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The Ides Of March: What Are They, And Should You Really Beware Them?

March 15th is considered one of the most ominous days of the year, but what does it really meme?

Sarah Burns · about 1 month ago

The probability of being born on any given day of the year is 365 outta 365. The probability of someone born on March 15th growing up hearing they need to beware their own birthday is 100%. But other than being a totally obnoxious answer to the question, “When’s your birthday?” what does “the Ides of March” even mean?

What’s The Big Ides-ia? 

Let’s break it down starting with ides. The Romans used the moon to keep track of their calendar dates. Phases of the moon served as calendar dates, effectively breaking the month into sections, similar to how we break months down into weeks today. The important days their calendar observed were:

- Kalends - a new moon, marking the beginning of the month

- Ides - a full moon, the halfway point of each month

- Nones - a half moon, the end of each month

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Photo: Peter de Vink/Pexels

Basically the “ides” were just the Romans’ way of saying the middle of the month — and every month has an ides!

So what makes March’s ides particularly treacherous?  

Roman Senators Play Rock, Paper, Caesars

Let’s go back to Rome for a sec.

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The year is 44 B.C., and the Roman Senate is nervous; Julius Caesar (no relation to the salad) has become a powerful military and political figure, and he’s hugely popular with the people of Rome. They fear Caesar might attempt to steal the crown and take total control of Rome for himself. As Julius Caesar stands before the Senate, they attack, and the brilliant leader of Roman armies is met with a brutal end. Thanks to the impeccable calendar skills of the Romans, we know this infamous event happened on March 15th.

Another Bard Pun

Now let’s skip forward in time to the Elizabethan era, 1599. An up-and-coming playwright and actor known as William Shakespeare is debuting his play The Tragedy Of Julius Caesar for London’s theater-hungry patrons. 

Let’s keep time traveling, this time all the way back to the present day. You’re watching your favorite movie. You know the lines so well, you sometimes use them in conversation in your daily life, like shouting, “To infinity and beyond!” as you leap from your seat, and maybe a friend will join in with, “There’s a snake in my boot!” We do this because we enjoyed the movie, and the characters, but also because they’re fun, memorable lines.

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BOOM! Just like that, we’re back in the past, audience members at the Globe Theater, watching a new play. During one of the most memorable, spooky scenes, a fortune teller foresees the danger in store for Caesar and tries to warn him of his impending doom with one of the coolest, most memorable lines of the 2,636 in the whole show; “Beware the ides of March!” 

So we know why Caesar needed to be wary of March 15th — but what about the rest of us? 

Not Superstitious; Just A Little Stitious

Much as we use movie lines where they apply to our lives, audiences took the phrase out into the world with them. Over time, Shakespeare’s mid-March warning became a proverb, or a simple phrase meant to pass on good advice; in this case the advice was to be suspicious of the middle of March.

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Truth is, there’s no real reason for anyone to worry about March 15th, since none of us are Julius Caesar. For the superstitious, the day represents bad luck, much like Friday the 13th — but that doesn’t mean it can’t be celebrated! Here are some great ways to observe the Ides of March that Caesar himself would approve of. 

Act out some Shakespeare! He’s written plays in every genre, and whether you’re into comedy, history, or tragedy, he’s got you covered. But he’s known as “the bard” for his lyrical poetry and captivating sonnets, and his songs are still performed world-over today. 

Create your own proverb! Proverbs are meant to warn of something based on our perception of things, rather than fact. For example, we all know cats are as YOLO as the rest of us, but we’ve all heard of their nine lives because they’re nimble and often able to see themselves out of danger. I had more examples, but instead, here’s one I just made up: 

“An empty coffee cup is a sign of more things forgotten,” which means if I forget my morning coffee, chances are I won’t remember what else I was supposed to do that day.

Observe the moon! The Romans used the moon as a guide to keeping accurate calendar dates, so for the ancient Romans, a New Moon always meant the middle of the month. Our modern calendars don’t follow this tradition, but it’s still pretty close! Look up at the sky around the 15th, and see how close it is to being a true new moon.

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The ancient Romans used the moon to guide their decisions when it came to choosing important dates, and making plans. If you’re feeling less than organized and could use some moon guidance yourself, check out The Moon Journal for some celestial guidance! 

Practice gratitude! The history of the Ides of March is forever tainted with Caesar's bad luck  — but what makes luck bad? Was Caesar really that unlucky if he failed to heed a warning, or did he take what he had for granted?

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Using the ides as a day to practice gratitude is an excellent habit to start any time of the year. It can be as simple as writing down what you feel grateful for, or you can channel your gratitude into an art project, like this adorable Thankful Handprint Tree craft. Whatever your methods, it’s always a good idea to reflect on what we have, who we love, and how we can best show our appreciation to what matters most to us ... like pizza.

Have a pizza party! Because it’s Italian like Caesar, and no one wants to go to a “Caesar Salad party.” Here are some of our favorite pizza recipes to get you started!