Writers Write is a resource for writers. In this post, we look at the Ides of March. What does it mean and when was it used?
The Ides of March
The Ides of March was the usual way of saying ’15 March’ in Roman times. The idea of the Ides being dangerous was created by Shakespeare. Each month has an Ides (often the 15th) and this date was not associated with death or foreboding before the play was written.
Caesar: Who is it in the press that calls on me? I hear a tongue shriller than all the music Cry “Caesar!” Speak, Caesar is turn’d to hear.
Soothsayer: Beware the ides of March.
Caesar: What man is that?
Brutus: A soothsayer bids you beware the ides of March.
The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, Act 1, scene 2, 15-19
The famous quotation from the play: ‘Et tu, Brute?‘ is a Latin phrase that means ‘and you, Brutus?’ It is spoken by Julius Caesar to his friend Brutus at the moment of Caesar’s assassination. The phrase is often used to show an unexpected betrayal by a friend.
What are the Ides?
The months of the Roman calendar were arranged around three named days – the Kalends, the Nones and the Ides. Other days were calculated around these reference points:
- Kalends (1st day of the month).
- Nones (the 7th day in March, May, July, and October; the 5th in the other months).
- Ides (the 15th day in March, May, July, and October; the 13th in the other months).
The Ides is also a day marked by several religious observances and was notable for the Romans as a deadline for settling debts.
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