Ides of March
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By Nash Black
This date is both infamous and notorious. How many times have you heard, “Beware of the Ides of March?” Legend has it that a seer warned Caesar, Emperor of Rome, that harm would come to him on this date. Deadly harm did befall this battle-hardened soldier who with his mighty legions had conquer most of the then known world from the British Isles to India.
On March 15th, 44 BC, Caesar was assassinated during a meeting of the Roman senate. Four years later on the same date, 300 senators and their servants who fought against Caesar were executed making this one of the bloodiest dates in Roman history.
History, Heroditus (Roman Historian), Shakespeare, novels, movies, and a rock group by the same name have forward the legend of betrayal, quest for power, and bumbling communications through time, over 2,000 years, to make this one date produce shudders down the spine.
Back to the date itself, according to the Roman calendar, March 15th (Ides of March) is the 74th day of the New Year. Latin for the phrase is “ides of Martias.” Usually the middle of a month as the ‘ides’ were the times that fell on the 15th. Low and behold, it is not only for the month of March but occurs in May, July, and October.
Now what else occurs about the same time, Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter – seasons begin and end. Days get longer and shorter – warmer and cooler. Plants bud, grow, produce fruit and seeds, are harvested and stored, then die or are consumed. The ancients had numerous beliefs and festivals that were offered to the gods to gain favor for human survival.
To make matters worse we must throw in the special status of a full moon and the fact that the Roman calendar had only ten months. The Carolinian calendar which we use has 12 months, based on the cycles of the moon and adjusted for variants in time was not adopted until much later.
The Ides of March, according to the Romans, was the first full moon of the new year. A day when the common people celebrated with picnics, drinking, and revelry. Through out its history the date has been an omen of change, devotion, mystery, and sacrifice.
We luck out two ways with the ominous Ides of March for little tinkles of fear followed two days later by St. Patrick’s Day when everything turns green including the Chicago River.
“If you have the faith of a grain of mustard seed.” How many of you have worn a little ball with a grain in the middle on a chain around your neck? This is the same with myths and legends – somewhere in the mists of time is a grain of truth – if we can only find it.