Skip to Content

Beware the Ides of March! What It Means and Why You Should

Today is the Ides of March—which just means the 15th of a month in the Roman calendar. But even if you relied on SparkNotes to get through Shakespeare in English class, you probably have some memory of a soothsayer warning Julius Caesar to “beware the Ides of March.”

(Note: He didn’t beware the Ides of March, and thus met his demise to the sharpened knives of literal and figurative backstabbers—including his best friend Marcus Brutus. Et tu, Brute?)

Although the brutally murdered Roman Emperor should have heeded warnings about the cursed “Ides of March” in 44 BC, do we modern-day plebeians have any cause for concern? And, to ask a more practical question: What exactly does “Ides of March” mean, anyway?

The Ides of March—Definition

Derived from the Latin verb iduare, which the Scientific American defines as “to divide,” ides bisect a month in the Roman calendar. Thus, the infamous “Ides of March” comes every year on March 15.

According to the Farmer’s Almanac, in ancient times, the Ides of March also marked the first full moon of the year—which Romans celebrated with feasts and sacrifices in honor of the god Jupiter. And unless you were livestock, the day was relatively inauspicious.

But even though it has been 2063 years since Caesar’s assassination, people are still wary of this fateful day.

A Series of Unfortunate Events on the Ides of March

Unfortunately there have been some other fateful events that have occurred on throughout history on March 15. For example:

  • Between 1918 and 1955, the Ides of March marked tax day in the United States.
  • On March 15, 1938, Nazi Germany invaded Czechoslovakia.
  • In 1941, a blizzard killed more than 150 people in Minnesota and North Dakota.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization issued warnings for SARS, a deadly type of pneumonia, in 2003.
  • And in the vein of a Roman revolution, protests erupted in Syria on March 15, 2011, that led to the beginning of the country’s civil war.

Of course, some good things have been known to occur on the Ides of March, too, including: the founding of Rolls Royce in 1906, President Lyndon B. Johnson’s call for equal voting rights in a speech to a joint Congressional session in 1965, and the premiere of The Godfather in 1972.

While we don’t know if March 15, 2019, will hold any historical events, one thing is for certain: The Ides of March will bring lots of caesar salad puns and brands looking for a viral moment on Twitter.

Et tu, Krispy Kreme?