
Here I’ll finish off the ballad
Of Don Gregorio Cortez.

Thus always to tyrants. Beware the State. Celebrate the Ides of March!

Further reading:

T-shirt: Celebrate Tyrannicide Day

Refuge of Oppression #2

Here’s a recent correspondence from a friend of human greatness, apparently in response to my celebrations of Tyrannicide Day on the Ides of March. Here’s what he has to say on behalf of the man who publicly boasted of killing or enslaving one third of the population of Gaul:

From: Paul
Date: 9 April 2007 4:44 AM
Subject: How dare you…

(((This message was submitted by Paul [e-mail address redacted] using the online contact form)))

Just who do you think you are, berating such a man as Caesar? Caesar was a man greater than any of us could ever hope to be, and the anniversary of his murder is a date to be mourned, not celebrated. Of course, most people are so blinded by Shakespeare’s interpretation of Caesar that they can’t even see his greatness. Caesar fought for Rome, and only for Rome; he was kind to those that surrendered, forceful to those that resisted, and vengeful to those that betrayed. What do you expect? Do you expect anyone to simply sit back at swallow betrayal after betrayal with no retaliation? Do you expect anyone of that time to allow Rome’s enemies to threaten Rome and her protected peoples? Do you expect anyone to stand quietly while he is stripped of the power he earned? Pompey and the Senate, despite Caesar’s numerous efforts for peace, forced his hand by not allowing him, a man who had done so much for Rome, to even return to the city. I would have done no differently, and anyone who would has no self-respect and is a doormat. Caesar, in all his greatness, fit neither of these criteria and fought to defend his rights and to secure that which was due him.

Oh, and while I’m at it, I suppose I’ll mention that the Crimean War was a defensive war on Russia’s part; Britain and France landed their troops on the Crimean Peninsula, Russian territory, and Alexander simply tried to fend them off. Czar Alexander may not have been the greatest leader, but don’t bust him on the Crimean War.

—Paul

I would like to say that I am very sorry to the absolutist emperors and military dictators-for-life of the world for any unfair berating that I may have directed against them in the course of my infamous scribbling against my betters. I wouldn’t want anyone to think that I am blinded against the greatness of those who so clearly excel at slaughtering, terrorizing, and dominating their fellow human beings.

Paul asked several questions in the course of his message. The answers to them, as I see it, are, in order: abdication, it depends on what you mean, yes, and I most certainly do.

Further reading:

Tyrannicide Day 2007

Happy Tyrannicide Day (observed)!

Today, March 15th, commemorates the assassination of two tyrants. Gaius Julius Caesar, the butcher of Gaul and the dictator-for-life who had conquered, burned, and proscribed his way to becoming the King of Rome in everything but name, was stabbed to death on the floor of the Senate, by a group of republican conspirators known as the Liberatores, on March 15th, 44 BCE (2,050 years ago today, give or take the relevant calendar adjustments). Czar Alexander II Nikolaevitch, the self-styled Caesar of all the Russias, died in an explosion set off as an act of propaganda by the deed by a group of anarchist conspirators on March 13th, 1881 CE (126 years ago Tuesday, give or take the relevant calendar adjustments).

There are lots of reasons to avoid tyrannicide as a political tactic — after all, these two famous cases each ended a tyrant but not the tyrannical regime; Alexander II was replaced by the even more brutal Alexander III, and Julius Caesar was replaced by his former running-dogs, one of whom would emerge from the abattoir that followed as Augustus Caesar, to begin the long Imperial nightmare in earnest. But it’s important to recognize that these are strategic failures, not moral ones, and what should be celebrated on the Ides of March is not the tyrannicide as a strategy, but rather tyrannicide as a moral fact. Putting a diadem on your head and wrapping yourself in the blood-dyed robes of the State confers neither the virtue, the knowledge, nor the right to rule over anyone, anywhere, for even one second, any more than you had naked and alone. Tyranny is nothing more and nothing less than organized crime executed with a pompous sense of entitlement and a specious justification; the right to self-defense applies every bit as much against the person of some self-proclaimed sovereign as it does against any other two-bit punk who might attack you on the street. Every victory for human liberation in history — whether against the crowned heads of Europe, the cannibal-empires of modern Fascism and Bolshevism, or the age-old self-perpetuating oligarchies of race and sex — has had this insight at its core: the moral right to deal with the princes and potentates of the world as nothing more and nothing less than fellow human beings, to address them as such, to challenge them as such, and — if necessary — to resist them as such.

