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What Are the Ides in the Ides of March?

Death of Ceasar

March 15th marks a very inauspicious anniversary. Like a black cat crossing your path, the Ides of March has become a metaphor for impending doom. How did a day that was once celebrated by the Romans become so heavily cloaked in superstition?

The Ides of March is a phrase derived from the Latin idus, a term marking the 15th day of March, July and October as well as the 13th day of other months in the Roman calendar year, and the Latin martii, “March,” which is derived from the Latin Mars, the Roman god of war. The “ide” marks the halfway point of the month—most likely alluding to the day of the full moon. Apparently, devised by Romulus, the mythical founder of Rome, the early Roman calendar cited other dates of the month by counting backwards from the kalends (1st day of the month), kones (the 7th day of March, May, July and October) and of course, the ides.

Once a celebratory day dedicated to the Roman god, Mars (complete with a military parade) the backstabbing of Julius Caesar in 44 B.C. cast a dark cloud. Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Julius Caesar immortalized this dark moment. Written by William Shakespeare around 1599, Julius Caesar portrays the assassination of the Roman dictator by a group of conspirators. After ignoring the warnings of a soothsayer, a person who professes to foretell events, who uttered the phrase “Beware the Ides of March,” Caesar is stabbed 23 times in the back.

Thus, the same man who brought us the month of July involuntarily inaugurated the phrase “backstabbing.”

Why did Shakespeare describe Cassius as having “a lean and hungry look“? Find out.

43 Comments

  1. Richard Gearon -  April 9, 2014 - 4:46 am

    I, too, wondered for a long time what significance the Ides of March had. It was the first day of a new year, on the Roman calendar. So, it was like saying, “Beware of New Year’s Day.”

    Reply
    • AWESOME GIRL -  April 14, 2014 - 4:01 pm

      gawd that’s dark

      Reply
  2. cvlwrnut -  April 1, 2014 - 5:39 am

    That’s “nones,” by the way, and NOT “kones”.

    Reply
  3. Justin Carter -  March 20, 2014 - 12:52 am

    Greatest historical ever to receive and share.

    Reply
  4. Tom -  March 15, 2014 - 7:01 pm

    Another interesting historical event took place on the 15th of March as well. March 15, 1917 was the day Tsar Nicholas II of Russia was abdicated from power and was also centered around revolution.

    In 1918, Nicholas and his family were executed from the fear that he would return to power in Russia. (After his abdication there were attempts to overthrow the new established government.)

    Reply
  5. Marguerite -  March 15, 2014 - 4:47 pm

    Check out Brewers Dictionaryof Phrase and Fable….you will love it! Ides…Nones…etc.!

    Reply
  6. wolf tamer and iron miner -  March 15, 2014 - 4:43 am

    Very interesting & informative! I’ve always wondered what the Ides of March were….

    Reply
  7. Shell Cordill -  February 16, 2014 - 7:09 am

    I have recently downloaded the app, dictionary.com. I am enjoying the daily “lessons learned”. I appreciate all the comments from others, adding more lessons to my day.

    Reply
  8. Laura Nass -  February 9, 2014 - 9:32 am

    That seems to match up with the story I’ve been told before… but still: what is the meaning of “ides”? What makes the 15th the ides of March?
    Is “ides” singular or plural?

    I have an idea.

    Reply
    • Richard Turner -  April 15, 2014 - 2:33 am

      The month of March is said to “come in like a lion and go out like a lamb” so the middle of the of the month is a time of typically uncertain weather but can be characterized as a time of a slowing down of the winds, or, an idling of the winds, from which we get:
      Ides: a period of time during which the
      the winds are becoming idle.

      Reply
  9. MAX HERRINGTON -  February 6, 2014 - 8:53 pm

    IN MY 71ST YEAR ON THIS EARTH, I APPLAUD THE GOOD GRAMMAR, COMPOSITION AND SPELLING IN THE MAJORITY OF THE COMMENTS POSTED.

    WARMS MY “COCKLES”. (Look that up in Webster’s.)

    GOD BLESS YOU ONE AND ALL.

    Max.

    P.S. I don’t give a monkey’s bugger about the Ide/Ides of March.

    Reply
  10. poem writer -  February 5, 2014 - 9:26 am

    I always new there was historical times surrounded by the month of February email me I’ll write you a poem.

    Reply
  11. J J woody -  February 2, 2014 - 1:35 am

    Some great comments. I thought everyone had to study Shakespeare and Julia’s Cesar. I guess I am really old school. These are things I knew at 10. Wow!

    Reply
  12. Dave C -  March 16, 2013 - 1:27 am

    Cool biscuits!

    Reply
  13. Jim -  March 15, 2013 - 3:28 pm

    Stacy is right – it is nones, not kones, but the nones occurred nine days before the ides – so it was never on the 13th of any month – it was on the 7th in months when the ides fells on the 15th, and on the 5th when the ides fell on the 13th. The nones was traditionally the day when the holidays for the month were announced.

