Beware of the Ides of March: What Happens on March 15?

The Ides of March is often related to the death of Julius Caesar. According to historians, Caesar was stabbed to death during the Ides of March in 44 Before the Common Era (BCE).

Caesar had become a dictator, and Roman politicians were no longer happy with him. Around sixty conspirators took part in the plan for his assassination. 

But it was William Shakespeare who made the Ides of March even more dramatic than it was. In his play, The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, a soothsayer warned the mighty general: “Beware the Ides of March.” Caesar didn’t heed the warning and died that same day. 

Since the play became popular, people have been using the phrase as a warning every March 15. However, the date itself isn’t cursed or a day of bad luck. 

What Is the Ides of March?

“Ides” is a date in the Roman calendar. The Romans didn’t mark months from the first to the last day. Instead, they counted dates from three fixed points:

  • Kalends – the first day of each month
  • Nones – the 5th (during hollow months) or the 7th (during full months) day
  • Ides – the 13th (during hollow months) or 15th (during full months) day

Originally, the Ides were based on the full moon. The Ides of March had been the first full moon of the new year. However, the Roman calendar evolved a lot over time. 

Incidentally, Julius Caesar instituted changes that continue to be seen in today’s calendars. The Julian calendar stopped the practice of basing the dates on the new moon. Instead, a leap year every four years was introduced to mend the gap. 

Caesar’s iteration of the calendar was instituted in 46 BCE. It was only changed in 1582 when corrections were made, and it became known as the Gregorian calendar. 

Caesar’s leap year is still observed every four years. 

The Importance of Ides of March

The conflation of bad luck and the phrase “beware the Ides of March” is quite interesting because the Ides were considered sacred in ancient times. The Ides of each month are said to be important to Jupiter in mythology. He had his high priestess Flamen Dialis lead a procession known as the “Ides sheep” each month. 

The Ides of March is also a feast that celebrates Anna Perenna, a Roman deity of the circle or ring. In ancient times, the Anna Perenna celebration was also the culmination of New Year festivities. People would drink and have picnics throughout the day. 

Another noted celebration on the Ides of March is the Mamuralia, a Roman religious festival. The celebration honors Mamurius Veturius, who made the ritual shields hanging in the temple of Mars.

But this tradition would not be accepted today. It involves a scapegoating ritual where an old man dressed in animal skins is beaten and driven out of the city. 

There is a deeper meaning to this inhuman tradition. The original Roman calendar began in March, which means it was the first month of the year. The man beaten with sticks and expelled from the city represents the hardships and negative energy being left behind for a fresh start in the new year. 

Even more celebrations were initiated during the Ides of March during the Roman Empire. There was a holy week of festivals for Cybele, the Anatolian goddess mother, and her consort Attis. The end of the celebration, which falls on March 22nd, commemorates the death of Attis. 

Shakespeare’s Dramatization of True Events

Technically, Shakespeare popularized the saying, “Beware the Ides of March,” through his play, The Tragedy of Julius Caesar. It was first staged in 1599 and was based on the real-life assassination of Caesar at the hands of Brutus and Cassius. 

Fresh off a triumphant war, Caesar returned to Rome, where he arranged for a victory parade. At the height of his celebration, a fortune teller tells Caesar: “Beware the Ides of March.” The fortune teller was identified as Spurinna, a known haruspex in Rome. 

Portrait of William Shakespeare by John Taylor, 1610

Caesar’s wife, Calpurnia, also had a premonition about Caesar’s death and told him about it. Just as he did with the soothsayer, Caesar ignored his wife’s warning. 

According to historians, Caesar was on his way up the Senate steps when he saw the seer again. He proudly stated: “Well, the Ides of March are come.” After all, nothing happened to him up to that moment. The soothsayer replied: “Aye, they are come, but they are not gone.”

Just a short time later, Caesar was assassinated. 

Since then, the Ides of March has had a negative connotation. The religious celebrations of ancient times have been replaced with a warning about the bad luck and betrayal brought upon by the 15th of March. 

The Ides of March in Pop Culture

Where have you heard of the Ides of March before? 


The Ides of March is a 2011 political drama starring George Clooney and Ryan Gosling. Clooney also co-wrote and directed the film. The film doesn’t directly reference Caesar, but you can get the connection if you dissect the storyline. 


Ides of March is a popular title for many TV episodes that feature betrayals of any kind. There was an Ides of March episode on Party of Five (1994-2000), Xena: The Warrior Princes (1995-2001), and Roman Empire (2016-2019). 


Thornton Wilder published The Ides of March in 1948 as a fictional interpretation of the events leading to the assassination of Caesar. 


There is also a band called Ides of March. They started as a four-piece American jazz band in 1964 and officially called themselves the Ides of March in 1966. They have expanded to an eight-piece band and continue to tour the U.S. today. 

Myles Kennedy, an American singer and guitarist, released The Ides of March album in 2021. It had a song of the same title, which Kennedy explained is about warnings and having a bleak outlook to remind people who they are. 

Caesar with his final wife, Calpurnia, warning him not to go before he was killed.

Is There a Need to Fear the Ides of March?

There is nothing to be afraid of when the Ides of March arrive. It’s a regular day, with the average number of people dying and being born.

It is the birthdate of the beloved Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and actress Eva Longoria. In 2019, activist Greta Thunberg led over 1.5 million people in global climate change protests on this date. 

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