The Ides of March (March 15) was an ancient festival celebrating the Roman God Mars. It didn’t end up being too festive for Julius Caesar, though.
Famously (at least in Shakespeare’s version of the story), Caesar was warned to “Beware the Ides of March.” On that fateful day, Caesar was literally stabbed in the back by Brutus, his supposed ally. In Shakespeare’s play, Caesar utters the famous dying words, “et tu, Brute? (rough translation: “Even you, Brutus? Dang, I thought we were homies.”)
To mark the Ides of March, Shmoop looks back at other infamous betrayals throughout history, literature, and pop culture.
1. Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G.
Formerly close friends, hip-hoppers Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G. had an infamous falling out that started in November of 1994, on the day Tupac was shot no less then five times. He miraculously survived, but because Biggie was nearby at the time of the shooting, Tupac believed him to be in on the hit.
The incident sparked a nationwide split between Tupac’s “Death Row Records” on the West Coast and Biggie’s “Bad Boy Records” on the East Coast. Adding fuel to the fire was the subsequent release of Biggie’s hit, “Who Shot Ya?” Though Biggie claimed the song was unrelated to the attack, Tupac wasn’t convinced. (And with lines like “Bad Boy’s behind this,” can we entirely blame him?)
Tupac responded unambiguously with a song of his own called “Hit Em Up,” which threatened violence on the Bad Boys, insisted that Tupac had had an affair with Biggie’s wife, and promised, “My .44 magnum make sure all your kids don’t grow.”
Although some believe the East Coast / West Coast war was simply a publicity stunt of Tupac’s own making, Tupac was fatally shot in a drive-by two years later; just six months after that, Biggie met his own end when he was gunned down in his SUV, thus cutting two of hip hop’s most promising careers tragically short.
2. Brett Favre and The Green Bay Packers
Brett Favre, whose breathtaking 15-year career with the Green Bay Packers made him a golden boy among Packer fans, started playing for the New York Jets in 2008 after initially claiming that he simply wanted to “retire” from the Packers.
Although the Packers traded him to the Jets willingly, Favre’s huge fanbase was shocked to discover that its longtime loyalty hadn’t been reciprocated. The incident killed Favre’s image as a working-class good guy in a sea of overpaid megalomaniacs, prompting former fans to ask, Et tu, Bretté?
Favre’s wishy-washyness continued when he retired from the Jets in 2009 due to a tendon injury only to sign with the Minnesota Vikings – the Packers’ divisional nemesis – just months later.
The real kicker came in October and November of 2009, when Favre led the Vikings in two separate victories over the Packers, the second of which took place in the Green Bay stadium he once called home.
The Vikings went on to play against the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Championship, but, much to Packer fans’ delight, lost their chance at making NFL history. Favre threw an interception deep into the Saints’ territory in the closing seconds of regulation and blew their best shot at victory.
3. The American Revolutionaries and Benedict Arnold
Benedict Arnold, the original American turncoat, was a very promising colonial general during the American Revolution; much to his displeasure, however, he was passed over for promotion by the Continental Congress in 1777 in spite of a sterling record and an honorably wounded leg.
Making an uneasy situation even worse, Arnold then met and married Peggy Shippen, a young Loyalist sympathizer who helped him begin secret communications with other British loyalists and spies.
After an inquiry by the Continental Congress revealed that Arnold owed money for expenses incurred during his invasion of Quebec, Arnold angrily resigned command of his current post and began serious negotiations with the British army.
When he was given command of West Point in 1780, Arnold finalized his plans to not only defect, but also surrender his fortress to the British for the price of £20,000; fortunately, the plan was exposed when one of Arnold’s cohorts was captured (and later executed). Arnold himself only narrowly escaped capture by George Washington.
Since then, “Benedict Arnold” has entered the American vernacular as the ultimate term for “traitor,” and though he eventually served in the British army and lived out the rest of his days in England, he was so notorious for bad business dealings in the Old World that even his British neighbors burned him in effigy.
4. Mufasa and Scar
Even the loyalty of a lion can only go so far. Based loosely on Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Disney’s “The Lion King” tells the story of Scar’s betrayal of his brother, Mufasa – who just so happens to be the king of both his pride and the local food chain.
In a stunt that only a true scoundrel would pull, Scar then convinces an adorable tiny baby Simba that he’s to blame for his own father’s death. Simba then goes on to… well, we don’t want to ruin it for ya.
Continuing the theme of betrayal is the fact that this feline masterpiece is remarkably similar to a 1960’s animated Japanese series called “Kimba the White Lion.” Although there are major plot differences, many of the iconic images from the Disney version are practically identical to scenes from the earlier tale; even Matthew Broderick, voice of the adult Simba, initially assumed the project was related to the Japanese original, stating, “I kept telling everybody I was going to play Kimba.”
5. Hitler and Stalin
In a move that totally contradicted Hitler’s apparent hatred of all things Slavic, Germany and the USSR signed a non-aggression treaty in August of 1939.
Called the “Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact” after the respective Soviet and German foreign ministers (that’s right: fiery, flesh-burning “cocktails” AREN’T the worst thing Vyacheslav Molotov had named after him), the agreement stipulated that the USSR and Germany would split the European states between them over the course of WWII. The pact also included trade agreements that, in particular, helped Germany ride out the storm of a crippling British blockade.
What Josef Stalin never suspected was that as early as 1940, Hitler was already preparing his armies to invade the USSR; in fact, Stalin even ignored multiple warnings that Germany would break the pact (after all, they’d practically made friendship bracelets together).
The inevitable treachery began on June 22, 1941 when Germany bombed Soviet-occupied Poland. Within weeks, all of the Soviet land acquisitions that had resulted from the pact were lost to Germany and within months, millions of Soviets troops were dead – and several million more, imprisoned.
Adding insult to injury is the fact that Germany’s Soviet imports were vital to the operation; without them, Germany would have run out grain and rubber before the invasion could even begin.
6. The Incans and Francisco Pizzaro
After defeating 80,000 Inca warriors at Cajamarca with a force of less than 200 men (spoiler alert: cavalry + guns > wooden swords + spears), Francisco Pizzaro executed Emperor Atahualpa’s 12-man honor guard and took the toppled emperor hostage.
Delirious with the promise of a New World El Dorado, Pizarro then demanded a roomful (literally) of gold and silver in exchange for Atahualpa’s release. Once the loot was securely in Spanish hands, Pizzaro had Atahualpa christened… then garroted (strangled) to the tune of “thanks anyway!”
In a beautiful twist of irony, Pizzaro was then executed by a man whose last words to the conquistador were likely: My name is Diego de Almagro. You killed my father. Prepare to die.
Apparently, Almagro’s father had won several key military victories for Pizzaro, who not only failed to reward his efforts, but also had him executed as a rival to his power. Diego de Almagro repaid Pizarro’s backstabbing with some backstabbing of his own – though technically, it was more in the throat area.
7. Judas and Jesus
The story of Judas Iscariot, one of the earliest and least popular accountants of all time, teaches us that even the nicest of guys have to watch their backs. And sides.
Judas was a friend to Jesus and the designated manager of the twelve disciples’ finances, but upon being offered thirty pieces of silver, however, he famously signaled Jesus’s identity to Roman authorities by kissing him.
Regardless of your personal beliefs, we can more or less all agree that selling out a friend to be strung up and left in the sun for three days will probably get you unfriended on Facebook. It therefore comes as no surprise that – according to the Gospel of Matthew – Judas later returned the bribe to the priests and committed suicide.
Judas remains a controversial and mysterious figure. Some now discuss the idea that Judas may not have existed or was not necessarily as treacherous as we thought historically.