It’s the Ides of March today. Although It was a lousy day for Julius Caesar in 44 BC, it was just another way of saying March 15th in Roman times. The Julian calendar was a reform of the Roman calendar and was introduced by Julius Caesar in 46 BC. and took effect in 45 BC. It was the predominant calendar in most of Europe and European settlements until it was refined and replaced by the Gregorian calendar in 1582 and, to this day is the most widely used civil calendar on the planet. Remarkably, the difference in the length of the year between the two calendars is only 0.002 % (Wikipedia). The change to the Gregorian calendar centered around the celebration of Easter. Easter was tied to the spring equinox and the date of Easter drifted from year to year, which the Roman Catholic Church found unacceptable. The correction was the creation of leap years. The Gregorian reform of the Julian calendar was not accepted right away by the Eastern Orthodox and Protestant countries and their settlements. The last country to accept the Gregorian calendar was Greece in 1923.
There were three fixed points of the month in the Julian calendar: the Nones (5th or 7th), the Ides (15th or 16th) and the Kalends (1st of the following month). The death of Julius Caesar on the Ides of March, was one of several events that marked a turning point in the history of Rome’s transition from a Republic, with Julius Caesar as dictator for life, to an Empire. with Augustus (Octavian), the adopted heir of Julius Caesar as the first emperor of the new Roman Empire. Julius Caesar was stabbed to death at a meeting of the senate on the Ides of March. As many as sixty conspirators were involved, led by Brutus (Caesar’s BFF) and Cassius. His death triggered the civil war that led to the rise of power of Octavian as Emperor. According to Plutarch (Plutarch , The Parallel Lives, http://www.penelope.uchicago.edu), it was a seer who had warned Julius Caesar of danger on the Ides of March. William Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar, was responsible for dramatizing the soothsayer’s warning and the famous Beware the Ides of March has imbued that date with a sense of foreboding.
There are four film versions of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar that you might want to watch, coincidentally, each is titled “Julius Caesar”. The 1950 film had Charleton Heston as MarK Antony. The 1953 film version, which is considered to be the best of all the versions, starred Marlon Brando as Mark Antony and James Mason as Brutus. In the 1970 version, Charleton Heston was back as Mark Antony. In 1979 the BBC produced the TV movie version of “Julius Caesar”. Which ever one you choose to watch, it would be a splendid way to learn about one of history’s greatest figures. and an enjoyable way to acknowledge the “Ides of March” and its infamous reputation. Remember, you don’t have to “Beware the Ides of March”. It’s just another day for us plebeians.