What is an ‘Ides,’ anyhow?

Lynn Pitts
Faith Columnist

Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles.

(Matthew 10: 17-18 NRSV)

Today is the Ides of March, a date made famous by the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 B.C. In ancient days, the Ides (they can be singular or plural, according to the dictionary) were marked by many religious observances, but today the Ides of March is best known for Caesar’s murder.

You may remember from school days the famous quote from Shakespeare’s play “Julius Caesar,” when Caesar is warned by a soothsayer to “beware the Ides of March.”

According to Plutarch, a seer had warned that harm would come to Caesar no later than the Ides of March. Caesar passed it off as nothing, even joking that “the Ides are come,” apparently thinking that the prophecy was false. The seer replied “Aye, Caesar; but not gone.”

Perhaps Caesar should have heeded the warning.

Every month in the Roman calendar had an Ides near the midpoint of the month – on the 13th for most months, but on the 15th for March, May, July and October. Ides were supposed to be determined by the full moon, because of the lunar origin of the Roman calendar. Therefore, the variance of the date.

All of that is long ago history, of course, but it is also a reminder of the dangers of overarching ambition and self-importance.

Even today, it behooves leaders of any area of endeavor – whether political, religious, professional, military, social or educational – to keep in mind their humanity, their responsibility, and their obligation to the people they lead and serve.

And, importantly, it behooves all of us to remember our history, lest we repeat it.

Leave a Reply