Beware the Ides of March! Said of a warning or impending misfortune and made popular in William Shakespearse's play Julius Caesar.
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Thursday, 19 September 2019

The Ides of March

The Ides of March

Beware the Ides of March!

Said of a warning or impending misfortune and made popular in William Shakespearse's play Julius Caesar. A soothsayer tells Caesar who is already on his way to the Senate (and his death), "Beware the ides of March." Caesar replies, "He is a dreamer, let us leave him. Pass." The Roman ruler, Julius Caesar, was assassinated on the Ides of March - March 15, 44 B.C.E.

According to Plutarch's account of the story written in 75 A.C.E, the unidentified soothsayer was a Roman astrologer by the name of Spurinna. It was reportedly sometime prior to the fateful day of March 15 that Spurinna had first given Caesar the famous warning to "beware of the Ides of March." The astrologer, Spurinna, had previously warned Caesar that on the Ides of March, he would be in great danger. If, however, Julius Caesar took care on that one day - then all would be well.

According to Plutarch, Caesar had previously made the wise decision to stay within the safety of his bedroom chambers on the 15th of March. However, Caesar's "friend" Decimus (Albinus) Brutus (not Marcus Brutus) managed to convince him that the astrologer's warnings were nothing more than superstitious foolishness. So Julius Caesar decided to attend the Senate on the 15th of March. On his way to the Senate, Caesar "accidentally" met up with the astrologer, Spurinna. Caesar then told the astrologer "The Ides of March are come." Spurinna answered, "Yes, they are come, but they are not past." Later that day - on March 15, 44 B.C.E - Caesar's enemies assassinated him in the Pompey theater, at the foot of Pompey's statue, where the Roman Senate was meeting that day in the temple of Venus.

Et tu Brute
"Thou, too, Brutus!" Julius Caesar's exclamation when he saw that his old friend, Marcus Brutus (85-42 BC), was one of his assassins. "Does my old friend raise his hand against me?"

What Are the Ides?
In the ancient Roman calendar, each of the 12 months had an "ides." In March, May, July and October, the ides fell on the 15th day. In every other month, the ides fell on the 13th. The day always fell eight days after the Nones. The word "ides" was derived from the Latin "to divide." The ides were originally meant to mark the full moon - but since the solar calendar months and lunar months were of different lengths, the ides quickly lost their original intent and purpose.

[Image: Bronze statue of Caesar overlooking his forum on the Ides of March. Source http://www.vroma.org/images/raia_images/caesarforum2.jpg]

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