How to respond to “Beware the Ides of March!”

Take note of how many times you might hear the phrase, “Beware the Ides of March.”

For such an overused phrase, many are unaware of the origin of the cautionary greeting for March 15th. Here is the background on the Ides of March – so that you may respond to your greeters in kind.

The term “Ides” comes from the earliest Roman calendar, which organized its months around three days that served as a reference point for counting the other days of the month:

  • 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 11 would be V Ides —5 days before the Ides (the Roman method of counting days was inclusive; in other words, the Ides would be counted as one of the 5 days). When the modern-day Julian calendar was developed (by Julius Caesar in 45 B.C.), this confusing system of Kalends, Nones, and Ides continued to be used to varying degrees throughout the Middle Ages and into the Renaissance.

In Roman times, the Ides of March was a festive day with military parades and feasts, dedicated to the Roman god Mars. Throughout the ages, the term Ides of March is best known as the date that Julius Caesar was killed (44 B.C.) – unmercifully stabbed 23 times as he entered the Roman Senate, by Marcus Junius Brutus, Gaius Cassius Longinus and 60 other co-conspirators.

On his way to Theatre of Pompey, the site of his assassination, Julius Caesar saw a seer who had foretold that harm would come to him not later than the Ides of March. Caesar 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”.

So, it is The Bard’s phase that people today quote every March 15!

Some extra pieces of trivia:

  • Note that the Ides of March is just one of a dozen Ides that occur every month of the year.
  • Kalends (the word from which calendar is derived) is another exotic-sounding term with a mundane meaning. Kalendrium means account book in Latin: Kalend, the first of the month, was in Roman times as it is now, the date on which bills are due.
  • More on the historic Roman event can be found here in National Geographic
  • Canadian Content! Our infamous comedy team of Canucks, John Wayne and Frank Shuster did a memorable skit of the assassination, in which Caesar’s wife keeps screeching “I told him, Julie, don’t go!” Here is that infamous skit “Rinse the Blood off my Toga”

(ed. – Too young to know Wayne and Shuster? Go here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wayne_and_Shuster )

 

Chris George, providing reliable PR counsel and effective advocacy. Need a go-to writer or experienced communicator? 613-983-0801 @ CG&A COMMUNICATIONS.