“Beware the Ides of March.” Truth or Fiction:
You’ve probably of heard the soothsayer’s warning to Julius Caesar in William Shakespeare’s play of the same name: “Beware the Ides of March.” Not only did Shakespeare’s words stick, they branded the phrase-and the date, March 15-with a dark and gloomy connotation. It’s likely that many people who use the phrase today don’t know its true origin. In fact, just about every pop culture reference to the Ides-save for those appearing in actual history-based books, movies or television specials-makes it seem like the day itself is cursed.
But the Ides of March actually has a non-threatening origin story. Kalends, Nones and Ides were ancient markers used to reference dates in relation to lunar phases. Ides simply referred to the first new moon of a given month, which usually fell between the 13th and 15th. In fact, the Ides of March once signified the new year, which meant celebrations and rejoicing.
The word “Ides” is derived from the Latin word “idus,” which refers to the middle day of any month in the ancient Roman calendar. The Ides are specifically the fifteenth day of the months of March, May, July, or October, and the thirteenth day of the remaining months. The Ides were the designated days for settling debt each month in the Roman empire and generally included the seven days preceding the Ides for this purpose. No doubt debtors who could not pay their debts considered the Ides to be unlucky days as they were typically thrown into prison or forced into slavery.
Yet when heroes in movies, books and television shows are faced with the Ides of March, it’s always a bad omen. Several television shows have had episodes named “The Ides of March.” And it’s never good news.
Julius Caesar was admonished to “Beware the Ides of March” by an unknown Soothsayer.
False: The omen was actually “Beware the next 30 days” and was prophesied on February 15, 44 B.C. by an Etruscan Soothsayer named Spurinna.
Brutus was Caesar’s best friend and led the assassination plot.
False: There were in fact three conspirators: Brutus, Cassius, and Decimus. Decimus was known to be most trusted by Caesar and is considered to have been the leader of the murder conspiracy.
Caesar nobly uttered “Et tu, Brute” (you too, Brutus) with his dying breath.
False: Caesar singling out Brutus as he lay dying was an invention of the Renaissance movement. The emperor was a trained soldier who fought for his life, tried to escape the ambush, and never uttered these words.
Well, now you have read the historic take on March 15th. What do you think? I believe I will go with the positive and ancient aspect of this date.