You probably have your high school English teacher to thank if you know this literary gem. It only gets dusted off once a year, on March 15th. Of course, it’s the soothsayer’s warning to Julius Caesar about his impending assassination portrayed in Shakespeare’s tragedy. It would have come into our personal language spheres around about Grade 9 or 10 in the old Saskatchewan English curriculum.
The saying can often be misinterpreted as a warning of likely misfortune and general bad luck at the hands of fate or some other cosmic influence. It’s as though the 15th of March were an annual incarnation of Friday the 13th. That’s not really the case.
The 'ides' was simply the central point in the lunar month according to the Roman calendar. As such, it was a mark on the calendar for religious ceremonies and financial settlements. The fact that the leader of the world’s most powerful empire (at the time) met his demise on the Ides of March wasn’t much more than a coincidence.
Yet the phrase has rattled around our lexicon for a few hundred years. There are probably newer sayings in pop culture that are better recognized. “Live long and prosper” owes its origins to Trekkies; “With great power comes great responsibility” comes courtesy of Stan Lee’s Marvel comics. Still, every time the 15th of March rolls around, we drag out this time tested caution. While various websites list the top ten historical catastrophes that have occurred on March 15th, there isn’t much statistical significance compared to any other day of the year. You don’t see many people walking around chanting “beware the Ides of August.”
Besides, good things happen on the Ides of March. It’s Callum’s birthday. So for any of you celebrating a birthday with him, enjoy the Ides of March.
Just try not to “let loose the dogs of war”.