.by Anura Guruge
A Roman mosaic for March, which appears top right in the graphic — March the first month of the Roman year BECAUSE that was the month the Roman armies would start to ‘march’ after camping for the winter! Yes march = March. Pretty neat stuff.
‘Ides of March‘, like so many other English phrases [e.g., ‘forgone conclusion‘, ‘a rose by any other name …’, ‘a sea change‘, ‘Et tu Bruté’], is common currency because it appeared in a Shakespeare play, in this case ‘Julius Caesar‘ — in the warning given to the dictator (but never Emperor) by a female soothsayer: ‘beware of the ides of March’. It just meant the middle of the month.
The early Roman calendar, c. 750 BCE, thought to be a lunar-based, had three fixed points for each month: Kalendae (Kalends), Nonae (Nones) & Idus (Ides).
Kalends (from which we got ‘calendar’) was the first day of the month.
Nones, thought to represent the half-moon, fell on the 5th or 7th of a month and was the 8th day BEFORE the ides!
Ides, thought to represent the full moon, fell on the 13th day of months with 29 days, and on the 15th day of months with 31 days, i.e., March, May, July & October.
The Romans, a strange bunch as you can tell from their numerals and togas, counted backwards from these three points — in the case of Kalends using the first day of the next month!
So to be fair, Ides was the easiest of days to work out, because it was either the 13 or the 15 depending on the Month.
So that is how we get the Ides of March.
But, in reality every month as Ides.
Yes, calendars are another topic that fascinates me and whenever I have sometime I learn about calendars. There is however a ton to learn, just even about the ‘Roman’ calendar we use — though I am slightly conversant with the Buddhist and Sinhalese calendars as well. The Sinhalese New Year, which falls on the same day each year is on April 14.
The most famous thing to have happened on an Ides of March. It changed the course and complexion of world history. The world would have been very different if Julius had ruled for another 20 years, as he easily could have.