One of the most famous quotes about the month of March was penned by William Shakespeare for his play, “Julius Caesar”.
“Caesar: The ides of March are come.
Soothsayer: Ay, Caesar; but not gone.”
The ides of March or the Latin “idus martias” was simply a place marker used by the Ancient Romans to split the month into halves. Each month was arranged around three named days. The kalends was the first day of each month. The nones fell on the 7th of March, July, October and on the fifth during the other months. The ides fell on the 15th of March, May, July, October and on the 13th the rest of the year.
Shakespeare’s use of the phrase, “the ides of March”, was a literary device to add drama to his drama. The ides of March are quite possibly the old bard’s most famous reference.
Now that today is March 15th or the ides of March, we can enjoy a little bit of trivia regarding this interesting month of the year.
Until relatively recent times, the years began in March. Many ancient civilizations including Rome celebrated the vernal equinox as the natural beginning of the year. The kalends of March marked the start of the year. However, over the years, the Roman calendar became greatly out of sync with the Sun. To correct this problem emperor Julius Caesar introduced his Julian calendar. The emperor’s calendar closely resembles our modern Gregorian calendar.
By the way, today’s Gregorian calendar date of March 15, 2020 corresponds to the old Julian calendar date of March 2, 2020. I double-checked this.
We know that the month of March was named in honor of the God of War, Mars. He is also the god of agriculture. It’s interesting to note that spring military campaigns and spring planting begin in the month of March.
The Ancient Greeks named the Solar System’s fourth Planet from the Sun, Ares. The Greek god Ares corresponds to the Roman god Mars. The fourth Planet still bears the name of that deity. By the way, the astrological symbol for Mars and for the male gender are the stylized form of Mars’ shield and spear.
Mars or Martias are at the root of such words as martial. The proper noun, “Mark” is derived from Marcus which was derived from the Latin “Mart-kos” (consecrated to Mars, the God). Marcus was one of the most popular male given names in Ancient Rome.
We think of the month of March rooted in Mars. It’s good to remember that a march is something that soldiers do. A march is also a type of dance and there are musical marches to accompany the dance and the military mode of walking. A march is a noun while to march is a verb.
March was and remains a pretty big deal.