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Ides of March

March 15, 2016

Perhaps the most famous date in all of literature is the Ides of March. It’s immortalized by William Shakespeare’s play “Julius Caesar,” in which 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. In the modern calendar — created at the orders of Caesar himself — that date is March 15th.

The Roman calendar didn’t number the days of the month as we do today. 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 that 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. And later on, the Ides kicked off a whole week of celebrations.

And the very first Roman calendar was based on the phases of the Moon. The Ides corresponded to the full Moon, so the Ides of March marked the first full Moon of the year.

So enjoy this year’s Ides of March — a famous date from an early calendar.

Script by Damond Benningfield

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