Beware the Ides of March, or at least, be aware of when “the Ides” even takes place (March 15). The word “Ides” is derived from the Latin word “idus,” which refers to the middle day of any month in the ancient Roman calendar. The Ides are specifically the fifteenth day of the months of March, May, July, or October, and the thirteenth day of the remaining months. The Ides were the designated days for settling debt each month in the Roman empire and generally included the seven days preceding the Ides for this purpose. No doubt debtors who could not pay their debts considered the Ides to be unlucky days as they were typically thrown into prison or forced into slavery.
History of Ides of March
The unlucky pall over the Ides of March has a more portentous tie to ancient Rome. Roman Emperor Julius Caesar was famously unlucky on the Ides of March in 44 B.C. when he was assassinated by his senators, fearing their ruler was becoming a dictator.
Movies often distort historical events to make them more entertaining for the sake of drawing bigger audiences and better reviews. The same was true when English playwright William Shakespeare wrote his famous tragedy “Julius Caesar.”
Much of what we commonly believe to be true about the demise of the unlucky emperor on that fateful Ides of March is based more on Shakespeare’s play than historical evidence, according to author Barry Strauss. His book “The Death of Caesar” dismantles the half-truths about the ruler’s tragic end on the Ides of March in 44 B.C. Here are three myths he calls out about the Ides of March killing of Emperor Julius Caesar:
Julius Caesar was admonished to “Beware the Ides of March” by an unknown Soothsayer.
False: The omen was actually “Beware the next 30 days” and was prophesied on February 15, 44 B.C. by an Etruscan Soothsayer named Spurinna.
Brutus was Caesar’s best friend and led the assassination plot.
False: There were in fact three conspirators: Brutus, Cassius, and Decimus. Decimus was known to be most trusted by Caesar and is considered to have been the leader of the murder conspiracy.
Caesar nobly uttered “Et tu, Brute” (you too, Brutus) with his dying breath.
False: Caesar singling out Brutus as he lay dying was an invention of the Renaissance movement. The emperor was a trained soldier who fought for his life, tried to escape the ambush, and never uttered these words.