Last week, the ominous date March 15 came and went but does it really mean anything extraordinary?
The soothsayer gave a foreboding warning to the soon-to-be-ex-Roman emperor Julius Caesar on this day back in 44 B.C.: “Beware the ides of March.”
Of course, by the time Caesar made it to the capitol, he was stabbed 23 times. His final words were, “Et tu, Brute?”
Full moons, black cats and broken mirrors aside, there’s something ominous about the William Shakespeare play “Julius Caesar” and it may be this famous line that has made us feel so uncomfortable all these years.
The Roman calendar was supposedly based around lunar phases and Ides referred to the first full moon of a given month. These usually fell somewhere during the week that includes the 13th, 14th and 15th and the Ides of March was at one time actually a time of rejoicing.
Since the time of Shakespeare 500 years ago, however, the phrase has become more and more sinister. If a television series has an episode with these words in the title, look out.
Bad things didn’t happen for a Chicago-area rock group that took the name The Ides of March back in the early 1970s. Led by guitar slinger and songwriter Jim Peterik, the Ides of March created one of the most memorable brass-rock songs of any era: “Vehicle.” In fact, to this day, many marching bands across the country (including our own) perform this song.
An interesting side note — Peterik went on to form another band, Survivor, in the 1980s. It had a No. 1 hit we still hear all the time in Tallassee and Auburn: “Eye of the Tiger.”
The Smithsonian has listed the top 10 reasons why we should beware the Ides of March and I include those here with the Smithsonian’s comments.
1 Assassination of Julius Caesar, 44 B.C. Conspirators led by Marcus Junius Brutus stab dictator-for-life Julius Caesar to death before the Roman Senate. Caesar was 55.
- A Raid on Southern England, 1360. A French raiding party begins a 48-hour spree of rape, pillage and murder in southern England. King Edward III interrupts his own pillaging spree in France to launch reprisals.
- Samoan Cyclone, 1889. A cyclone wrecks six warships, including three from the U.S., in the harbor at Apia, Samoa, leaving more than 200 sailors dead.
- Czar Nicholas II abdicates his throne, 1917. Czar Nicholas II of Russia signs his abdication papers, ending a 304-year-old royal dynasty and ushering in Bolshevik rule. He and his family are taken captive and in July 1918 executed before a firing squad.
- Germany Occupies Czechoslovakia, 1939. Just six months after Czechoslovak leaders ceded the Sudetenland, Nazi troops seize the provinces of Bohemia and Moravia, effectively wiping Czechoslovakia off the map.
- A deadly blizzard on the Great Plains, 1941. A Saturday night blizzard strikes the northern Great Plains, leaving at least 60 people dead in North Dakota and Minnesota and six more in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
- World record rainfall, 1952. In a 24-hour period, a world-record 73.62 inches of rain falls on the Indian Ocean island of La Réunion.
- CBS cancels the Ed Sullivan Show in 1971. Word leaks that CBS-TV is canceling “The Ed Sullivan Show” after 23 years on the network, which also dumped Red Skelton and Jackie Gleason the preceding month.
- Disappearing ozone layer, 1988. NASA reports the ozone layer over the Northern Hemisphere has been depleted three times faster than predicted.
- A new global health scare, 2003. After accumulating reports of a mysterious respiratory disease afflicting patients and healthcare workers in China, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Singapore and Canada, the World Health Organization issues a heightened global health alert. The disease will soon become famous under the acronym SARS (Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome).