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Thanks to William Shakespeare, the Ides of March is associated with the assassination of Julius Caesar (15 March 44 B.C.) Most people know the Ides of March to be on the 15th. The Ides of a month is often referred to as the middle of the month, which is true, but there is more. The Ides of March is about the Moon, not Caesar.

The Greek and early Roman calendar:  New Moon began each month (kalends) and the Full Moon was the middle (ides)

The Growing Pains of the Months and Years Concept

The concept of a month and a year was in a transitional phase during the rule of the Romans. Early calendars simply followed the phases of the Moon. A New Moon started each month and the Full Moon was the middle. This meant that the cycle of the seasons and the months were not in synch.

Each month included three reference points associated with the phases of the Moon. They were the  kalends (New Moon), nones (first half Moon,) and ides (Full Moon.) Every other day of the month was a number based on how long before the next named phase of the Moon (March 12 would be ‘3 days before ides.’)

However, there were only ten months in a year so they added Winter as an unnamed time period between the years to match the Spring, Summer, and Autumn. The New Moon prior to the Vernal Equinox would begin the new year. March was the first month of a new year and celebrations were held between the kalends and ides of March. For example, in 2018 the New Year (kalends of March) would be 17 March so the ides of March would be 31 March.

Back to J.C. …Julius Caesar

Cavete Idibus Martiis

Beware the Ides of March (in Latin)

The situation of Caesar’s death is interesting considering the current political environment of the United States. Caesar had won the support of the lower Roman classes and was named dictator for life. His assassination threatened the rise of a civil war led by the lower class. Antony used this threat in an attempt to take Julius Caesar’s place, but Caesar had named his 18-year-old son, Octavius, as his successor. In the end, the conspirators in the Senate were all killed and Octavius ruled Rome.