Beware the Ides of March, or at least, be aware of when “the Ides” even takes place (March 15). The word “Ides” is derived from the Latin word “idus,” which refers to the middle day of any month in the ancient Roman calendar. The Ides are specifically the fifteenth day of the months of March, May, July, or October, and the thirteenth day of the remaining months. The Ides were the designated days for settling debt each month in the Roman empire and generally included the seven days preceding the Ides for this purpose. No doubt debtors who could not pay their debts considered the Ides to be unlucky days as they were typically thrown into prison or forced into slavery.
History of Ides of March
The unlucky pall over the Ides of March has a more portentous tie to ancient Rome. Roman Emperor Julius Caesar was famously unlucky on the Ides of March in 44 B.C. when he was assassinated by his senators, fearing their ruler was becoming a dictator.
Movies often distort historical events to make them more entertaining for the sake of drawing bigger audiences and better reviews. The same was true when English playwright William Shakespeare wrote his famous tragedy “Julius Caesar.”
Much of what we commonly believe to be true about the demise of the unlucky emperor on that fateful Ides of March is based more on Shakespeare’s play than historical evidence, according to author Barry Strauss. His book “The Death of Caesar” dismantles the half-truths about the ruler’s tragic end on the Ides of March in 44 B.C. Here are three myths he calls out about the Ides of March killing of Emperor Julius Caesar:
Julius Caesar was admonished to “Beware the Ides of March” by an unknown Soothsayer.
False: The omen was actually “Beware the next 30 days” and was prophesied on February 15, 44 B.C. by an Etruscan Soothsayer named Spurinna.
Brutus was Caesar’s best friend and led the assassination plot.
False: There were in fact three conspirators: Brutus, Cassius, and Decimus. Decimus was known to be most trusted by Caesar and is considered to have been the leader of the murder conspiracy.
Caesar nobly uttered “Et tu, Brute” (you too, Brutus) with his dying breath.
False: Caesar singling out Brutus as he lay dying was an invention of the Renaissance movement. The emperor was a trained soldier who fought for his life, tried to escape the ambush, and never uttered these words.
Ides of March FAQs
When is the Ides of March?
The Ides of March is March 15 on the American calendar.
Is the Ides of March an unlucky day?
The Ides of March was unlucky for Roman Emperor Julius Caesar. He was betrayed, ambushed, and assassinated by his senate on the Ides of March in 44 B.C., leaving an unlucky stigma attached to March 15 ever since.
Who is credited with saying “Beware the Ides of March?”
This cryptic warning is a line from English playwright and actor William Shakespeare’s tragedy “Julius Caesar.” This exact phrase was never uttered to the emperor in real life, although most people believe this to be true.
How to Observe Ides of March
Repay a debt
In honor of the ancient Roman tradition of paying debts on the Ides of March or of any month, repay a debt. You’ll get some feel-good mo-jo in return from the friend who loaned you money that you somehow have managed to not yet repay.
Plan A Roman Holiday
Turn the Ides of March into a living history lesson. Plan a trip to Italy to explore ancient Roman ruins of the city where Julius Caesar once ruled as the Emperor of the Roman empire and perished at the hands of his trusted advisors.
When it comes down to it, the Ides of March was basically a huge argument about politics. Is there any political issue that you feel extremely passionate about? Contact your local government official or start an email-sending campaign with your friends. In honor of Julius Caesar, you should exercise your right to participate in politics.
5 Reasons We Don’t Mind The Ides Of March
Freedom to be moody
Any day with such a dark cloud looming over it gives us good enough reason to be moody. It is only one day out of a year filled with plenty of reasons to be happy and celebrate. So go ahead, let loose and cop an attitude today if that’s what you want to do.
If you didn’t read it in High School, be thankful
If you somehow managed to avoid reading this depressing classic English Lit 101 tragedy you should be thankful too. It definitely puts a downer on your friendship groups as you learn a new life motto — trust no one.
It's when the Nazis occupied Czechoslovakia
1939 saw the Nazis ramp up aggression against their central European neighbors, including the fledgling state of Czechoslovakia.
It's when the rainiest day ever occurred
March 15th, 1952 saw the heaviest rainfall ever recorded in a 24 hour period: 73.62 inches over the Indian Ocean island of La Réunion.
It's when "The Ed Sullivan Show" got cancelled
Perhaps the most tragic entry on our list: "The Ed Sullivan Show's" cancellation was announced on March 15th, 1971, ending a 23-year-long reign.
Why Ides of March is Important
It’s an amazing piece of history
There are two sides to every story, and Julius Caesar’s assassination is a prime example. According to Brutus and his fellow senators, Caesar was going to become a dictator and they had to protect the republic. In their heads, they believed they were right. However, we’re sure if Caesar could have defended himself, he would say that he was never going to become a dictator and was killed for no reason. Who’s right? That’s up to you to decide; we’ll never get a definitive answer!
It inspired a scene in "Mean Girls"...
We’re sure you’ve seen Tina Fey’s classic movie. If not, drop everything you’re doing and watch it right now. Without the Ides of March, we would have never gotten to enjoy one of the funniest scenes in the movie. Gretchen passionately defends Brutus’ murder of Caesar, saying that maybe Brutus just wanted to share a little bit of the power. You go, Glen Coco.
...and a Shakespeare play
More importantly (sorry Tina, we love you), the Ides of March helped inspire a beautiful Shakespeare play, "Julius Caesar." It commemorates Caesar’s life and does a great job trying to show both Caesar and Brutus’ side of the argument. Caesar’s life may have ended early, but he gets to live on forever in literature.
Ides of March dates