What Are The Ides of March?

The origins of the anxiety

Originally published on .

In William Shakespeare’s fictionalized telling of Julius Caesar’s assassination, Caesar was given this warning by a seer: “Beware the Ides of March.”

“Ides” is a plural Latin word “idus,” which refers to the day of the full moon, on either the 15th or 13th of each month.

The Shakespearean telling is supported by ancient historian Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus, who wrote, “A certain seer warned Caesar to be on his guard against a great peril on the day of the month of March which the Romans call the Ides; and when the day had come and Caesar was on his way to the senate-house, he greeted the seer with a jest and said: ‘Well, the Ides of March are come.’”

According to Plutarchus’ telling, the seer then gently pointed out, "Ay, they are come, but they are not gone."

Caesar was stabbed 23 times on the floor of the Roman Senate on March 15, 44 B.C.

From that date forward, the day marked an hour of change in Roman society, and in history, according to National Geographic. Today, some people prone to superstition go about the day with uneasy caution.


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