Ides of March

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Ides of March

Julius Caesar gave us the basic calendar we use today. It’s so good that it’s required only one revision in two millennia — a tweak to the number of leap years. Caesar also gave us perhaps the most famous date in the calendar: the Ides of March. In modern times, that date is known as March 15th.

The Ides of March was immortalized in William Shakespeare’s play “Julius Caesar.” In it, a soothsayer warns the Roman leader to “beware” the Ides. Caesar ignores the advice and visits the Senate — where he’s promptly assassinated. The play, of course, is based on fact. Caesar really was murdered in the Senate on the Ides of March.

The Roman calendar didn’t number the days of the month as we do now. Instead, days were reckoned in relation to three key points: the Kalends, which marked the start of the month; the Nones, which came on the 5th or 7th, depending on the month; and the Ides, which came on the 13th or 15th. The other days were counted backwards from these dates.

In every month, the Ides was the day on which rents and other debts were due. And the Ides of March held special significance. For much of Roman history, the year began in March, not January. The Ides of March was a time of feasting and other celebrations. An early feast, for example, honored a goddess of the new year.

So enjoy the Ides of March — a famous date from the early Roman calendar.

Script by Damond Benningfield

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