WTF Fun Fact 13282 – The Ides of March

March 15th is known as the Ides of March. It’s a day that has become synonymous with betrayal and tragedy.

What is the Ides of March, and why is it infamous?

The Ides of March is a day on the Roman calendar that corresponds to March 15th.

After changing their calendar system multiple times, the ancient Romans eventually divided into three parts:

– The Kalends (the 1st day of all months).
– The Nones (the 7th of March, May, July, and October, and the 5th of other months).
– The Ides (the 15th day in March, May, July, and October, and the 13th day of the other months).

Today, we associate the Ides of March with Julius Caesar’s assassination in 44 BCE. Interestingly, they were also a day set aside for settling debts in ancient Rome.

On that day, a group of senators, including Brutus and Cassius, stabbed Caesar 23 times. He died on the steps of the Roman Senate.

The senators believed he had become too powerful and, as a result, posed a threat to Roman Republican rule. One of the “offenses” Casear committed was to further change the calendar. While he theoretically redesigned it to match up better with the seasons and moon cycles, it also benefitted him politically.

Why choose March 15th?

According to JSTOR Daily (cited below, and which provides more popularized accounts of academic articles):

“While it’s commonly believed that the date of Caesar’s assassination was one chosen based on expediency and proximity—he would be leaving three days later for a potentially long military campaign against Parthia, and the Senate would meet on the Ides, thus putting Caesar within reach of the conspirators—one scholar argues that the date was also one that held symbolic meaning for Brutus, Cassius and the other assassins, and that the calendar reform may have been a “last straw” for them, symbolizing the rejection of the sacred traditions of Rome, the mos maiorum, not unlike if a US president were to sit during the National Anthem.”

What is the legacy of March 15th, 44 BCE?

Julius Caesar’s assassination was certainly a turning point for Rome and changed its political future. It may remind us that even the most powerful leaders are not invincible. Or that ambition can lead to tragic outcomes. It has long served as a cautionary tale about the dangers of unchecked power and the consequences of betraying one’s ideals.

You likely know that William Shakespeare immortalized the Ides in his play “Julius Caesar.” It famously warns us to “beware the Ides of March” and the danger they represent.

Of course, depending on how you look at it, the Ides of March can also represent the resilience of the human spirit. After all, despite the tragedy of Caesar’s assassination, Rome continued to grow.

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Source: “Beware the Ides of March. (But Why?)” — JSTOR Daily

WTF Fun Fact 13263 – March’s Festival of Mars

Ancient Romans celebrated the Festival of Mars, also known as the Feriae Marti or Martius, in March. The ancient Roman celebration was held in honor of Mars, the god of war and agriculture. The Romans held this Festival annually, and it was one of the oldest and most important festivals in the Roman calendar.

What did Romans celebrate during the Festival of Mars?

The Festival of Mars typically lasted a few days. Romans marked it by feasting, music, and games, including chariot races, foot races, and gladiator fights. The Festival also included a procession in which men carried a statue of Mars through the streets of Rome, followed by priests and members of the military.

The Festival was seen as a time of renewal and rebirth, as well as a celebration of the coming spring and the beginning of the growing season. It was also seen as an opportunity to honor Mars and seek his protection and blessings for the coming year.

Romans also honored the god Quirinus (who was associated with Mars) during the Festival. The Romans believed he was an early king of Rome. He became a deified ancestor they worshiped as a god of war and agriculture, much like Mars.

During the Festival, the Roman people would offer sacrifices and perform rituals in honor of Mars and Quirinus. They were seen as twin gods who presided over the renewal of life and the coming of spring. The Festival was also an important time for the Roman army, which would perform military drills and honor their patron god Mars.

How did the celebration evolve?

The Roman calendar originally began in March, which used to be the first month of the year. This was based on the cycle of agricultural seasons.

March marked the beginning of the spring planting season. Over time however, the Romans adjusted their calendar to align with astronomical events, such as the winter solstice. Eventually, they established January as the first month of the year. The Festival of Mars evolved and incorporated elements from other festivals. This included the Roman New Year celebrations and the Hilaria festival, held in honor of the goddess Cybele.

Some scholars posit that the shift from the March Mars festival to a New Year celebration was due to the influence of other cultures. For example, the Etruscans celebrated the New Year in March. The Etruscans were a pre-Roman civilization that inhabited central Italy and whose customs are believed to have influenced Roman culture in many ways.

However, despite these changes, the Festival remained an essential part of Roman culture.

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Source: “Feriae Marti” — Roman Republic