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March 15, 2010

Beware the Ides of March -- what does it mean

"Beware the Ides of March" is a great quote. It's short, has an ominous tone and a sense of the supernatural. Unfortunately, it's also greatly misunderstood. Most people know it's related somehow to Shakespeare. But what the heck is an Ide anyway, and where can I buy one?

So here's a primer: -- The quote comes from Act I, Scene 2 of Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar," as the Roman leader stands amid a crowd and hears a warning from a seer. (When I read this I can't help picturing a beleaguered U.S. president slouching towards his helicopter, as brash TV reporter Sam Donaldson shouts out questions about some embarrassing scandal.) Here's the exchange:

Caesar: Who is it in the press that calls on me?

I hear a tongue shriller than all the music

Cry "Caesar!" Speak, Caesar is turn'd to hear.

Soothsayer: Beware the ides of March.

-- What does it portend? This is the day in 44 B.C. that Caesar will be assassinated by conspirators including Brutus and Cassius. Caesar shrugs off the warning and heads off on his political business. If only recliners, TVs and DVDs had been invented then.

-- So what's an Ide? It's a term of the ancient Roman calendar, signifying a division based on the moon's phases. It falls on the 15th of March, May, July and October, but on the 13th of the other months.

Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 9:45 AM | | Comments (5)


Scott rolled his eyes. “Your dramatics do not transform fable into fact. Rumors are not the same thing as evidence.” Beware The Ides of March

I just looked up "ides" and it means the day of the full moon using a lunar calendar. "Calends" was the first day of the month beginning with the new moon, based on the ancient Roman calendar Looking at my Gregorian calendar for March, 2010, today is the day of the new moon...the calends of March. Ides of March, 2010 seems to occur on March 30, the day of the full moon. This is all very confusing. Beware, confused woman on the loose.

My birthday is today...£0th March/Full moon.Maybe I stay in tonight!!

Wait, so does that mean that when there's a blue moon, that there would be two Ides of said month?

Beware of The Ides of March:

Osama bin Laden: March 10
Rupert Murdoch: March 11
Mitt Romney: March 12

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About the blogger
Dave Rosenthal came to The Baltimore Sun as a business reporter in 1987 and now is the Maryland Editor. He reads a wide range of books (but never as many as he'd like), usually alternating between non-fiction and fiction. Some all-time favorites: A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole; Wind, Sand and Stars by Antoine de Saint-Exupery; and anything by Calvin Trillin or John McPhee. He belongs to a book club with a Jewish theme.
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