Many of us would have heard about “Beware of the ides of March” which was the warning given to Julius Ceaser and was also the day he was assassinated. According to the Roman calendar ‘ides’ was generally associated with the 15th of a month and Julius Ceaser was assassinated on 15th of March.
But what is it about the Ides of October?
The Ides of October was the day when a horse was sacrificed in the honour of the Roman god Mars (Roman god of war). This was an elaborate ritual which started with a two-horse chariot race. The horse on the right side of the winning chariot was sacrificed at the end of the race. Different scholars have given different versions of the sacrifice, but we will write about the most commonly available versions.
Some say that the horse was killed by a spear at the altar of the god Mars. Some mention an elaborate ritual – first the tail was cut off and the blood from the tail was allowed to drip on the altar of the god. The head was also cut off from the body and then decorated with ribbons and other such decorative materials and then hoisted on a spear. Some have mentioned that amongst the decorative materials, cakes made out of bread was also used, giving it a harvest ritual, as grains have been integral to many such rituals.
A justification of such a ritual says that it was through the deception of a horse that Troy was won, and this was a ritual punishment meted out to the animal!
This sacrifice is also referred to as ‘Equus October’, or the October Horse.
Horse sacrifice has been one of the many important sacrifices during the Vedic times and there are many references to Kings conducting Ashwamedha Yagna. In the Vedic times too, the horse running around the kingdoms was sacrificed at the end of the tenure and the run. However, popular mythology has seldom delved in the sacrificial aspects of the Ashwamedha Yagna, except for its running around the different kingdoms who would either accept supremacy of the King conducting the Yagna or wage a war.
This shows the intermingling of cultures and civilizations. Many scholars have said that usage of horses in India was adopted after the Greeks invaded India. The mention of Ashwamedha Yagna during the Vedic times might beg to differ with them. However the similarity of the two events by different names, could lead us to the Indo-European marriage of two very different cultures.
(Details of Ashwamedha Yagna as mentioned in the Vedas is a different detailed subject altogether)