This week in history: A genius birthday, Caesar is stabbed, and the Bible sells out. Read more below and dive deeper with The Great Courses Plus.
March 14th, 1871 — Happy Birth Anniversary! Cut the Pi!
March 14th is often called “Pi Day,” named for its date’s similarity to 3.14, the numerical value of pi. It is also the birthday of renowned scientist Albert Einstein. Einstein was born in Ulm, Germany to a salesman and engineer father and a stay-at-home mother. His schooling started at age five and continued in German schools until he was 16. His family moved to Pavia, Italy, and he sat for the entrance examinations for the Swiss Federal Polytechnic in Zurich. He failed to pass the general part of the test, but excelled in the physics and mathematics portion. Advised by the principal of the Polytechnic, Einstein attended a secondary school in Aarau, Switzerland. At the age of 17, he enrolled for a four-year diploma program at Zurich Polytechnic. From there, he spent two years searching for a teaching post. He famously took a job at the Swiss Patent Office where he was able to ponder many thought experiments about the nature of light and space-time. The rest, as they say, was history.
Learn more about Einstein in Mind-Bending Math: Riddles and Paradoxes
March 15th, 44 BC — Beware the Ides of March
On this day, the Roman Republic violently became the Roman Empire. The “Ides” are a reference to the monthly sacrifice the Roman people would give to their supreme deity, Jupiter. The infamous assassination of Caesar took place on the Ides of March, which is what it is still best known for. Caesar was stabbed to death by as many as 60 conspirators. This mutiny was lead by Brutus and Cassius, Caesar’s “right hand men.”
Plutarch wrote a seer warned that “harm would come to Caesar no later than the Ides of March.” This was followed by an exchange between Caesar and the seer, dramatized in Shakespeare’s play. Caesar passes the seer and jokes, “The Ides of March are come”, implying that the prophecy had not been fulfilled, to which the seer replied “Aye, Caesar; but not gone.”
Caesar’s death triggered a civil war that would lead to Caesar’s adopted son, Octavian (Augustus), to become the emperor and sole ruler.
Learn more about the final days of Caesar with Living History: Experiencing Great Events of the Ancient and Medieval Worlds
March 16th, 1970 — New English Bible published and sells out
It comes as no surprise that the Bible is a popular book, to say the least. When the copyright for the English Revised Edition was due to expire in 1935, Oxford University Press and Cambridge University Press considered making a revised translation in “modern English.” In a 1946 conference, it was determined that a completely fresh translation should be taken on as a project by the two publishing houses.
Three committees of translators and one committee of literary advisers were in charge of this monumental task. Each of the translation committees had a portion of the bible, broken down to Old Testament, the Apocrypha, and the New Testament. The translators used thought-for-thought translation (aka “dynamic equivalence) to convey the meanings as precisely as possible. Although this method gets to the spirit of the text instead of the exact word, it sometimes caused the New English Bible (NEB) to sound periphrastic at times.
When released in full in 1970, it was so popular that the printed editions sold out in two days.