Beware the Ides of March…and pay your Visa bill

March 15th is your new due date

Get out your checkbook. Or debit card. Or Apple Pay. The Ides of March has arrived.

Be aware: it’s traditionally a day to settle your debts. We don’t even want to think about what would happen back in the (Roman) day if you didn’t pay up on time. Probably a lot wore than 18.99% interest. You know how surly the ancients could be. An even gloomier association with March 15th began with the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 BC. This horrific event triggered numerous acts of vengeance, many of which took place intentionally on the Ides of March. This was still going on hundreds of years later. Eventually, it would inspire Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar, permanently linking tragedy with the Ides of March in pop culture.

The idea behind Ides

Have you ever noticed how we can be so familiar with a particular phrase without actually knowing its origin or meaning? “Beware the Ides of March” is a good example. Most of us have probably heard this phrase, made famous by Shakespeare, or its variation, “The Ides of March are upon us.” And maybe we even have some vague sense of foreboding when we hear these phrases, but you may be surprised to learn exactly what they signify.

The Ides of March is the middle of the month on the Roman calendar, believed to correspond to March 15th. The Roman system of numbering days of the month was quite different from today’s linear method; the Ides occurred near the middle of the month, which, for March, is the 15th. The first Ides of March heralded the first full moon of the new Roman year. Originally, this day was an occasion for religious observances. In addition to monthly rituals — including animal sacrifices — the Ides of March of ancient Rome was also their version of our New Year’s Eve, celebrating Anna Perenna, a goddess of the year.

The bright side

Perhaps the time is right to develop a more positive association with the Ides of March, . After all, it was once seen as the first day of spring on the Roman calendar. So, rather than dwell on the bloody side of the day’s history, why not throw a fun Roman-themed dinner party? It couldn’t be simpler to prepare: wine, cheese, olives, grapes, and crusty bread. (Togas are optional.)

The Area Sacra is an ancient Roman landmark
The Area Sacra is an ancient Roman landmark where Julius Ceasar supposedly spent his final moments. (Photo: Rick Shoots)

Ultimately, those dark days in Rome are a part of history, but so are the days of celebrating the full moon and the new year.

So, on March 15th, when you hear someone say ominously, “The Ides of March are upon us,” you’ll know it’s more than just an oft-repeated phrase.

And you can surprise the quoter with a bit of trivia about the Ides of March.

Not sure how to celebrate? You can start by reading Julius Caesar. You’ve always been telling yourself you’re going to start reading some classic literature. So why not pick up Shakespeare’s classic play? You’ll get to learn a little bit more about The Ides of March without being put to sleep by a history book. And you’ll achieve your culture goals! Or, have a Roman snack party. That’s right. Get together with a few of your closest friends and dish up some classic Roman snacks. We’re talking apples, figs, and grapes. Go crazy with olives, cheese, and bread. It’s a great excuse to see all your friends while still staying light on the calories.

Finally, consider becoming politically active. 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.