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Know Your History – The Ides Of March

KYH, Article 1 in a series

Roman Coin With Ides Of March

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Today, March 15th, is the Ides Of March.

Many people are familiar with the phrase “Beware the Ides of March”, but don’t know the meaning behind it.

And it is much more than a recent George Clooney movie!

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The most famous reason for having knowledge of this day is the assassination of Julius Caesar.  But it seems that nobody knows neither why the day is called the Ides of March, nor what it means and sybolizes.

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For this history lesson, all roads lead to Rome.

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The Month Of March

The name for the month of March comes from ancient Rome.   March, in Latin is Martius, was named after Mars, the god of war. In Rome’s mediterranean climate, March was the first month of spring, a logical point for the start of the military campaign season; thus, March was the first month of the year.  Depending on which Roman writer you choose to believe, January became the first month of the calendar year under either King Numa Pompilius (c. 713 BC) or the Decemvirs in about 450 BC.

 

The assassination of Julius Caesar (Vincenzo Camuccini, "Morte di Cesare", 1798)

The Ides – What Is It?

First, “ides” is not a plural form of “ide” – or anything else.  (id est ‘Look at those ides!’)  In fact, it maintains the same form in the singular and plural in the same manner which ‘deer’ and ‘moose’ are.  The “Ides” is a singular day that occurs once each month.

“Ides” comes from the Latin “Idus” and means “half division”, especially in relation to a month.  Therefore, the Ides of a month is the middle day of the month (or as close as possible).  The ides for March, May, July, and October is the 15th day of the month.  In the remaining months, the Ides falls on the 13th day.

 

What Happened On March 15th?

Being that the month of March marked a new year, and was named after the God of War Mars, the Ides of March was a festive day dedicated to the war-god and a military parade was usually held, along with festivals and other celebratory activities.

 

Julius Caesar – The Reason March 15th Is Famous

In our modern world, the Ides of March is known as being the date that Julius Caesar was killed.  In early 44 B.C., Julius Caesar was appointed as “Dictator For Life” (Dictator Perpetuo) of the Roman Empire.  Previously, Caesar had been elected to the positions he held as Rome’s leader.  Within two months of his Dictator Perpetuo appointment, Caesar was stabbed 245 times in the Roman Senate by a group of conspirators led by Brutus (Marcus Junius Brutus) and his brother-in-law Cassius (Gaius Cassius Longinus).

According to Plutarch, a seer (fortune teller) had predicted that Caesar would be harmed not later than the Ides of March.  and on his way to the Theatre of Pompey (where he would be assassinated), Caesar met that seer and joked, “The Ides of March have come”, meaning to say that the prophecy had not been fulfilled, to which the seer replied “Aye, Caesar; but not gone.”

This exchange is famously immortalized in the play “Julius Caesar” by William Shakespeare, when Caesar is warned by the soothsayer to “beware the Ides of March” – which is where we derive the phrase used in modern times on the 15th of March.

 

 

****NOTE****

There was also a band called “The Ides Of March” – which gave us the following CLASSIC song!
(thanks to Ken Pettigrew for the link! FOLLOW HIM!)

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  1. Mrs. AL says:

    Thank you for taking the time to expand on the infamous “Ides of March.” Hope there are a whole lot of folks who will drop by and take in this short history lesson on the subject.