The Ides Of March I Oxford Open Learning

    The Ides Of March

    The Ides Of March

    You may well have heard the phrase ‘Beware the Ides of March’ – but if you have not, let me tell you about this day – 15th March – and how its name came about.

    The Ides Of March Were Not Always So Bad

    Hundreds of years ago, the word ‘Ides’ referred to the first full moon of a given month. This usually fell between the 13th and 15th of the month. It was, historically, a time for celebration and rejoicing – but this is actually quite different to the associations with the phrase today.

    The Ides of March is known fell on the 74th day in the Roman calendar – the 15th of March. It was, many years ago, a significant date for observing various religious occasions, and also known as a deadline for settling debts in Rome. And back in 44 BC, the 15th of March was the date that Julius Caesar was killed, or rather, assassinated (depicted above – just one of many portrayals). If you read Shakespeare’s play of the same name, that infamous phrase ‘Beware the Ides of March’ is said to him – art imitating life, essentially. So, you can probably see why such a phrase, and a date, are significant, particularly as turning points in the history of Rome. With Caesar being stabbed to death – a very brutal way to die – the date has become synonymous with curses and negativity for many a year.

    Dramatic Licence

    Interestingly, many modern TV programmes and films have used the Ides of March in their scripts. Some people think this links back to what happened to Julius Caesar; others believe it can be more closely associated with Shakespeare’s famous line. You may have seen and heard references to it in all manner of TV shows, from ‘Xena: Warrior Princess’ – where the protagonist is threatened – to ‘The Simpsons’ episode ‘Homer the Great’, with an ominous prediction pronounced by Lisa. Likewise, The Ides Of March has appeared in the script of many a film. In 2011, it was the title of a political drama starring Ryan Gosling and George Clooney, which dealt with similar (but metaphorical) back-stabbing scenes.

    After all these years, it’s fascinating how one day has become so strongly associated with negativity. Do you know about any other days in our modern calendar that have had their origins tarnished and changed in quite so bad a way? Do you think we should be wary of 15th March? I will leave it up to you to decide.


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