    Reply
  14. Mattski -  March 15, 2013 - 4:42 am

    Stacy: You’re thinking “nones” as one of the hours of prayers in a medeival monastery: Prime, Terce, Nones, Matins – probably in a modern monastery as well now that I think of it. :)

    Love this site; I check it every day. Thank you!

    Reply
  15. PT BAL-CO -  February 6, 2013 - 6:39 pm

    I love the array of comments, corrections, interpritations and just the over all interest in the story that explains somewhat of the unknown.

    cool!

    Reply
  16. Chris -  August 12, 2012 - 2:56 am

    The Ides of March is my birthday! The day I was born, my uncle said, “beware the Ides of March…”

    Reply
  17. Maggie -  June 4, 2012 - 7:31 pm

    “The Ides of March” is my moms birthday.Lol

    Reply
  18. Stacy -  February 4, 2012 - 11:54 am

    I thought that it was kalends, nones, and ides. I’ve never heard of “kones” before and I took Latin I, II, and III.

    Reply
  19. Audra -  February 2, 2012 - 11:12 am

    The first sentence of the second paragraph should have a semicolon after “roman calendar year”, to separate the explanations of 1) idus, and 2)martii. Using only a comma made the sentence difficult to read.

    Reply
  20. Udang -  February 2, 2012 - 5:55 am

    it is so facinating and cool

    Reply
  21. Andola -  February 2, 2012 - 3:27 am

    DukeMutt, “C” because the ides occur in three months (but not every month). The same way we would refer to how many holidays there are in a year. Cheers. I like the multiple choice.

    Reply
  22. Jeanna -  December 19, 2011 - 11:52 am

    @Japneet- Julius Caesar was a real person, but Shakespeare wrote a fiction work about him. It was HISTORICAL FICTION, not nonfiction. Most facts in his play are true, but he squished most of the events together, because otherwise the years in between the events would have made the play too long. XP

    Anyway, this is interesting… I remember how, last year when I was taking Latin as my foreign language in high school, we had to take the “National Latin Exam” on the Ides of March… which was lucky for me, I had plenty of time to study! ^-^

    Reply
  23. DukeMutt -  October 17, 2011 - 10:25 am

    @Carrie, I believe it’s only referred to as “Ides” in a plural form: A. Because that is how the soothsayer told Julius Caesar, B. Because Caesar was stabbed by multiple people, multiple times, and/or C. Because the word “Ide” refers to the middle of the month, and applies to every month, thus making it multiple.

    Reply
  24. idle_kriz -  March 30, 2011 - 7:52 am

    i still don’t understand this.. so slow..

    Reply
  25. So...? -  March 24, 2011 - 9:34 am

    So people can’t write fiction and nonfiction works of literature? They are forced to stick to one?

    Reply
  26. Japneet -  March 23, 2011 - 11:06 am

    So it means Shakespeare wrote about things that had actually happened in the history. But aren’t plays like Hamlet and Romeo-Juliet works of fiction? Confused…

    Reply
  27. word junkie -  March 19, 2011 - 9:57 am

    I love this article. What other dates bring with them impending doom?

    Reply
  28. chay -  March 16, 2011 - 7:22 pm

    interesting that i got denied to northeastern on march 15!

    Reply
  29. JfromI -  March 16, 2011 - 3:57 pm

    Nice, Silverchild.

    This is one of my most favorite posts to date! Very interesting.

    Reply
  30. helena -  March 16, 2011 - 3:45 pm

    i thought the ides was on the fifth of march… hmmm… looks like i’ll have to change a few ideas i had… pretty cool though… what does the thirteenth have to do with the fifteenth? even in latin, thirteen is nowhere close sounding to fifteen… i’m confused…

    Reply
  31. Carrie -  March 16, 2011 - 2:43 pm

    Interested to see that the article mentions the word “ide” as if “ides” were a plural word. “Ide” is a suffix and an acronym, but unless something’s changed quite recently, it’s not a word in and of itself.

    Reply
  32. Emily -  March 16, 2011 - 11:29 am

    Knew about the Ides, but very interesting to know where backstabbing came from!

    The new thing I learned today!

    Reply
  33. Silverchild -  March 15, 2011 - 3:17 pm

    Ides, Schmides

    Every year on the ides of March,
    My muse reminds me in tones somewhat arch
    That I should be penning a noble creation
    To mark the date and historic occasion.
    She thinks I should write an epic Roman ballad.
    I usually just order a Caesar salad.

    Poem by William C. Ross, 3/ides/11

    Reply
  34. Marissa Kelly -  March 15, 2011 - 2:41 pm

    Wow! Very Interesting! Can’t wait to quiz my friends on this info! ;)

    Reply
  35. rusty nail -  March 15, 2011 - 2:30 pm

    fascinating!

    Reply
  36. mike -  March 15, 2011 - 1:06 pm

    i like this website!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

    Reply

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