The Ides of March

Bronze portrait of Julius Caesar. Photo credit to @couleuroriginal on Unsplash.
Bronze portrait of Julius Caesar. Photo credit to @couleuroriginal on Unsplash.

On the 15th of March, every year, the phrase “Beware the Ides of March” resonates in the minds of those familiar with Shakespeare’s play, Julius Caesar. The phrase refers to the day in 44 BCE when the Roman Emperor was assassinated in a dramatic turn of events. The Ides of March, however, had significance long before Caesar’s death, dating back to the earliest days of the Roman calendar. This is the story of the Ides of March. 

The Roman calendar was primarily based on the phases of the moon, with the year consisting of 355 days divided into twelve lunar months. The lunar cycle consists of approximately 29.5 days, meaning that there was an extra period of approximately ten to twelve days that did not correspond to any particular month. This period, called the “intercalary month,” was added to the calendar every two or three years to keep the calendar in sync with the solar year. 

The Ides were a significant point in the Roman calendar, marking the middle of the month. Specifically, the Ides of March fell on the 15th of the month of March, May, July, and October, and the 13th of the other months. The Ides were marked by various religious and political observances, such as the sacrifice of a sheep to the god Mars on the Ides of March, which was considered a significant event in the religious calendar. 

However, the Ides of March would become infamous for an entirely different reason in 44 BCE. Julius Caesar (100 BCE – 44 BCE) was a Roman general, statesman, and writer who played a critical role in the events that led to the demise of the Roman Republic and the rise of the Roman Empire. Born into a patrician family, Caesar was a charismatic and ambitious leader who gained popularity and power through his military conquests and political maneuvering. He was appointed as consul of Rome in 59 BCE, and later became the governor of Gaul, where he expanded the Roman Empire to include much of modern-day France. His legacy as a military genius and political leader has endured for centuries

In 44 BCE, Caesar was assassinated by a group of senators who feared he had become too powerful. In that year, on the morning of the 15th of March, Caesar was set to attend a meeting of the Roman Senate. According to historical accounts, a group of senators, including Caesar’s close friend Brutus, had planned to assassinate him. As Caesar entered the Senate, he was approached by the senators, who surrounded him and began stabbing him with their daggers. 

Caesar fought back but was ultimately overwhelmed and died on the floor of the Senate. His death was a significant turning point in Roman history and marked the end of the Roman Republic. The assassination would also give rise to a civil war and the eventual rise of Caesar’s nephew Octavian (also known as Augustus), who would become the first Roman Emperor. 

The assassination of Caesar on the Ides of March has been immortalized in literature and popular culture. Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar, which was written in the late 16th century, has become the most famous literary representation of the event. In the play, the soothsayer warns Caesar to “beware the Ides of March,” which Caesar dismisses as superstitious nonsense. The phrase has become a popular idiom, used to warn someone of impending danger. 

While the Ides of March have primarily been associated with Caesar’s assassination, the day has also played a significant role in other historical events. For example, in 2011, the Ides of March was the day that the Syrian civil war began. The day has also been associated with religious observances, such as Saint Patrick’s Day, which is celebrated on the 17th of March, just two days after the Ides. 

Written by Editorial Team

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