by Constance Daley
American Reporter Correspondent
St. Simons Island, Ga.
March 14, 2006
JULIUS CAESAR HEARD A MOUTHFUL
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, GA. -- Why couldn't the soothsayer just say March 15th when he spoke to Julius Caesar, instead of "Beware the Ides of March"? That's what he was talking about, after all. We've been stuck with interpreting what he meant because of the buzzword "Beware."
He could have said, "Pay attention now, fellows, March 15th is coming and taxes will be due." But he wasn't talking about taxes at the time; he was indeed warning Julius, and Julius did indeed die at the Senate on the aforementioned Ides of March.
That message of foreboding is still with us. Just as Friday the 13th fills many triskaidekaphobics with dread, so also do the Ides of March. I learned for the first time today when I delved into origins of the ancient Roman calendar that it's the Nones, not the Ides that determines exactly what if anything the 15th of March is called.
Just as we recall the length of each month with a little poem, "Thirty days hath September, April, June and November … etc." The ancient Romans had to resort to a verse to remember the Ides, which fell eight days after the Nones.
The Nones falls on the fifth, except as described by the following poem: March, July, October, May / the Nones are on the seventh day. They then would count on their fingers because the Ides falls eight days after the Nones. However, counting backward from the 15th, you reach the seventh, the Nones, which, in the vernacular of the time meant ninth. So, the seventh is the ninth day if you'e counting inclusively.
Without knowing why, we will shudder a little when we say, "Beware the Ides of March," albeit shudder with wide eyes and a hint of a smile. The story may not be as well-known as the expression, and perhaps we've tucked it away with the names of the Roman gods and goddesses. However, Julius Caesar was a real man and the soothsayer spoke a genuine warning on a date we can trace back to the event itself.
What follows is part of what was written by his biographer in those ancient times, and he relied heavily on eye-witness accounts of what transpired on the evening of March 15, when Caesar was due at the Senate [Caesar had bad dreams the night before]:
"Both for these reasons and because of poor health he hesitated for a long time whether to stay at home and put off what he had planned to do in the Senate. But at last, urged by Decimus Brutus not to disappoint the full meeting, which had for some time been waiting for him, he went forth almost at the end of the fifth hour. When a note revealing the plot was handed him by someone on the way, he put it with others which he held in his left hand, intending to read them presently. Then, after many victims had been slain, and he could not get favorable omens, he entered the House in defiance of portents, laughing at Spurinna and calling him a false prophet, because the ides of March were come without bringing him harm. Spurinna replied that they had of a truth come, but they had not gone.
It would appear "beware" in this context is more than a buzzword.
In fact, I'm going to take it seriously and the next time someone says,
"Beware the Ides of March," I just might.