If you’ve heard of the Ides of March, it’s probably thanks to William Shakespeare. In his play Julius Caesar, a soothsayer – or fortune teller – says to Caesar: Beware the Ides of March. The Ides of March is a day on the Roman calendar that corresponds to March 15. In the ancient Roman calendar, each month had an Ides. In March, May, July, and October, the Ides fell on the 15th day. In every other month, the Ides fell on the 13th.
Indeed Julius Ceasar, dictator of Rome, needed to be wary of the date – he was stabbed 23 times in the back at the Roman Senate house by 60 conspirators led by Marcus Junius Brutus (Et tu, Brute?) and Gaius Cassius Longinus in 44 B.C. Both Brutus and Cassius eventually would take their own lives, Cassius with the very dagger that he had used in the assassination.
Caesar’s assassination transformed Roman history, as it was a central event in marking the transition from the Roman Republic to the Roman Empire. His assassination resulted directly in the Liberator’s Civil War, which was waged to avenge his death. With Caesar gone, the Roman Republic did not last long, and was eventually replaced by the Roman Empire, which lasted approximately 500 years.
The ancient Romans didn’t think there was anything particularly inauspicious about the Ides of March, or the ides of any other month for that matter. The day was usually an occasion for honoring the deity of the month, Mars, by having a military parade.
Today, the phrase “the Ides of March” carries with it a sense of foreboding and is often used to signify a fateful day.