The Ides of March. Yes…they were a Chicago garage band that enjoyed 15 minutes of fame in the 1960’s with their “hit” song – Vehicle. But believe it or not, two millennia prior, the Ides of March meant something completely different.
In 44 BC, then Emperor Julius Caesar ignored warnings to “beware the Ides of March”, and had his term cut short…quite literally.
What are The Ides of March? Is there such a thing as an Ide? Are Ides anything like Druthers?
The Ides of March are what the Romans called March 15th. There is no such thing as a single Ide. And Ides are nothing like Druthers. Druthers are smaller, hairier, and have fewer moving parts.
Do other months have Ides? The answer is yes.
Can I call April 15th – the Ides of April? The answer is no, although some unaware media types tend to refer to the tax deadline as the Ides of April. Anyone with a third grade education (back in the early 1900’s anyway) can tell you that in April, the Ides fall on the 13th, as explained in the rhyme; March, July, October and May, the Nones fall on the 7th day. Wait…Nones????
Things change over time. Two-thousand years ago, the Romans did not count days like we do now. It wasn’t March first, or April 13th. Only three days had actual names: the Kalends fell on the first, the Nones on the 5th or the 7th (according to the rhyme), and the Ides on the 13th or the 15th.
When a Roman wanted to say March the 14th, he would say “the day before the Ides of March”, which flows much faster in Latin. March 6th would be “the day before the None of March” (you never counted after…always before). April Fool’s Day fell on the “Kalends of April”. After the Ides, you counted the days up to the Kalends of the next month. March 16th was 17 days before the Kalends of April.
Pretty intense stuff by today’s standards. Not only did the Romans have to be able to count their days pretty quickly, but they also have to remember their rhyme.
Caesar met his fate at the hands of the Roman senate on The Ides of March in 44 BC. He was warned that something was going to happen, but he showed up for work anyway. Maybe he just got the day wrong. After all, he was in command of a fairly significant empire. Knowing what day of the month it was probably didn’t matter much to him. Far fetched, but it could happen.
I think we are lucky his assassination took place when it did though. Had it been a day later, that Chicago garage band might have been called “17 days before the Kalends of April”. One-hit wonder or not, that’s a mouthful.
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