In honor of the event, the Ministry of Culture of this secessionist republic of one would like to offer a commemorative reading. This is from Act IV, Scene III of Friedrich von Schiller’s play Wilhelm Tell (1805). According to the legends from which Schiller drew his story, in 1307 William Tell, a renowned archer and patriot from the canton of Uri, assassinated Gessler, the brutal governor who ruled the canton on behalf of the Holy Roman Emperor in Austria. The assassination sparked an uprising in which the people of Uri and the surrounding cantons tore down the Hapsburg forts, and drove the Austrian forces out of what then became the free and independent Swiss Confederacy. How far the legends reflect historical events and how far they are inventions of early modern Swiss nationalists is a matter of debate; but if true, they record one of the most successful tyrannicides known to history.

(GESSLER and RUDOLF DER HARRAS on horseback.)

GESSLER: Say, what you will, I am the Emp’ror’s servant And must give thought, to how I best can please him. He hath not sent me to this land, to flatter The people and be soft to them — He wants Obedience, the issue is, shall farmers Be master in the land or shall the Emp’ror.

ARMGARD: Now is the moment! Now I’ll bring it up!

(Approaches timidly.)

GESSLER: I have not had the hat put up as jest In Altorf, nor was it to test the hearts O’ th’ people, these I’ve known for quite some time. I have had it put up, that they might learn To bend their necks to me, which they hold high — I had the inconvenient thing set up Upon their path, where they would have to pass, That they would meet it with their eyes, and it Would bring to mind their lord, whom they forget.

RUDOLF DER HARRAS: And yet the people do have certain rights —

GESSLER: To ponder these, there is just now no time! — Far reaching projects are at work and growing, The Imperial house would grow, and what the father Hath gloriously begun, the son will end. This little people is to us a stone I’ th’ way — this way or that, they must submit.

(They want to pass on. The woman throws herself down before the GOVERNOR.)

ARMGARD: Kind-heartedness, Lord Governor! Mercy! Mercy!

GESSLER: Why stand you on the public highway in My way — Stand back!

ARMGARD: My husband lies in prison, The wretched orphans cry for bread — Have pity, Severest Lord, on our great misery.

RUDOLF DER HARRAS: Who are you? And who is your man?

ARMGARD: A poor Wild hay man, gracious Lord, from Rigiberg, Who over the abyss mows down the grass Which freely grows from jagged rocky walls, To which the cattle do not dare to climb —

RUDOLF DER HARRAS (to the GOVERNOR): By God, a miserable and wretched life! I beg you, set him free, the wretched man, However heavy his offense may be, His ghastly trade is punishment enough.

(To the woman.)

You shall have justice — Yonder in the castle Bring your petition — Here is not the place.

ARMGARD: No, no I will not budge from out this place, Until the Gov’rnor hath returned my husband! Six months already lies he in the tower And waits the sentence of the judge in vain.

GESSLER: Woman, would you use force with me, away.

ARMGARD: I ask for justice, Gov’rner! Thou art judge I’ th’ country in the Emp’ror’s stead and God’s. Perform thy duty! As thou hop’st for justice Yourself from Heaven, so show it to us.

GESSLER: Hence, drive this brazen people from mine eyes.

ARMGARD (Seizes the reins of his horse.): No, no, there’s nothing more for me to lose. — Thou com’st not, Gov’rnor from this place, ‘til thou Hast rendered justice to me — Knit thy brows, And roll thine eyes, just as thou wilt — We are In such unbounded misery, that we Care not about thine anger —

GESSLER: Woman, hence, Or else my horse will trample over thee.

ARMGARD: So let it trample over me — there —

*(She pulls her children to the ground and throws herself with them in his way.) *

Here I lie With all my children — Let the wretched orphans Be trodden under by thy horses’ hooves, It will not be the worst, that thou hast done

RUDOLF DER HARRAS: Woman, are you mad?

ARMGARD (vehemently continuing): Thou hast for some time Trampled the Emperor’s land beneath thy feet! — O I am but a woman! Were I man, I would know something better, than to lie Here in the dust —

(He hears the previous music again upon the crest of the way, but muffled.)

GESSLER: Where are my servants? Have them carry her away from here, or I’ll Forget myself and do what I will rue.

