March 15th marks a very inauspicious anniversary. Like a black cat crossing your path, the Ides of March has become a metaphor for impending doom. How did a day that was once celebrated by the Romans become so heavily cloaked in superstition?
The Ides of March is a phrase derived from the Latin idus, 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. Apparently, devised by Romulus, the mythical founder of Rome, the early Roman calendar cited other dates of the month by counting backwards from the kalends (1st day of the month), kones (the 7th day of March, May, July and October; the 13th day in other months) and of course, the ides.
Once a celebratory day dedicated to the Roman god, Mars (complete with a military parade) the backstabbing of Julius Caesar in 44 B.C. cast a dark cloud. Shakespeare’s “The Tragedy of Julius Caesar” immortalized this dark moment.
Written by William Shakespeare around 1599, “Julius Caesar“ portrays the assassination of the Roman dictator by a group of conspirators. After ignoring the warnings of a soothsayer, a person who professes to foretell events, who uttered the phrase “Beware the Ides of March,” Caesar is stabbed 23 times in the back.
Thus, the same man who brought us the month of July involuntarily inaugurated the phrase “backstabbing.”
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Wow! Very Interesting! Can’t wait to quiz my friends on this info!
[...] what is an “Ide”? According to dictionary.com, an ide represents the halfway point of the month, most likely in reference to the full moon. The [...]
Every year on the ides of March,
My muse reminds me in tones somewhat arch
That I should be penning a noble creation
To mark the date and historic occasion.
She thinks I should write an epic Roman ballad.
I usually just order a Caesar salad.
Poem by William C. Ross, 3/ides/11
Knew about the Ides, but very interesting to know where backstabbing came from!
The new thing I learned today!
Interested to see that the article mentions the word “ide” as if “ides” were a plural word. “Ide” is a suffix and an acronym, but unless something’s changed quite recently, it’s not a word in and of itself.
i thought the ides was on the fifth of march… hmmm… looks like i’ll have to change a few ideas i had… pretty cool though… what does the thirteenth have to do with the fifteenth? even in latin, thirteen is nowhere close sounding to fifteen… i’m confused…
This is one of my most favorite posts to date! Very interesting.
interesting that i got denied to northeastern on march 15!
I love this article. What other dates bring with them impending doom?
So it means Shakespeare wrote about things that had actually happened in the history. But aren’t plays like Hamlet and Romeo-Juliet works of fiction? Confused…
So people can’t write fiction and nonfiction works of literature? They are forced to stick to one?
i still don’t understand this.. so slow..
@Carrie, I believe it’s only referred to as “Ides” in a plural form: A. Because that is how the soothsayer told Julius Caesar, B. Because Caesar was stabbed by multiple people, multiple times, and/or C. Because the word “Ide” refers to the middle of the month, and applies to every month, thus making it multiple.
@Japneet- Julius Caesar was a real person, but Shakespeare wrote a fiction work about him. It was HISTORICAL FICTION, not nonfiction. Most facts in his play are true, but he squished most of the events together, because otherwise the years in between the events would have made the play too long. XP
Anyway, this is interesting… I remember how, last year when I was taking Latin as my foreign language in high school, we had to take the “National Latin Exam” on the Ides of March… which was lucky for me, I had plenty of time to study! ^-^
DukeMutt, “C” because the ides occur in three months (but not every month). The same way we would refer to how many holidays there are in a year. Cheers. I like the multiple choice.
it is so facinating and cool
The first sentence of the second paragraph should have a semicolon after “roman calendar year”, to separate the explanations of 1) idus, and 2)martii. Using only a comma made the sentence difficult to read.
I thought that it was kalends, nones, and ides. I’ve never heard of “kones” before and I took Latin I, II, and III.
“The Ides of March” is my moms birthday.Lol
The Ides of March is my birthday! The day I was born, my uncle said, “beware the Ides of March…”
I love the array of comments, corrections, interpritations and just the over all interest in the story that explains somewhat of the unknown.
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Stacy: You’re thinking “nones” as one of the hours of prayers in a medeival monastery: Prime, Terce, Nones, Matins – probably in a modern monastery as well now that I think of it.
Love this site; I check it every day. Thank you!
Stacy is right – it is nones, not kones, but the nones occurred nine days before the ides – so it was never on the 13th of any month – it was on the 7th in months when the ides fells on the 15th, and on the 5th when the ides fell on the 13th. The nones was traditionally the day when the holidays for the month were announced.
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