Today Marks the Ides of March

Mort de César by: Camuccini

Most of us are familiar, largely reading Shakespeare in high school, of the “Ides of March.” In the Roman Calendar, it marked March the 15th. It was made famous for the date of Julius Caesar’s assassination in 44 BCE.

Caesar: The Ides of March have come!

Soothsayer: Aye, Caesar, but not gone.

– Shakespeare

The Roman Calendar was very similar to our own, divided into twelve months and then demarcated by the kalends (the first day of the month), the Nones (the 9th day of the month), and the Ides (the middle of the month falling on the 13th or the 15th); other days were marked by counting back from the stated demarcation (e.g. 3 days before the Ides of July). In Ancient Rome, the Ides of March were traditionally a day set aside to settle debts – a symbolic element highlighted by Caesar’s assassins. The Roman Calendar was fastidiously kept by the government and regularly required adjustment. Its accuracy (like most ancient calendars) was problematic and it regularly required adjustment. It was also often adjusted by various politicians (such as Julius Caesar – July, Augustus – August, etc).

To learn more about the significance of the Ides of March, see the article in National Geographic.

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2 thoughts on “Today Marks the Ides of March

  1. Jim Wheeler

    Excellent, historic evidence that politicians have always been the same! National (fill in the blank) day, the state bird, the state insect, change the date for daylight savings time, on and on. Give them an opening and the urge to tinker is irresistible. Sic semper politicus!

    Reply
    1. Jennifer Carey Post author

      I tell my students all the time – politicians have never changed. From the dawn of bureaucracy 5,000 years ago in Mesopotamia, politicians have been simultaneously loathed and exalted, they have always been terrible, terrible human beings. Just terrible…

      Reply

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