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Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Do we need to 'Beware the ides of March'? by Kaye Spencer #IdesofMarch #PrairieRosePubs

Beware the ides of March—a phrase of dire warning. A phrase that conjures images of danger, destruction, and death. Where did this dark association with the 15th of March originate?

As with many phrases we use today, we have William Shakespeare to thank. While historically, we know Julius Caesar was assassinated on March 15, 44 BCE as a result of a conspiracy by a group of Roman senators, it was Shakespeare who immortalized this particular phrase in his play Julius Caesar, Act 1, Scene 2:

Who calls?

Bid every noise be still. Peace yet again.
                                 Music ceases.
Who is in the press that calls on me?
I hear a tongue, shriller than all the music,
Cry "Caesar!"--Speak. Caesar is turned to hear

Beware the ides of March.

Set him before me. Let me see his face.

Fellow, come from the throng. Look upon Caesar.
                                SOOTHSAYER approaches
What sayst thou to me now? Speak once again.

Beware the ides of March.

He is a dreamer. Let us leave him. Pass!

Kaye's Translation:

SOOTHSAYER: Yells out from the crowd
Hey, Caesar! Watch out when you go out and about on March 15th. I see a bad moon rising, and it's got your name on it.

CAESAR: responds when the Soothsayer is brought before him
You're just a crazy old man. I can't be bothered with this hocus-pocus nonsense. Get out of my way. I've got places to go, things to do, and peoples to conquer. Come on, guys. Let's blow this popsicle stand.

Obviously, Caesar should have listened...

But, poor, poor maligned March 15th.

There isn't anything inherently worrisome, sinister, or foreboding about this date. In fact, every month has an "ides". It's simply the 15th of the month. The word 'ides' is a derivative of the Latin verb iduare/idus*, which means 'to divide". The ides denoted the Roman method of signifying the day in the middle of the month**. More specifically, the ides related directed to the way lunar phases were calculated at the time. The full moon in any given month typically fell between the 13th and the 15th. Before Caesar was in charge of... well, just about everything... and he changed the calendar, the ides of March was the date of the new year and a time for celebration.

If you're wondering what historic events occurred on March 15th that weren't as gruesome as Julius Caesar's assassination, here is a short list:

1820 - Maine was admitted as the 23rd state of the Union

1865 - U. S. President Abraham Lincoln delivered his Second Inaugural Address

1892 - Jesse W. Reno patented the Reno Inclined Elevator -- 1st escalator

1907 - Finland was the first European country to give women the right to vote

1916 - U.S. President Woodrow Wilson sent American soldiers into Mexico with intent to capture Pancho Villa

1927 - Birthday: Carl Smith (country music artist)

1935 - Birthday: actor Judd Hirsch

1937 - In Chicago, Illinois, the first blood bank to preserve blood for transfusion by refrigeration was established at the Cook County Hospital

1945 - 'Billboard' magazine began listing top albums - the first No. 1 was "The Nat King Cole Trio"

1945 - 17th Academy Awards: Bing Crosby (Going My Way), Ingrid Bergman (Gaslight), Movie: "Going My Way", Song: Swinging on a Star (Going My Way)

1948 - Sir Laurence Olivier was on the cover of "LIFE" magazine for his starring role in Shakespeare’s "Hamlet"

1954 - Television premiere of the CBS Morning Show with Walter Cronkite and Jack Paar

1956 - The musical "My Fair Lady" opened on Broadway - Julie Andrews and Rex Harrison

1961 - Birthday: Fabio

1963 - Birthday: Bret Michaels (musician - Poison rock group)

1964 - In Montreal, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor were married

1972 - Second day of 2-day movie premiere of 'The Godfather' in New York City

1977 - The first episode of "Eight is Enough" aired on television

Until next time,

Kaye Spencer
Writing through history one romance upon a time

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*Pancho Villa:
Doroteo Arango Arámbula (June 5, 1878 – July 23, 1923), better known as Francisco or "Pancho" Villa, a Mexican Revolutionary general. This work is from the National Photo Company collection at the Library of Congress. According to the library, there are no known copyright restrictions on the use of this work.

*Sir Laurence Olivier - Pinterest
*Movie Posters: Going My Way and The Godfather - Wikipedia

J*ulius Caesar dialogue - 'No Fear Shakespeare'


  1. Kaye,
    Great post! I never knew where the saying originated. Happy Birthday, Fabio!! And I LOVED 'Eight is Enough'.

  2. Kristy,

    Ahh... Fabio. *sigh* What I wouldn't give to have a Fabio book cover. Eight is Enough was a standard activity in my household, too. Thanks for stopping by.

  3. Is it bad that out of all the things you mentioned that happened on March 15, the only one I knew or remembered was Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor getting married? LOLLOL Great post, Kaye. I didn't know where "ides" came from either.

    1. Cheryl,

      That Soothsayer should have warned Richard and Elizabeth about the Ides of March. lol

  4. Thank heavens you explained the ides of March to us! Of course, I've heard that expression all my life and knew it had some bad connotation, but I didn't know what it meant! The middle of the month? That's all!? When I saw it was this month's theme at blog-a-book-scene, I thought "I better look that up." Now I don't have to. I LOVED Eight is Enough! Grant Goodeve....

    1. Crazy, isn't it, that Shakespeare coined so many phrases and words that have remained in our language usage today. My grandpa liked this saying, so I heard it long before I discovered Shakespeare.

  5. Just like Friday the 13th, good and bad happen on a day. Loved the history...thanks! Doris

    1. Doris,

      That is absolutely true about certain dates being so closely linked with particular people, groups, and/or events that it's nearly impossible to think of one without the other. Here are a few off the top of my head...

      Knights Templars and Friday the 13th
      Julius Caesar and March 15th
      Battle of the Alamo and March 6th
      Pearl Harbor and December 7th
      New York and September 11th
      JFK and November 22nd

      Interesting, isn't it, that the dates/events I listed are of a gloom and doom nature. Hmmm...

  6. I liked the Ides of March happy list--well sorta happy anyway. I didn't know it was Fabio's birthday. I also liked the names associated with dates there at the end. Loved this post, Kaye.

  7. Sarah,

    Is it human nature to focus on the negatives, or do the negatives make a deeper impression on our psyche? Hmmm... Thanks for stopping in.

  8. Thanks for sharing this very interesting research with us, Kaye. And it clarified something for me. For some reason I always associated the Ides of March with March 11th so at least now I have that straightened out. Maybe you can talk about Friday the 13th in some future blog????

    1. Elizabeth,

      Hmmm... Friday the 13th has an intriguing history. I'll take your suggestion and see what I can come up with. Thanks for stopping by to comment. ;-)