Beware the Ides of March

Julius Caesar ruled the Roman Empire from 49 BC to 44 BC. If you haven’t read it yet, chances are you will in the next few years.

“It” is “Julius Caesar,” the famous play by William Shakespeare.

And the most famous line from that play might be this one:  “Beware the Ides of March.”

March, of course, is a month.

But what is “the Ides?”

It turns out “the Ides of March” is just the ancient Roman way of saying “March 15th.”

But thanks to “Julius Caesar,” the words “Ides of March” have taken on an ominous tone.

It was on the Ides of March in the year 44 B.C. that the Roman emperor Julius Caesar was assassinated – killed by political opponents who feared he was becoming too powerful.

In Shakespeare’s play, a soothsayer warns Caesar about the plan to assassinate him.

(A soothsayer is someone who’s supposed to be able to predict the future.)

“Beware the Ides of March,” the soothsayer says to Caesar.

But the warning failed to prevent the assassination.

Despite the ominous connotation the “Ides” took on thanks to Shakespeare, the word actually has a much blander origin.

It comes from the Latin word for  “divide.”

(Latin was the language spoken in the Roman Empire at the time Julius Caesar lived.)

And it was just a word for the middle of the month.

According to National Geographic News, the Ides of March was originally significant because it was a date when Romans were supposed to settle their debts.

But thanks to Shakespeare, it will forever be remembered as a day of dread.

“That line of the soothsayer, ‘Beware the Ides of March,’ is a pithy line,” said Georgianna Ziegler, the head of reference at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., in an interview with National Geographic News.  “People remember it, even if they don’t know why.”

Now you know what it means.