The ominous warning, “Beware the Ides of March,” originated with the Roman ruler, Julius Caesar, who was assassinated on the Ides of March – March 15, 44 B.C. If you’ve heard the ominous warning, then it’s most likely due to William Shakespeare and his play, Julius Caesar.
The warning itself was made famous in Shakespeare’s play on Julius Caesar, when an unidentified soothsayer tells Caesar, who is on his way to the Senate (and his death), “Beware the ides of March.” Caesar replies, “He is a dreamer; let us leave him. Pass.”
The Astrologer Spurinna
According to historical writer C.J.S. Thompson, Ph.D. in The Mystery and Romance of Astrology, 1929, the unidentified soothsayer from Shakespeare’s play was a Roman astrologer by the name of Spurinna. According to Thompson – and confirmed in Plutarch’s account of the story written in 75 A.D. and Suetonius in 110 A.D. – it was sometime prior to the fateful day of March 15 that Spurinna had first given Caesar the famous warning to “beware of the Ides of March.”The astrologer, Spurinna, had previously warned Caesar that on “the Ides of March,” he would be in great danger. If, however, Julius Caesar took care on that one day – then all would be well.
According to Plutarch’s account, Caesar had previously made the wise decision to stay within the safety of his bedroom chambers on the 15th of March. However, Caesar’s “friend” Decimus (Albinus) Brutus (not Marcus Brutus) managed to convince him that the astrologer’s warnings were nothing more than superstitious foolishness.
So Julius Caesar decided to attend the Senate on the 15th of March. On his way to the Senate, Caesar “accidentally” met up with the astrologer. Upon seeing Spurinna, Caesar confidently informed the astrologer: “The Ides of March are come.”
Spurinna replied, “Yes, they are come, but they are not past.”
Later that day – on March 15, 44 B.C. – Caesar’s enemies assassinated him in the Pompey theater, at the foot of Pompey’s statue, where the Roman Senate was meeting that day in the temple of Venus.
What Are the Ides?
In the ancient Roman calendar, each of the 12 months of the year had an “ides.” In March, May, July and October, the “ides” fell on the 15th day. In every other month, the “ides” fell on the 13th. The word “ides” was derived from the Latin “to divide.” The “ides” were originally meant to mark the full moon – but since the solar calendar months and lunar months were of different lengths, the “ides” quickly lost their original intent and purpose. So an alternative (albeit somewhat dubious) theory, as to why Caesar might have “seemingly” ignored the ominous warning of Spurinna, is that perhaps Julius Caesar got the dates of the warning mixed up. He may have been thinking that the Ides of March fell on the 13th.
Using this theory, forgetful Caesar would have been very careful and stayed home on the 13th of March, but on the 15th of March his guard was down