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Ides of March

The Ides of March (15th) was a bad day for Julius Caesar.

The Roman general who rose to the pinnacle of power in 44 BC discovered that being "King of the Hill" was a risky business. Indeed, the fear of kingship guided a dagger into his heart on that portentous day.

The phrase "Beware the Ides of March" actually comes from Shakespeare, but it has become synonymous with the avoidance of treachery and a warning to opponents of liberty.

"Beware the Ides of March" was the warning given to Julius Caesar, at least according to William Shakespeare. Had Caesar heeded the warning history would have been quite different.

So - just what are the Ides? Well the simple answer is that they are, in this case, the 15th of March. But there is much more to it than that. The Roman Calendar is basically broken down as follows:

The Kalends fell on the first of each month
The Nones were on the 5th or 7th (depending on the month) and
The Ides fell on the 13th or 15th, again depending on the month.

The Romans did not count days of the month from 1-30, but rather the day before the Nones of March or the Day before the Ides of April.

In the case of April, the day before the Ides would be what we call April 12, because the Ides of April (unlike March) fall on the 13th.

The date was never spoken in the past, as in the day after the Ides. It was always in relation to the upcoming of the 3 days. April Fool's Day was The Kalends of April.

Julius Caesar

The Roman Calendar:

The Kalends:
March 1, April 1, May 1, June 1, July 1, August 1, September 1, October 1, November 1, December 1, January 1, February 1

The Nones:
March 7, April 5, May 7, June 5, July 7, August 5, September 5, October 7, November 5, December 5, January 5, February 5

The Ides:
March 15, April 13, May 15, June 13, July 15, August 13, September 13, October 15, November 13, December 13, January 13, February

So for example, if your birthday fell on November 21 in the Roman calendar it would be ten days before the Kalends of December.

When Julius Caesar was stabbed to death on the Senate floor, it could just be he counted his days wrong. "Beware the Ides of March" can be very confusing, whereas "Be Careful on March 15th" may have helped save his life.

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