Friday, 15 March 2013

Watch out Julius Caesar!!!

The date on this is 1623.
Shakespeare has been popular for a long time.
Today is the Ides of March.

If you studied Shakespeare's Julius Caesar at school you will be very familiar with the dramatic cry, "Beware the Ides of March." This was uttered by the soothsayer to Julius Caesar and predicted his murder. Apparently Shakespeare was quite accurate in his plot. The soothsayer can actually be identified and is named in historical documents. The setting, the date, the people, and the motives are all accurate.
How did Shakespeare do that? Mark of a genius I suppose.

In the original Roman calendar March was the first month of the year. There was a holiday from the beginning of the month until the Ides of March and this was part of the celebrations for New Year.

One of many images of Julius Caesar.
The Romans did not number the days sequentially from the first through to the last day as we do. Instead they counted back from three fixed points on the month:
  • the Nones was on the 5th or the 7th depending on the month; 
  • the Ides on the 13th or the 15th; and 
  • the Kalends which was the 1st of the following month. 
These words are always expressed as if they are plurals in English.

Ides occurred on the 15th of the month in March, May, July, and October, and on the 13th in the other months. The Latin root of the word 'Ides' means 'divide' and this date split the month at the time of the full moon. The Ides of each month was sacred to Jupiter the supreme deity of the Romans, and the sacrifice of a sheep on this day was common.

This is how the Roman calendar is calculated.
People did not have weekends at this time, and everyone continued working from one day to the next without a break. Nowadays we find ourselves returning to this system of labour and time divisions. The concept of a weekend is culture-specific and has only existed for a relatively brief period of time.

The Ides of March had other social and political significance though.

In Roman times the Ides of March was a financial deadline, and was the time by which all debts must be settled.

The Ides of March was also the Feast of Anna Perenna. This involved some raucous behaviour, parades, partying, and fancy dress.

The ides of March also marked the beginning of the consular year. Two elected consuls took office on this day. This tradition had begun around 220 B.C. A consul is rather like an ambassador and a politician rolled into one.

So watch out if you have a colleague named Brutus or Cicero. Stay away from political groups if your name is Julius. And  ... Beware the Ides of March.

1 comment:

  1. poor Juli... did you ever see this:
    It's awesome!


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