The Ides of March

So Monday is my birthday: March 15th. For years I remember two things about the way adults reacted to me as a child: (1) Oh, your name is R.J.! That’s just like Dallas! (and for the record, no, no it is not ). Or (2) Oh my! You were born on the Ides of March!

It’s funny, because when I was a kid, I had no idea what the ides of march was; I just knew it carried with it a certain degree of playful dread, given the reaction of adults. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned a lot more about what the day actually is, and not what people seem to attribute to it.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m not surprised. It seems like the superstition around the date has faded in recent years. Historically speaking, the term ‘ides’ meant the middle of the month for either Martius (March), Maius (May), Quintillis (July), or October on the Roman calendar. On the Ides of March, the Romans actively celebrated for Mars, the god of war (who, by the way, is awesome).

But the reason that we don’t go around talking about the ides of October is not because the God of the Month was less impressive, but simply because of the historical significance of 315. Julius Caesar (a rather important Roman) was murdered by the Brutus’, Longinus, and a bunch of other political turds.

So over the years, the day has carried a negative connotation. It has Dark Ominous Tones.

Now, the truth is, I am no Julius Caesar. Additionally, I find it highly unlikely that anyone will stab me to death. However, I’ve had enough people come up and chatter at me about the ides doom and gloom that I can think of a few to poke with the pointy end of a stick, at least threateningly.

Incidentally - you’ll likely notice that Quintillis is the only month that doesn’t have any aural relationship to it’s English counterpart. Well, it turns out that one of Julius Caesar’s many faults (for which he got the stabby stabby) was reforming the national calendar. The Roman calendar became the Julian calendar as he worked to resolve the listing that occurred in the traditional model set up by Romulus, which had 304 days, and was then later refined by Numa (Numa) which had 355 days. The Julian calendar is identical to our modern Gregorian calendar in terms of length and usage of leap years, but was simply not shifted to match the same days of the year.

When Julius Caesar was murdered, they renamed Quintillis to Julius, and then bippity-boppity-bacon you have July.

So anyway, that’s how I began to call myself the Roman god of war. Don’t make me smite you.

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