Today is the ides of March, the times the full moon fell on the 15th, although this month it was at 7:40 pm on March 7.
Many, including literature students in the Philippines, used to say beware the Ides of March, an expression derived from the historical fact that Julius Caesar was murdered by a group of Roman senators on the 15th of March, 44 BC.
Exactly a month earlier Caesar had visited a soothsayer named Spurinna. who had predicted his life would be in danger for the next 30 days.
History confirms that because Roman society was superstitious, the real-life dictator Caesar employed seer Spurinna, who repeatedly warned him about impending treachery for a month leading up to the ides of March.
The 60 dagger-wielding senators, led by his friends Brutus and Cassius, stabbed Caesar 23 times and claimed to be acting over fears Caesar’s unprecedented concentration of power during his dictatorship was undermining the Roman Republic, and presented the deed as an act of tyrannicide.
The Ides of March—initially an ancient Roman marker used to reference dates in relation to lunar phases – took on a new meaning.
In the tragedy Julius Caesar written by William Shakespeare, and supposedly also in real life, Caesar was warned by a soothsayer to ‘beware the Ides of March.’
According to Greek historian Plutarch, a seer really did warn Caesar he would be at the very least injured by the Ides of March.
On the day of his death, he saw the oracle and joked that he had made it to the Ides of March, to which the fortune-teller responded the day had not yet ended.
Between 1533 and 1541 the English playwright and cleric Nicholas Udall was a Latin teacher and later headmaster at Eton College.
In 1533 he published a textbook as a teaching aid for his scholars — Floures for Latine Spekynge Selected and Gathered oute of Terence.
As the title suggests Udall took example texts from the works of Terence and translated them into English. One such text is:
According to literary critics, it seems very likely Udall coined the expression ‘beware the Ides of March’ since it doesn’t appear in Terence’s original text and it pre-dates the celebrated use by Shakespeare by the best part of a century.
Udall is well-known as an creative coiner of words and phrases. He invented terms like ‘acknowledge,’ ‘wedding-day,’ ‘tomboy’ and ‘Christian name,’ among hundreds of others.
Shakespeare was taught Latin at school and, although it’s quite possible that he came up with the line independently of Udall, it seems more likely that he just copied it. Either way, Udall was first and Shakespeare a distant second.
These days the Ides of March passes by each year practically unnoticed.