Where does the Mid-March Warning, “Beware the Ides of March,” Come From?

Woodcut manuscript illustration by Johannes Zainer, c. 1474

I took Latin every year when I was in high school. I only needed two semesters of it, but I ended up taking four because I loved it so much.

One of my favorite parts was learning about the culture and history of the Ancient Romans. This part of the class helped me discover that I wanted to study history in college.

One of the most well-known figures in Roman history is Julius Caesar, partially due to Shakespeare’s 1599 play, Julius Caesar. This play is where the phrase “Beware the Ides of March” comes from. In Shakespeare’s dramatic recreation of the historical events, “Beware” was an ominous warning given by a soothsayer to Caesar as he made his way to the Capitol in 44 BC.

It was on the Ides of March that Caesar was assassinated by his senators because they believed he was gaining too much power and in danger of becoming a tyrant. The soothsayer was right and Caesar was stabbed multiple times. He was 55.

Back then, the Ides of March was between the 13th and the 15th. Today, the Ides of March is on March 15th and it is seen as a warning to stay on our toes while being ready for anything, including political intrigue and even violence.

The Assassination of Julius Caesar by Vincenzo Camuccini in 1804-180

And, here’s a fun fact: the  correct Latin pronunciation of Caesar is kae-sar or kie-sar.

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