Monday, March 15, 2010


Vincenzo Camuccini, Mort de César, 1798.

The Ides of March (Latin: Idus Martias) is the name of March 15 in the Roman calendar. The term ides was used for the 15th day of the months of March, May, July, and October, and the 13th day of the other months.The Ides of March was a festive day dedicated to the god Mars and a military parade was usually held. In modern times, the term Ides of March is best known as the date that Julius Caesar was killed in 709 AUC or 44 B.C. Julius Caesar was stabbed to death in the Roman Senate led by Marcus Junius Brutus, Gaius Cassius Longinus and 60 other co-conspirators.

According to Plutarch, Caesar was warned by a seer to be on his guard against a great peril on the Ides of March. On his way to the Theatre of Pompey (where he would be assassinated) Caesar saw the seer and joked "Well, the Ides of March have come," to which the seer replied "Ay, they have come, but they are not gone."This meeting is famously dramatized in William Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar, when Caesar is warned to "beware the Ides of March."

Another incident on this date happened in 1917, when Nicholas II of Russia abdicated.

The Ides of March
Just one of a dozen Ides that occur every month of the year

As far as Caesar knew, the Ides were just another day.

The soothsayer's warning to Julius Caesar, "Beware the Ides of March," has forever imbued that date with a sense of foreboding. But in Roman times the expression "Ides of March" did not necessarily evoke a dark mood—it was simply the standard way of saying "March 15." Surely such a fanciful expression must signify something more than merely another day of the year? Not so. Even in Shakespeare's time, sixteen centuries later, audiences attending his play Julius Caesar wouldn't have blinked twice upon hearing the date called the Ides.

The term Ides comes from the earliest Roman calendar, which is said to have been devised by Romulus, the mythical founder of Rome. Whether it was Romulus or not, the inventor of this calendar had a penchant for complexity. The Roman calendar organized its months around three days, each of which served as a reference point for counting the other days:

•Kalends (1st day of the month)
•Nones (the 7th day in March, May, July, and October; the 5th in the other months)
•Ides (the 15th day in March, May, July, and October; the 13th in the other months)
The remaining, unnamed days of the month were identified by counting backwards from the Kalends, Nones, or the Ides. For example, March 3 would be V Nones—5 days before the Nones (the Roman method of counting days was inclusive; in other words, the Nones would be counted as one of the 5 days).

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