We've all heard that warning from Shakespeare, the one that says "Beware the ides of March. I've read the play but the teacher I had never really explained the phrase when we stumbled across it in high school English.
My class slaughtered the written play as well as any class does when reading the Bard's plays. It wasn't until I had a chance to watch it done on the BBC that his words and plays made more sense.
The phrase "Beware the ides of March" appears in William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar when he is warned by a soothsayer of his impending death and Julius Caesar is killed at the end of the play. In reality, Julius Caesar was killed on March 15th 44 BC when 60 different conspirators stabbed him 23 different times on the steps to the Senate because he'd been declared "dictator in perpetuity". They did not want him to become a tyrant and the Roman Republic died with him and ignited a civil war.
According to the Roman Calendar, every month had an ides or middle of the month. In March, May, July and October, ides landed on the 15th while it was the 13th in all the other months. The word ides itself means to divide. In addition, the ides of March was the deadline for settling debts in Roman society because March was the first month in the original Roman calendar. Julius Caesar changed the calendar so January became the first month.
The original Roman calendar was based off the lunar cycle so the middle of the month was supposed to coincide with the full moon but because the months were slightly longer than the lunar cycle, it wasn't long before the middle of the month no longer lined up with the full moon. In addition, the days were counted in a strange way. The first day of the month was Kalends. Days 2 to 6 were before Nones which was day 7. Then days 8 to the middle of the month as before Ides. Once they passed the middle of the month, the days became before Kalends.
The word "Ides" is one of those unique words that is both singular and plural at the same time. Ides comes from Latin "Indus". It is plural when referring to the middle of all the months but singular when used in reference to a specific month.
Is the Ides of March really a unlucky day? You can find events that happened such as the Samoan Cyclone or the abdication of the Tsar in 1917 but the number of disasters is about the same as any other day. So I'd say its just a saying, nothing more to make it stand out from the rest of the year.
Let me know what you think.