Beware the Ides of March

What are Ides? And why should we beware them?

Apparently, unless you are Julius Caesar, seeking to install a dictatorship,  it doesn’t really apply to you. As some of you might remember from Latin class or Shakespeare, Caesar was warned to beware the Ides by a soothsayer named Spurinna. When he ignored the warning, Caesar was assassinated by his senators, giving the Ides of March a permanent place in history. Before that day in 44 BC, the worst thing that happened on the Ides was that it traditionally was a day to settle debts, which may have made some beware them! But really, what are Ides?

The Ides of March is a phrase derived from the Latinidus, a term marking the 15th day of March, July and October as well as the 13th day of other months in the Roman calendar year, and the Latin martii, “March,” which is derived from the Latin Mars, the Roman god of war. The “ide” marks the halfway point of the month—most likely alluding to the day of the full moon.**

The Roman calendar was quite different from ours, using March  as the first month of the year.  Romans knew it as Martius, and named it for the god of war, Mars; making it oddly appropriate the actions on the Ides. The calendar was also quite complicated:

The Romans did not number days of a month sequentially from the first through the last day. Instead, they counted back from three fixed points of the month: the Nones (5th or 7th, depending on the length of the month), the Ides (13th or 15th), and the Kalends  (1st of the following month). The Ides occurred near the midpoint, on the 13th for most months, but on the 15th for March, May, July, and October. The Ides were supposed to be determined by the full moon, reflecting the lunar origin of the Roman calendar. On the earliest calendar, the Ides of March would have been the first full moon of the new year.*

So glad our calendar goes forward! And is much easier. Also, glad that I no longer have to beware of the Ides of March!





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