On this day - 15th Mar: The Ides of March

Yes it is Mother’s Day, but there have been articles and other heart stopping reminders all over the internet for weeks now so today I thought I would tell you all about the Ides of March. The Ides of March was a day in the Roman calendar which works out as being the 15th of March in ours. The Romans had three fixed points in each month from which they worked out their days. The Kalends (1st of each month), the Nones (5th or 7th) and the Ides (13th or 15th). If these occurred each month then what on earth was so memorable about the Ides of March and why do we still remember it today? Well the answer is partially due to that famous - not a Roman - William Shakespeare, but more on that later. 


That famous - not a Roman - William Shakespeare
It may be by a painter called John Taylor who was an important member of the Painter-Stainers' Company. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Back in the good old Roman days they held various festival activities every Ides of March. These included unmissable attractions such as sacrificing a special sheep (known as the Ovis Idulius), beating an old man in the streets (only after he had been bedecked in the latest fashions of rustic animal hides - one doesn’t like to be un-hided for a hiding) and of course the orgy of all picnics (or picnic of all orgies depending on how shady you’re feeling). Although there were ceremonial acts every Ides, the Ides of March was particularly special in the early Roman era as the early Roman calendar (unlike later ones) had March as the first month in the year. The Ides of March therefore was celebrated as being the first full moon in the new year. It was all about the rejuvenation, hence the beating of the old man. Not making sense? Well the Romans felt that this poor old man represented all that was wrong with the year that had been and after taking all their frustration out on him often drove him from the city and got on with breaking their 'new year - no alcohol' resolution in peace. Wonderfully logical isn't it. 

We remember it today as the anniversary of the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44BC, immortalised in Shakespeare’s (told you he would come back into it) play called (funnily enough) Julius Caesar. 

389px-Gaius Julius Caesar

Julius Caesar
Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

The Soothsayer's (or Seer’s) warning: “Beware the Ides of March” has become an infamous line, and of course slight plot spoiler, from classroom to stage for centuries. Caesar, alone perhaps, wishes that the spoiler had been made a little clearer. In reality, the Seer who forewarned Caesar that his death would occur by the Ides of March was greeted by Caesar’s jeering telling him that the Ides of March had come and yet here Caesar still stood. The Seer prophetically replied that the Ides had not yet gone and there was still time. I always imagine the Seer as a rather dodgy character murmuring this under his breathe whilst leaning on a stall in the forum like a sinister BC-stenders gangster. 

Caesars-tod 1-640x386

Assassination of Caesar - could well be Albert Square
Karl von Piloty [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

When I started out researching this post I was desperate to find a whole host of similar assassinations taking place on the Ides of March to try and find some sort of deadly mystic trend. Sadly that was not to be but it was a piece of fun I didn't want to miss and so here are some of the other weird and wonderful things that happened on the Ides of March…:

In 1493 Christopher Columbus returned to Spain after his first trip to the Americas. Now that is pretty blueberry pancake flipping cool.

In another American themed anniversary, in 1820, Maine became the 23rd State of America.

In 1877 Australia and England played the first ever official cricket test match in Melbourne. Howzat?!

In 1892 Liverpool FC was founded, and since then they’ve never walked alone. 

In 1956 My Fair Lady had it’s premier performance in Broadway. Wouldn’t it have been loverly to have danced all night that night?

And, finally, in 1985 the first internet domain name was registered (symbolics.com) Now where would we be without the internet…? You wouldn’t be reading this for starters. 

The Ides of March - whether you were a Roman, an adventurer, a cricketeer, a football fan or an internet trawler - it’s seen some pretty interesting stuff. Enjoy your Ides one and all. Just please don’t go beating up any old men, it’s not cool. Nor is sacrificing sheep just incase you saw that as an alternitive. 

© Isla Robertson 2017