Believe it or not, the Ides of March is simply an old-fashioned — ancient Roman, to be exact — way of saying March 15. The word “Ides” comes from the earliest Roman calendar, which organized its months around three days — Kalends, Nones and Ides — each of which was used as a reference point for counting the other days of the month.

Kalends (from which the English word calendar is derived) was the first day of each month. Nones was the seventh day in March, May, July and October and the fifth day in every other month. Ides was the 15th day in March, May, July and October and the 13th day in every other month.

The rest of the days each month were identified by counting backward from the Kalends, Nones or Ides. For example, March 11 would be V Ides, or five days before the Ides of March. (V is the Roman numeral for five.) Note that the Roman way of counting was inclusive, so the Ides was counted as one of the five days.

Historians suspect Ides might refer to the day of the full moon, since it is believed that the ancient Roman calendar was based on the phases of the moon.

In ancient Rome, the Ides of March was a festive day dedicated to Mars, the god of war, after whom the month of March is named. Ancient Romans usually celebrated by holding a military parade.

So how did a minor ancient Roman day of festivities come to have such modern cultural significance? Today, the Ides of March commonly refers to March 15, 44 B.C., the day Julius Caesar was assassinated in the Roman Senate.

On his way to the Senate that day, Caesar met a “seer” (sometimes called a “soothsayer”) who predicted that harm would come to him no later than the Ides of March.

Caesar apparently did not take much stock in this prediction, noting that “the Ides of March have come.” The seer is said to have replied, “Ay, they have come, but they are not gone.”

Of course, the seer’s prediction came true not long after, when Brutus, Cassius and more than 60 other co-conspirators stabbed Caesar to death. Caesar’s meeting with the seer was popularized in William Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar, in which Caesar is warned to “beware the Ides of March.”

Today, the phrase “the Ides of March” carries with it a sense of foreboding and is often used to signify a fateful day.

 

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    • That’s the kind of learning we like to hear about, Torey! We’re glad this Wonder expanded your thinking on the month of March, and we’re glad we’ve got GREAT Wonder Friends like you! :-)

  1. I thought this wonder was fun. I am reading Julius Caesar right now, but I have not gotten to the part where the seer makes her prediction. As I write this, it is II Ides of November. I wonder if the seer made any other famous predictions or perhaps she was related to the Oracle of Delphi? I think it’s a bit odd that Julius Caesar was killed on the Ides of March. March is the month of the war god, Mars. Caesar was at war with the world when killed.

  2. I find this story interesting because at first I didn’t know how Caesar was killed, but now I know he was stabbed to death.

    • WONDERful, Wayland! We agree that it is a fascinating story. We’re glad that you were able to learn something new today! Thanks for WONDERing with us! :-)

  3. I thought this passage was interesting because it was based on Ancient Rome, and I thought that it was about one of the March holidays.

    • Hi, Summer! The word Ides actually comes from the ancient Roman calendar. So, Ides is actually based in Latin. Rome and Greece are pretty close to each other, though. Thanks for WONDERing with us today! :-)

  4. I think this passage was about how the Ides of March came to us. Another thing it talks about what it is and why it is important. Another thing is about were it happens at. Another thing is the passage is about how it is good or how it helps us. My last thought about this passage is about where it was created or where it is at.

    • WONDERful, Isaiah! It sounds like you learned a lot from the passage! The events surrounding the story about the Ides of March took place in ancient Rome. Cool, huh? Keep WONDERing, Wonder Friend! :-)

  5. It seems like thousands of people died doing a lot of serious work.
    I’m sorry if I don’t get my email.
    This word’s wrong. I sold your Comments. They are very good. You guys are smart.

    • Hi, Branden! We think that you are very smart, and we like that you are WONDERing with us today! You are right! Lots of people do die doing serious work. Keep WONDERing with us Wonder Friend! :-)

    • Not exactly, Summer. Little Caesar’s pizza is more of a modern invention. However, pizza is based on an Italian dish, and Julius Caesar was from Rome. Rome is the Capital of Italy. So, there is a bit of a connection. Keep WONDERing! :-)

  6. I really like how they told us about all of what it comes from and what it is based on. It gave us a huge understanding. I just really like how you guys put a lot of effort in what you do.

    • Thanks, Emma! We are so glad that we were able to help you better understand this Wonder! Thanks for WONDERing with us, today! :-)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • What are the Ides of March?
  • What happened to Julius Caesar on March 15, 44 B.C.?
  • Who popularized the phrase “Beware the Ides of March”?

Wonder Gallery

Try It Out

Can you predict the future? Can you cook? It’s time to find out! Head to the kitchen and try your hand at making homemade fortune cookies.

Making the cookies will probably be the easy part. Predicting the future might be a little trickier!

Think about who will be enjoying the cookies. What kinds of predictions would they enjoy reading? Can you think of some funny predictions that might come true for just about anyone?

Here are a few sample fortunes you can use to get started:

  • You will soon eat a cookie.
  • You will be hungry again in one hour.
  • A closed mouth will gather no foot.
  • You will read this and think, “Wow, who writes this stuff?”

When you’re finished in the kitchen, visit the BBC’s Romans section of its website to learn more about ancient Rome, Caesar and how people lived during that time. You can even play a fun Dig It Up: The Romans game!

 

Still Wondering

Put yourself in Caesar’s shoes — or sandals, as the case may be. How would you have reacted to the seer’s prediction? Use Caesar’s story as a springboard to talk with others about superstitions and whether it’s really possible to predict the future. ReadWriteThink offers a fun Beware the Ides of March! lesson that can help with this discussion.

 

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