The Ides of March (novel)

The Ides of March is an epistolary novel by Thornton Wilder that was published in 1948. It is, in the author's words, 'a fantasia on certain events and persons of the last days of the Roman republic. Historical reconstruction is not among the primary aims of this work'. The novel deals with the characters and events leading to, and culminating in, the assassination of Julius Caesar.

The Ides of March
First edition
AuthorThornton Wilder
CountryUnited States
SubjectJulius Caesar
GenreHistorical fiction
PublisherHarper & Brothers
Publication date
February 18, 1948[1]
Media typePrint (hardcover)
Pages246 pp
LC ClassPZ3.W6468 Id


The novel is divided into four books, each of which starts earlier and ends later than the previous book. Catullus' poems and the closing section by Suetonius are the only documents of the book which are not imagined; however, many of the events are historical, such as Cleopatra's visit to Rome.

Though the novel describes events leading up to Caesar's assassination on 15 March 44 BC, a number of earlier events are described as if they were contemporary. Thus, the violation of the Bona Dea mysteries by Publius Clodius Pulcher, Caesar's subsequent divorce of his second wife Pompeia, and the circulation of two poems by Catullus suggesting that Caesar and his engineer, Mamurra, were lovers (and Catallus's subsequent apology) are transposed from December 62 BC to December 45 BC. In addition, many of the characters depicted as living in the novel were actually dead by 44 BC, including M. Porcius Cato (in 46 BC), Catullus (in c. 54 BC), Julia (in 69 BC) and Clodius (in 52 BC).

Major characters

Note that names, relationships, and events are described as they occur in the novel, and are not necessarily historically accurate.

  • Julius Caesar, ruler of Rome
  • Lucius Mamilius Turrinus, a friend of Caesar's, now living in retirement; various characters write to him but he never replies.
  • Clodia Pulcher, an extremely angry, intelligent and fascinating woman; the ridicule of Roman society, she lives a life of scandal.
  • Publius Clodius Pulcher, her brigand brother; he plays only a minor role.
  • Cicero, an orator, statesman, political theorist, lawyer and philosopher
  • Julia Marcia, Caesar's aunt.
  • Pompeia, Caesar's second wife.
  • Cornelius Nepos, a biographer and historian.
  • Catullus, a poet who was in love with Clodia. The poems of Catullus included in the novel are the actual poems, although some are offered in Wilder's own translation.
  • Cleopatra, queen of Egypt and mistress of Caesar.
  • Cytheris, an actress of common birth, greatly admired by Caesar; she 'remade' Marc Anthony and was his lover for 15 years.
  • Marc Antony, initially the lover of Cytheris, he meets and falls in love with Cleopatra over the course of the novel.
  • Marcus Porcius Cato, renowned Stoic of famous integrity, leader of opposition to Caesar's dictatorship
  • Servilia, former mistress of Caesar, half-sister to Cato, mother of Brutus
  • Brutus, the most famous of Julius Caesar's assassins, nephew of Cato
  • Porcia, wife of Brutus, daughter to Cato
  • Calpurnia, third wife of Caesar.
  • Suetonius was a prominent Roman historian and biographer; his (historical) account of the assassination closes the novel.


American publisher Bennett Cerf remarked at that year's meeting of the American Booksellers Association that there had been "only three novels published since the first of the year that were worth reading ... Cry, the Beloved Country, The Ides of March, and The Naked and the Dead.[2] Wilder himself once wrote that the book was "a kind of crossword puzzle" that "only begins to speak at its second reading."[3] Edmund Fuller called the novel "a text so rich that it requires exploration rather than reading."[4]


  1. "Authors and Books". The Bronxville-Review Press. Bronxville, NY: 2. February 5, 1948.
  2. (No author.) "Reader's Digest: Gossip, news: J. F. Albright reports on A.B.A. meeting," The Dallas Morning News, 30 May 1948, page 6.
  3. Wilder, Thornton. The Bridge of San Luis Rey and Other Novels. New York: Library of America, 2009. p. 725, n. 409.1.
  4. Fuller, Edmund. “Thornton Wilder: The Notation of the Heart.” pp. 39–43. In Critical Essays on Thornton Wilder.Edited by Martin Blank. New York: G.K. Hall, 1996. p. 42
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