The Ides of March were once just a calendar event starting with the earliest Roman calendar. The Ides meant nothing more than the midpoint of the month, on the 15th. The Ides of March were a Roman festival dedicated to the god Mars. This benevolent calendar date was also observed on the 15th of May, July and October. The other months’ Ides were on the 13th of the month.
All that changed in 44 B.C., when Julius Caesar was assassinated in the Roman Senate by a group of conspirators led by Marcus Junios Brutus and Gaius Cassius Longinus. A seer had foreseen that Caesar would be harmed no later than the Ides of March as he was his way to the Theatre of Pompeii. Caesar met the seer, and joked that “The Ides of March are come,” meaning that he was still alive. The seer replied, “Aye, Caesar, but not gone.” Well then!
The event was dramatized in the William Shakespeare play Julius Caesar, when Caesar is warned by the soothsayer to “beware the Ides of March,” in Act 1 ,Scene II. In the play, Caesar is stabbed 33 times, though in actuality, it was “only” 23 times. “Et tu, Brutus?”
Today, the Ides of March has a rather dark meaning, thanks to lots of high school English classes. Of course, the NCAA basketball team eliminated on the 15th of March may not feel so lucky. This year, neither did former Governor Rod Blagojevich, as he started his 14-yr prison term.