In William Shakespeare’s play, Julius Caesar was warned to “Beware the Ides of March.” That phrase might sound vaguely familiar. But if it doesn’t, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered—we’re going to delve into the historical meaning of “the Ides of March” and its ominous connotation.
In Latin, the word Ides means “to divide.” This definition is fitting because of the way the Roman calendar operates. Months of the calendar were divided with three named days – the Kalends, the Nones and the Ides. These were the reference points for all other days.
- Kalends – the first day of the month
- Nones – the 7th day of March, July and October; the 5th in the other months
- Ides – the 15th day of March, July and October; the 13th in other months
The bottom line is that the Ides of March simply means March 15th. So, why is this date so important?
Long before the Ides of March became notorious with Shakespeare’s play, the Ides of each month was designated for paying all debts. If you were unable to pay your debts on the Ides, you could be punished in various ways, including the possibility of prison. For the Romans, the day was associated with several religious ceremonies and celebrations.
Dark and Gloomy Connotation
The Ides of March had a relatively clean reputation until the assassination of Julius Caesar. Can you guess what day he was assassinated?
You got it, the 15th of March.
Caesar was stabbed to death by conspirators at a meeting on the Senate in 44 BC. Apparently, prior to his gruesome death, Caesar had been told by a seer (a person akin to a fortune-teller) that great harm would come to him on or before the Ides of March. While Caesar was on his way to the place he would be assassinated, he saw the seer in passing and joked that the premonition hadn’t caught up with him yet. But, as we know, things took a turn for the worse shortly after.
This historical scene (which could very well be a myth) is dramatized in Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar.
Shakespeare was never one to let a morbid prophecy get away from him—so Julius Caesar’s tragic end provided the playwright with the perfect muse.
Ever wondered what defines an assassination?
Other Tragic Ides of March
Julius Caesar wasn’t the only one to have a particularly bad March 15th. In fact, the day is known to be somewhat cursed. Here are some other tragic events that have happened on the Ides of March:
- 2018 – A recently built pedestrian bridge on the campus of Florida International University collapsed killing one construction worker. Five other people who were in their cars below the bridge also perished.
- 2013 – The World Health Organization issued a global alert regarding a disease which was named SARS (Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and killed 774 people in 17 countries.
- 1975 – Julie Cunningham disappeared in Vail, Colorado. She was only 26 when Ted Bundy lured her into his vehicle pretending he was an injured skier. Although Bundy confessed to killing her, the body was never found.
- 1941 – A surprise blizzard rolled through North Dakota and part of Minnesota. Some areas saw a 20-degree drop in temperatures in less than 15 minutes with gusty winds reported up to 85 miles per hour. 151 people were trapped by the storm and died.
- 1939 – Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia, in violation of the Munich Pact. It is reported an estimated 263,000 Jewish residents of Czechoslovakia were killed as a result of the invasion.
- 1917 – Tsar Nicolas II of Russia was forced by his own country’s military to abdicate his throne. He and his family were taken to Yekaterinburg, Russia and eventually executed in July 1918.
- 1889 – Although we were in the middle of the civil war, America sent three warships to Apia, Samoa. On the Ides of March, a cyclone developed which destroyed all three ships and killed 51 sailors.
Of course, Earth has a population of 7 billion people, which means unfortunate things happen every day of the year.
However, who knows? Maybe the Ides of March is cursed. To be safe, it is probably a good idea to steer clear of fortune-tellers on or around March 15th.
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