Thanks to high school English classes where William Shakespeare is required reading the phrase The Ides of March can conjure prophecies of doom and a need for caution. Even if you’ve never read Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, you’re probably familiar with the phrase.
But, The Ides of March did not originally mean anything sinister.
Ides comes from the old Latin verb iduare, which meant “to divide.” March 15 was a normal day in the Roman calendar meaning halfway through the month and coincided with the rise of the full moon.
Every month had an Ides. In March, May, July, and October ides fell on the 15th and in the other months it came on the 13th.
During Roman times, the Ides of March was the deadline for settling debts. So perhaps, some Romans considered the date ominous even before Shakespeare’s dramatization of the 44 B.C. assassination of Julius Caesar.
But, it was the soothsayer’s warnings to Julius Caesar in Shakespeare’s play that forever linked the date with bad luck.
Before March 15, Caesar ruled Rome as a temporary dictatorship. He very much wished to make the position permanent. His quest for power triggered a conspiracy to have him assassinated, and he was stabbed 23 times on the stairs of the Senate House.
Perhaps Caesar should have listen to the soothsayer, who it turns out was a real historical figure named Spurinna. According to Roman historians, Spurinna was a haruspex or religious figure who was able to divine the future by examining the dissected innards of sacrificial animals. He’d seen signs in February and warned Caesar, but Caesar chose to ignore him.
Julius Caesar’s murder is not the only bad thing to happen on The Ides of March or March 15. Check out these:
- Smithsonian list of historical events that have occurred on March 15.
- The UK’s Independent suggests these five events as the worst things that have happened on March 15
- And, lastly, this blog that lists 11 Wonderful Things That Have Happened on the Ides of March
Bad things can happen any day. So can good things.
But I can tell you if I receive any warnings about the Ides of March, I’m going to side with caution. I don’t want a day like the one Julius Caesar had.
Do you think you should be extra cautious on the Ides of March?
Someone should have warned those poor animals who were sacrificed.
I think I’ll stick to my tea leaves. If they’re wrong, at least I’ll get a nice cup of tea.