RUDOLF DER HARRAS: The servants can not pass therethrough, O Lord, The hollow way is blocked up by a marriage.

GESSLER: An all too gentle ruler am I to This people still — their tongues are still. too free, They have not yet been tamed, as they should be — Yet this shall all be changed, I promise it, I will yet break this stubborn mood of theirs, The brazen spirit of freedom I will bend. Throughout these canton lands I’ll promulgate A new decree — I will —

(An arrow pierces through him, he puts his hand on his heart and starts to fall. With feeble voice.)

God grant me mercy!

RUDOLF DER HARRAS: Lord God what is this? Whither came it?

ARMGARD (starting up): Murder! Murder! He totters, sinks! He’s hit!

The arrow’s hit the center of his heart!

RUDOLF DER HARRAS (springs from his horse): What horrible occurrence — God — Lord knight — Call on the mercy of your God — For you Are now a man of death —

GESSLER: That is Tell’s shot

(Is slid down from his horse into the arms of RUDOLF DER HARRAS and is laid upon the bench.)

TELL (appears above on the top of the rocks): Thou ken’st the archer, seek not for another! Free are our huts, the innocent are safe ‘Fore thee, thou wilt no longer harm the land.

(Disappears from the heights.)

(People rush in.)

STUSSI (in front): What is the matter? What hath happened here?

ARMGARD: The Gov’rnor hath been shot through by an arrow.

PEOPLE (rushing in): Who hath been shot?

(Meanwhile the foremost of the wedding train come on the stage, the hindmost are still on the heights, and the music continues.)

RUDOLF DER HARRAS: He’s bleeding fast to death. Go forth, get help! Pursue the murderer! — Unhappy man, so must it end with thee, And yet thou would’st not listen to my warning!

STUSSI: By God! here lies he pale and without life!

MANY VOICES: Who’s done the deed?

RUDOLF DER HARRAS: Hath madness seized these people, That they make music for a murder? Silence.

(Music suddenly breaks off, still more people come in.)

Lord Gov’rnor, speak now, if you can — Have you No more to trust to me?

(Gessler gives a sign with his hand, which he repeats with vehemence, when it is not understood at once.)

Where shall I go? — To Kussnacht? — I can’t understand you — O Be not impatient — Leave all thought of earth, Think now, to reconcile yourself with Heaven.

(The whole marriage party stands around the dying man with an unfeeling horror.)

STUSSI: Behold, how pale he grows — Now enters death Into his heart — his eyes have now grown dim.

ARMGARD (lifts up a child): See, children, how a maniac expires!

RUDOLF DER HARRAS: O insane women, have you then no feeling, That you must feast your eyes upon his horror? — Help — Lend your hand — Will no one stand by me, To draw the painful arrow from his breast?

WOMEN (step back): We touch the man, whom God himself hath struck!

RUDOLF DER HARRAS: Curse on you and damnation!

(Draws his sword.)

STUSSI (seizes him by the arm): Dare it, Lord! Your rule is at an end. The tyrant of The country is now fallen. We’ll endure No further violence. We are free men.

ALL (tumultuously): The land is free.

RUDOLF DER HARRAS: And is it come to this? Fear and obedience so quickly end? (To the men in arms, who are thronging in.) You see the horrifying act of murder, The which hath happened here help is in vain — ‘Tis useless, to pursue the murderer. We’re pressed by other worries — On, to Kussnacht, That we may save the Emp’ror’s fortresses! For in this moment are dissolved alike All bonds of order and all ties of duty, And no man’s loyalty is to be trusted.

(Whilst he exits with the men in arms, six BROTHERS OF MERCY appear.)

ARMGARD: Make room! Make room! Here come the Brothers o’ Mercy.

STUSSI: The victim lies — The ravens now descend.

BROTHERS OF MERCY (form a half-circle around the dead man and sing in deep tones): With hasty step death comes to man, It hath no respite to him given, It strikes him midway in his span, Forth from life’s fullness is he driven, If he’s prepared or not, to die, He must stand ‘fore his Judge on high!

(Whilst the last lines are repeated, the curtain falls.)

— Friedrich von Schiller (1805): Wilhelm Tell, translated by William F. Wertz, Jr.

Thus always to tyrants. Beware the State; celebrate the Ides of March!

Past celebrations