What Does "Beware the Ides of March" Mean?

Primary Image
Photo Credit

The History and Meaning Behind the Ides of March

Print Friendly and PDF
No content available.

Beware the Ides of March! William Shakespeare created mystique around the Ides of March with his late 16th-century classic, Julius Caesar. But where did the term originate? Why is it a symbol for bad luck? Learn more about the Ides of March’s history, its ties to Shakespeare, and what notable events have occurred on that date over time.

What is the “Ides of March”?

According to the Roman calendar, the Ides are a monthly occurrence. In March and other months with 31 days, the Ides always falls on the 15th; it falls on the 13th in months with 30 days. The Ides traditionally marked the arrival of the new Moon and was cause for celebration. The word “Ides” is derived from Latin, meaning “to divide.”

The Ides is one of three named days in the Roman calendar month. The others are the Kalends, which always falls on the first day of a month, and the Nones, which occurs on either the 5th or the 7th of a month, depending on if it has 30 or 31 days, respectively. 

When is the Ides of March?

The Ides of March occurs annually on March 15. In 2024, it falls on a Friday.

What Day is the Ides of March?

YearIdes of March
2024Friday, March 15
2025Saturday, March 15
2026Sunday, March 15
2027Monday, March 15

Ides of March Meaning

The Romans tracked time differently than we do today. Instead of assigning a number to each day, months were divided into groupings around three landmark days that marked specific Moon phases. For example, in March, the Kalends represented the first day of a month (new Moon); the Nones fell on the seventh day (first quarter); and the Ides occurred on the 15th (full Moon). 

The Ides fell on the 15th in the months of March, May, July, and October. In the other months, the Ides were recognized on the 13th, which also shifted the Nones to the fifth day. The time between the 3 days was counted as “before the Nones,” “before the Ides,” and “before the Kalends.” 

The Ides of March also represented the beginning of a new year with the appearance of the first full Moon of the Roman year before January and February were later added to the Roman calendar.

Should You Fear the Ides of March?

As with Friday the 13th, bad luck is in the eye of the beholder, so it’s best to just go about your day as usual on March 15. In other words, don’t live in fear of something out of your control. If someone tells you to “Beware the Ides of March,” it’s probably nothing of serious consequence, but that’s probably what Caesar thought, too!

The Shakespeare Connection

In Act I, Scene II of Julius Caesar, Shakespeare introduces a soothsayer to offer a stark warning to Caesar: “Beware the ides of March.”

In the play, Caesar gives little thought to the words, but he should have taken them more to heart—because he may have lived to lead another day.

Caesar’s Last Ides of March

It is said that Caesar, the Roman general and dictator, received a similar message on March 15, 44 B.C. He did not take the warning to heart and was assassinated by a group of senators. The plot, led by enemies-turned-friends Marcus Junius Brutus and Gaius Cassius Longinus, was carried out in the Senate House in Rome. It is said that those who took part in Caesar’s killing believed it would save the Roman Republic. Others have speculated that Caesar’s calendar reform and the rejection of long-held Roman traditions led to his demise.

More Ides of March Facts and Historical Events

What else has happened on the Ides of March? Here are a number of notable events…

  • The Romans considered the Ides to be the time to settle any outstanding debts.
  • Andrew Jackson, the 7th U.S. president, was born March 15, 1767.
  • Maine became the 23rd state on March 15, 1820.
  • In 1917, Czar Nicholas II of Russia abdicated his throne, ending a 304-year royal dynasty.
  • A severe blizzard struck North Dakota, Minnesota, and areas in Canada in 1941. Wind gusts surpassed 70 miles per hour in Duluth, Minnesota, and reached 85 miles per hour in Grand Forks, North Dakota.
  • Thornton Wilder published The Ides of March, a novel set in Caesar’s Rome, in 1948.
  • A world record rain fell on the Indian Ocean island of La Réunion in 1952. Over a 24-hour period, beginning on March 15, more than 73 inches of rain fell.
  • In 1971, news leaked that CBS would cancel the Ed Sullivan Show, ending its 23-year run on the network.
  • Symbolics.com became the first internet domain name registered on March 15, 1985.
  • March 15 is Constitution Day in Belarus, marking the day the country established its new constitution in 1994.

What do you think of the Ides of March? Is it an unlucky day? 

About The Author

Tim Goodwin

Tim Goodwin, the associate editor for The Old Farmer's Almanac, has been reading North America's oldest continuously published periodical since he was a young child, growing up just a short drive from the OFA office. Read More from Tim Goodwin

No content available.