Toga! Toga! Toga! It’s the Ides of March!

In William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, a soothsayer warns the would-be king to “Beware the Ides of March.” Like the basis for many of Shakespeare’s plays, the impetus is not completely original. In this case, he adapted the line from Plutarch‘s much tamer rendering in The Life of Julius Caesar which advises Caesar “to take heed of the day of the Ides of March. ” Shakespeare popularized the warning by adding a little “punch” to the original.

Caesar would have done well to listen to the soothsayer, stay home, and catch up on some reading. After all, the admonition wasn’t the only portent of doom. His wife, Calphurnia, had dreamed that bad things were going to happen to him, and even offers to let him blame her for being unduly anxious as an excuse for him to stay home on that fated day.

For a bit of background, the “Ides of March” involved a series of complicated formulas predicated on lunar activity and was used in the Julian calendar, a system which Caesar himself instituted. There are other “ides” but not all fall on the fifteenth. The Ides of January, for example, falls on the thirteenth.

Julius Caesar was indeed assassinated on the Ides of March in 44 B.C. by a gang of conspirators, including  Cassius and Brutus. (“Et tu, Brute?” a dying Caesar opines. In French, the familiar use of “tu” rather than “vous” here bespeaks the intimacy in which Caesar had held his supposed friend.)

Assuming no one has had dreams of your demise and a straggly stranger hasn’t whispered threats into your ear, you may want to celebrate the Ides. Here are some modern ways of doing so:

and, of course, TOGA TOGA TOGA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

(John Belushi in Animal House.)