Soothsayer: Beware the Ides of March.
Caesar (to soothsayer): The Ides of March are come.
Soothsayer: Aye, Caesar, but not yet gone.
–William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar
Two-thousand and sixty-two years ago today, Julius Caesar attended the Roman Senate and was assassinated on the senate floor. Fears—albeit, pretty justified fears—had been stoked in Rome that Julius had the intent of destroying the Roman Republic and establish an empire in its stead; Julius had already supplanted the traditional structure of the republic with a temporary dictatorship. Ironically, the civil war that followed the assassination of Julius Caesar ended with the establishment of an empire—talk about best laid plans of mice and all that.
Now, just for some quick history, the early Roman calendar did not number days through the month sequentially; rather, the days in the month counted back from three anchor points in the month which varies a little from month to month depending on the number of days: the Nones, which was either the 5th or the 7th of the month; the Ides, occurring on either the 13th or 15th of the month; and the Kalends, corresponding to the first day of the following month. Because March has thirty-one days, the Ides falls on March 15th. March (or, rather, Martius) was the first month of the year according to the oldest Roman calendar and the Ides of March were significant to the Roman Republic as it was the deadline for settling debts.
One thing is certain: something was settled on the Ides of March in 44 BCE. Arguably, many more things were decidedly unsettled that day; nevertheless, March 15th marks a significant turning point in an ancient society whose impacts are still felt today. And what better way to mark this most auspicious occasion than with jokes?! All the jokes. So many jokes. (Okay, so, maybe, like, ten jokes). I’d like to imagine Julius and Brutus and Cassius all sitting around laughing at some witty, ancient quips—maybe things might have gotten a bit less …stabby.
Here’s to everyone having a safe and 100% not stabby Ides of March!
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