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Soothsayer: Beware the ides of March.
Caesar: What man is that?
Brutus: A soothsayer bids you beware the ides of March.

Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare

History of Ides of March

Some people’s familiarity with the Ides of March may be related to 16th century Shakespeare and his famous line “Beware the Ides of March” from his play, Julius Caesar. But it is actually necessary to go back several hundred years before that, before the turn of the first century, to truly get to the root of this holiday.

Religious observances were celebrated on the Ides of March during Roman times. These may have included feasts as well as sacrifices to the gods, including Jupiter and Anna Perenna in earlier times and later, including Cybele and Attis.

In pre-1st century Rome, the concept of the Ides of March was not only a date for several religious observances, but it was also often considered an important deadline for settling debts. At the time, the Roman calendar did not use days within the month but, instead, they had three fixed points, including the Nones, the Ides and the Kalends, from which they would count backwards.

The Ides would fall near the middle of the month, usually on the 13th but sometimes on the 15th in March, May, July and October. The idea was that the dates would correspond with the full moon, but changes in calendars eventually rendered this untrue. The Nones would fall eight days before the Ides and the Kalends was the first of the following month.

Of course, in modern times, one of the most common reasons that people know about the Ides of March is that it was the day on which Julius Caesar was assassinated. In the year 44 BC, this leader was brutally stabbed to death at a meeting of the Senate, by conspirators that included Brutus, Cassius and dozens of others.

Historical records indicate that Julius Caesar was warned about this date by a “seer”, or one who was considered to have knowledge of the future. A famous exchange between Caesar and the seer is depicted by Shakespeare in his famous play about political intrigue, the betrayal of the title character, Julius Caesar.

Because Brutus was considered to be the ultimate traitor of Julius Caesar, the Ides of March is sometimes referred to as National Brutus Day and it is also celebrated on March 15. Other days related to this one that would be worth checking out include World Theatre Day, which is observed less than two weeks later on March 27, or National Talk Like Shakespeare Day that comes around in late April.

Celebrate and enjoy the Ides of March as a day that gives some attention to history as well as to literature and to the political life in Ancient Rome!

How to Celebrate Ides of March

Looking for ideas on how to observe and show the Ides of March its appropriate due? In addition to heeding the general warning to “beware”, which was ignored by Caesar, check out some of these other ideas for getting involved with the day:

Host an Ides of March Party

It might be fun to gather a group of thespian friends around to a party and invite them to do their own reading of Julius Caesar in celebration of the Ides of March. They can even dress up as their favorite character from a Shakespeare play for a costume contest where the winner gets a prize. Have fun by playing trivia games or hosting a quiz night that includes questions related to Ancient Roman history, Julius Caesar, or even Shakespeare.

Make Some Ides of March Foods

In celebration of the Ides of March, it might be fun to get creative in the kitchen! Be sure to make and serve various appropriate foods that might go along with a party that honor Caesar as well as Shakespeare. But what kind of dishes might these be?

Try out some of these ideas to make a perfect meal for the Ides of March:

  • Pig’s Neck Baked with Apples – this was considered to be Caesar’s favorite dish
  • Savory Caesar’s Mushroom Caps – this mushroom from France can be stuffed with cream cheese and asiago dressing
  • Caesar Salad – perhaps the most well known dish on this list, it was actually named after the chef who created it in the early 1920s
  • Oven-roasted Asparagus – many of the Roman emperors are believed to have enjoyed asparagus as a favorite food

Of course, when serving a meal that observes the Ides of March, it is important to make a toast! Ancient Romans would have served their meals with a variety of types of wine, but they traditionally would have mixed it with a little bit of water.

Enjoy Watching a Shakespeare Play

As a nod to the Bard, perhaps the Ides of March would be an ideal time to make plans or book tickets to attend a play by William Shakespeare. Whether performed by a local theater troupe, on the West End in London, or even at a high school, watching Shakespeare brings with it a certain sense of intellect and culture, particularly if the tragedy Julius Caesar is performed on this day. Those who don’t have access to any well-timed Shakespeare plays to be performed live might want to consider putting on one of their own!

Learn More About Julius Caesar

Various days that are connected with historical events offer a perfect opportunity to do some fascinating research and come up with some interesting stories that can even be shared – and the Ides of March is no different! In celebration of this auspicious and somewhat tragic day, perhaps it would be interesting to do some online research about the topic. Or, even better, head over to the local library to pick up some books about Ancient Rome that feature some history about Julius Caesar.

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