The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

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March 13, 2008

Phrase ‘Ides of March’ never meant to evoke fear

Tomorrow is the Ides of March – March 15. Ides of March is a phrase made famous by the perhaps mythical soothsayer who warned Julius Caesar to “beware the Ides of March” and by one of the all-time greatest and most magnificent, most awesome writers — Bill Shakespeare.

Julius Caesar was perhaps the greatest Roman emperor and irrefutably the most well-known. Caesar is most famous for his conquest of Gaul—which extended the Roman Empire to the Atlantic Ocean—for being the first Roman emperor to invade Britain, for “crossing the Rubicon” river and subsequently winning a Roman civil war which culminated in his proclaiming himself dictator for life. Crossing the Rubicon became a cliché for crossing a point of no return.

But Caesar the name is so well-branded in history, most people simply associate Caesar with Italy and with ancient Roman history without knowing more about him than he was in charge and he wore a robe and sandals. (An ad man would salivate over that kind of product branding.)

Caesar was assassinated on March 15 in the year 44 B.C., a few days prior a soothsayer had supposedly warned him to “Beware the Ides of March.”

Since Caesar’s assassination, the humdrum calendar expression of Ides of March has assumed an ominous and dark meaning, a day which symbolizes unexpected and catastrophic change which has a negative domino effect for the near future. For us citizens of the United States, “Beware the Ides of March,” would be equivalent to saying, “Beware April 14!” – the day in 1865 when Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth.

The term “Ides” is taken directly from the ancient Roman calendar. Under the Roman numeric system, they organized their months around just three days: Kalends, Nones and Ides. Each of those days served as a reference point for accounting for the other days of the month. Kalends, 1st day of the month; Nones, the 7th day of the months of March, May, July and October and the 5th day in the other months; and Ides, the 15th day of March, May, July, and October and the 13th in the remaining months.

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