Mar 15

the Ides of March

Historical Tartan Artifact in Bronze
Part of a bronze statue circa 200 A.D.
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Celtic Warriors
Illustration by Angus McBride
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"Beware the ides of March."

~ Julius Caesar Act I, Scene II, William Shakespeare

So sayeth the soothsayer ... beware the Ides of March indeed! The Ides of March (the 15th on the Roman Calendar), originally a day for the settling of debts, became notorious as the date of the assassination of Julius Caesar. One of the earliest remaining artistic depictions (in bronze) of tartan is taken from the remaining pieces of a statue of the Roman Emperor Caracalla, which is described in contemporary literature as showing him riding a chariot with his unfortunate Caledonian prisoner being dragged behind. Created about 1800 years ago, this statue stood atop a triumphal arch in the ancient Moroccan city of Volubilis (1500 miles from Scotland). Caracalla styled himself as “conqueror of the Caledonians” (a catch-all Roman term for Celtic barbarians north of Hadrian’s Wall, mainly the Picts). Should you need an ancient charm to protect yourself during these troubled days, some caraway seeds or rue worn in an amulet is said to protect against disease and ill health. 🗓️

The Ides of March is a day on the Roman calendar that corresponds to the 15th of  March. It was marked by several religious observances and the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 BC.

Today we feature a historical discovery of a Scottish Tartan discovered on a Roman statue!

In 2012, a fragment of bronze dating to c. 200 AD was discovered and identified as part of Roman statue believed to be the earliest depiction of tartan.  The fragment was part of a statue depicted the Roman Emperor Caracalla, known as the conqueror of the Caledonians.  It  stood on top of a giant triumphal arch in the ancient Moroccan city of Volubilis, in the southwest corner of the Roman Empire, 1,500 miles from Scotland and showed a captive Caledonian warrior wearing tartan trews.

The unique dress of the Caledonians was remarked on even during this times:

“The way they (the Celts) dress is astonishing: they wear brightly-coloured and embroidered shirts, with trousers called bracae and cloaks fastened at the shoulder with a brooch, heavy in winter, light in summer. These cloaks are striped or checkered in design, with the separate checks close together and in various colours.”   


~ Diodorus Siculus, Greek Historian, 100 BCE

For more on this interesting artifact, the Roman invasion of Scotland, and speculation about the captive Caledonian's likely end, click the tartan fragment.   

And for more on prehistorical tartans, click on the illustration of Bronze Age Celtic Warriors by Angus McBride.

Officially registered tartan graphics on this site courtesy of The Scottish Tartans Authority.  Other tartans from talented tartan artists may also be featured.

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