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Saint Leo Blog

Ides of March

The Ides of March: Good or No?

Posted by Saint Leo University Online on Mar 15, 2018 9:22:20 AM

A statue of Julius CaesarNot only is March one of the first unofficial months of spring in the U.S., it is also the calendar page that contains many notable holiday and observation-based events.

For instance, did you know that March 2nd is Texas Independence Day or that the State of Massachusetts observes Evacuation Day (also known as the day the British troops left, or ‘evacuated,’ the Boston area during the American Revolutionary War) on March 17th?

March is a special month for other areas of the world, too, with Aruba celebrating National Anthem and Flag Day on March 18th and Albania honoring Nevruz Day on March 22nd to mark the beginning of spring as well.

One other notable event that occurs during this third month of the calendar year is the ides of March. What does this signify? As it turns out, this legendary time of year earned its meaning way back in early Roman times.

A Roman Beginning

History.com explains that King Romulus created the first known Roman calendar which, unlike the one we use today, only contained ten months, with March—or Martius as it was originally called—being the first month of the year.

Additionally, each month was broken down based on the moon’s phases:

- Kalends, which signified the first phase of the moon, the new moon, and was on the first day of the month;
- Nones, the fifth or seventh day of the month, representing the first quarter moon of the month; and
- Ides, occurring on the 13th or 15th of the month and coinciding with the full moon.

Thus, the ides of March was celebrated on March 15th in honor of the first full moon of the Roman calendar year. Those who honored this day would gather on the Via Flaminia, a road that led to Rome, with the hope and promise of “a happy and prosperous new year.”

Though this sounds like a positive, happy event, this particular day is now coupled with a bit of concern for many. But why is such a positive happening shrouded with such a dark cloud? We can thank William Shakespeare for this.

A Shakespearian Twist

Though this English playwright crafted many great productions—like Macbeth, Hamlet, and Othello—one of Shakespeare’s best-known plays is Julius Caesar.

Based on the life and actions of Julius Caesar himself, one of the most notable happenings in the beginning of the play is when Caesar is warned to “beware the ides of March.” If you’re familiar with this story, then you already know that this warning set the scene for Caesar’s upcoming murder on that fateful day, an act that was at least partially orchestrated by one of his closest friends, Brutus, who eventually took his own life as well.

This negative connotation has somewhat stuck with the 15th day of March, causing some to think of this day as more of a bad omen than a positive sign of good times to come. And, indeed, many more not-so-positive events have happened on March 15th. For instance, on March 15th of 1360, the French attacked the English south coast, and on this same day in 1744, King Louis XV of France declared war on Britain.

As far as the U.S. is concerned, the Battle of Guilford Court House was initiated on March 15th of 1781 in North Carolina. More recent, yet still unpleasant, ides of March events include a North Dakota blizzard that took the lives of 151 people in 1941 and, in 1987, the U.S. Davis Cup team lost to Paraguay in tennis on this fateful day.

March 15th of 1991 also marked the day that four Los Angeles police officers were charged in the beating and ultimate death of Rodney King.

But is this day really all bad? Fortunately, history says no.

The Ides Can Still Be Good

Some smile-worthy events have also happened on this mid-March day. For example, this is the day that is credited with advancements related to a number of wonderful inventions: the patent of the escalator (1892), the unveiling of automatic ballot booths (1892), and the first flight of a seaplane glider (1930).

March 15th is credited with being the day of even more great firsts, such as the opening of the first American blood bank (1937 in Chicago), the publishing of the first Billboard album chart (1945), and the first successful triple lutz ice skate jump (1962, by Donald Jackson of Canada). These types of events highlight that the ides of March still have a positive side for both individuals and societies, offering hope and promise of an upcoming year that is likely to be more elevated than the last.

In the end, it all depends on how you want to view this day – or any day for that matter. For if you see it as a day that is burdened by negative events, that is likely what it will become. However, if you see the ides of March as a day of hope and promise for a better tomorrow, that is likely what it will be instead. It’s all up to you.

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