Ides of March
The Ides of March is a day that was on the Roman calendar and is most prominently known for being the day that Julius Caesar was assassinated—an event which many see as a turning point for the Roman Empire. However, it is also a day that has gained notoriety for being a day on which bad things happen. On the Gregorian calendar, this day falls on March 15th.
History of The Ides of March
The Ides of March refers to how the Romans kept track of the days in a month, which is quite different from how we do it. While we count the days sequentially from the first day all the way to the last, the Romans used a different system. They counted backward from three fixed points of the month. For instance, the Nones usually fell on the 7th, the Ides on the 15th, and the Kalends was the beginning of the month.
This day was also considered sacred to the deity Jupiter, and the Romans would sacrifice a sheep to Jupiter. The Ides of March also marked the beginning of several religious festivals—most notably the festivals of Cybele and Attis. However, after Caesar was assassinated in 44 BC, this day would forever be remembered for that and not those religious holidays.
Led by Brutus and Cassius, about 60 conspirators confronted Julius Caesar and then proceeded to stab him to death at the meeting of the Senate. According to legend, Caesar had been previously warned by a seer that harm would come to him around the Ides of March. Caesar took the prophecy very lightly. In fact, as he passed the seer on his way to the Theater of Pompey, he commented to him, “The Ides of March have come.” To that, the seer is reported to have replied, “Aye, Caesar; but they have not gone.”
The assassination of Julius Caesar resulted in the civil war that led to Caesar’s adopted heir, Augustus, rising to power. Four years after Caesar’s death, Augustus would execute 300 senators. This would be seen as a religious sacrifice to the newly deified Caesar by later historians.
Over the years, bad things seem to have occurred on the Ides of March. This includes a Samoan cyclone in 1889, a French raid on Southern England in 1360, the abdication of his throne by Czar Nicholas II in 1917, and the German occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1939.
The Ides of March Customs & Celebrations
While the Ides of March isn’t really an official holiday, which means that public and private institutions will remain open, there are some people who do like to celebrate it. That’s because the assassination was not only what many historians view as the turning point of Western civilization but also because it was seen as the first day of spring on the Roman calendar.
One way to celebrate the Ides of March is to read William Shakespeare’s classic “Julius Caesar.” While the book can be a difficult read, it is full of intrigue and is very entertaining. However, if you don’t fancy yourself the literary type, then you can always see the play.
Another thing that can be done on this day is to have a toga party. While modern television makes the toga seem more important to Roman society than it was, it was still an item of clothing that was worn by many Romans during celebrations. And since it is easy to make, it’s a no-brainer to have a party in which everyone dresses up in one.
Have a Roman-themed dinner. Throw a party with wine, cheese, grapes, olives, and crusty bread. You can also serve French toast—a dessert that was prepared with honey by the Romans. Just don’t serve any pasta. That’s because pasta wasn’t introduced to Italy until the 13th century. It was introduced to Italy by Marco Polo, who brought it from China. Therefore, the ancient Romans would not have eaten pasta.
While you are giving your Roman-themed dinner party, you can also pedantically tell your guests why a speech given at the dinner table is called a toast. Which, by the way, is because the Romans would put a piece of burnt toast in their wine goblets to temper their wine, and while they were doing so, would often give some form of speech.
For parties that are a little on the morbid side, you can try to stage some kind of assassination game. There are many different versions of this game, and all you have to do is stage one for your family and friends. As you can see, there are a variety of different ways to celebrate this holiday.