Today is March 15th, which is known as the Ides of March. So, what does that mean, exactly? And how are we supposed to celebrate?
You've heard the line "Beware the Ides of March". I used to joke that more people should beware the "Ides of April" because that is the day US income taxes are due. However, I found that the ides of April is on the 13th. In the Roman calendar, the ides falls on the 15th for March, May, July, and October, and on the 13th for all the other months. The line we know is from the Shakespeare play Julius Caesar. A soothsayer warned Caesar to "Beware the Ides of March," which turned out to be the day he was assassinated by Brutus and a group of conspirators. That is why the term "ides" stays with us, when other Roman calendar terms, such as kalends and nones have fallen out of use.
Julius Caesar was killed on March 15th, in the year 44 B.C.E. Julius had once had an affair with Brutus' mother, and afterward was always protective of Marcus Junius Brutus Caepio, even when the younger man sided against Julius' forces in a war against Pompey for the rule of Rome in the year 49 B.C.E. Caesar won that one, and set himself up as a king instead of the leader of a republic. Brutus and the other senators could not abide that, and conspired to get rid of Julius. Brutus was only one of many who stabbed Caesar, but as the one closest to him, it was reported at the time that Caesar expressed shock at Brutus' participation.
Titus Vestricius Spurinna was a haruspex, or a person who read the future in animal entrails. He is also assumed to have been an astrologer, because of the exact date he gave Caesar. In fact, Spurinna warned Caesar at least twice: first, to beware the ides of March, and then on March 15th when Caesar confronted Spurinna, the seer warned Julius that the day was not yet over.
In 1970, the band The Ides of March released the song "Vehicle," which became their only big hit. After breaking up in 1973, the group reformed in 1990 and is still performing on the oldies circuit. The group changed their name in 1966 after one of the musicians studied the Shakespeare play in high school. It was the name of the band that insured radio airplay for the song "Vehicle" every March 15th forever after.
A modern commemoration of sorts is held in Rome, where the local chapter of the Hash House Harriers ("A drinker's club with a running problem") stages a toga run. However, due to modern work schedules, the event was held over the weekend. A fun run, dinner, and pub crawl Saturday night were followed by the toga run on Sunday. In this video, you see how they re-enacted the death of Caesar two days ago. And why not? They were already dressed in togas!
The Brides of March is an annual event in which participants dress up in thrift store wedding gowns (white, please) and go on a group parade and pub crawl. Besides the founding group in San Francisco, there are Brides of March chapters in Los Angeles, Portland, Austin, Arizona, and other areas. Again, because of the modern work week, the gatherings are scheduled on a weekend. The San Francisco event will be Saturday the 19th this year. Image by Flickr user Roberta Romero.
A new movie named Ides of March is in production now. The film is produced and directed by George Clooney, who also stars along with Ryan Gosling. It's a political story, based on a play that is loosely based on Howard Dean's 2004 presidential campaign. Filming is going on now in Cincinnati. It is scheduled to hit theaters in October.
We have as much reason to celebrate the Ides of March as any other non-official holiday, such as Square Root Day or Talk Like a Pirate Day or Towel Day. How would you suggest we celebrate the Ides of March?