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What is the 'Ides of March' and why should we 'beware' of it?

By Diane C. Lore • Mar 15, 2017 at 11:02 AM

Today — March 15 — is referred to as "The Ides of March."

You've likely heard the phrase "beware the Ides of March" at some point, and may have wondered what it means. Why should we "beware" of the date.

Here's what you need to know about the famous phrase and date:

First, in the ancient Roman calendar, “ides” was a day falling roughly in the middle of each month (the 15th day of March, May, July and October, and the 13th of other months), from which other dates were calculated.

The Ides took an ominous turn in 44 BC, when Roman emperor Julius Caesar was stabbed to death in the back, on the floor of the Senate on March 15.

Plutarch, the Greek author and philosopher, is said to have warned Caesar that evil would overtake him by the Ides of March, but a skeptical Caesar dismissed the warning. Shortly afterwards, Caesar was stabbed to death. His murder sparked a civil war in Rome, ensuring the Ides of March's ominous reputation for history.

The actual phrase "beware the ides of March" was first written in the 16th century by William Shakespeare in his play "Julius Caesar." In the play a soothsayer cautions Caesar to "beware the Ides of March" shortly before the emperor is murdered in the Senate.

Ever since, the date has taken on an ominous tone, and has come to mean the day is cursed with bad luck.

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