Ides of March: March 15 brings talk of Julius Caesar, Shakespeare

ssorich@ledger-enquirer.comMarch 15, 2013 

Maybe you've heard Ides of March references today, March 15. It's OK if you don't understand. We can explain.

Short summary: The phrase is tied to a Shakespeare line related to the March 15 assassination of Roman leader Julius Caesar.

National Geographic explains: "Until that day Julius Caesar ruled Rome. The traditional Republican government had been supplanted by a temporary dictatorship, one that Caesar very much wished to make permanent. But Caesar's quest for power spawned a conspiracy to have him killed, and on the Ides of March, a group of prominent Romans brought him to an untimely end in the Senate House."

Of course, the famous Shakespeare line is, "Beware the ides of March" -- which a soothsayer (fortune-teller) said to Julius Caesar in Shakespeare's tragedy, "Julius Caesar."

So, are the ides people? Places? Values?

Well, neither. Put simply, the Ides of March referred to the approximate midpoint of the month, according to the Roman calendar.

National Geographic elaborates: "That calendar featured ides on the 15th in March, May, July, and October or on the 13th in the other months. The word's Latin roots mean 'divide,' and the date sought to split the month, originally at the rise of the full moon. But because calendar months and the lunar cycle are slightly out of sync, this connection was soon lost."

And now you know.

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