Beware the Ides of March!
You have probably heard this phrase before, but do you know where it came from (or what it means)?
The phrase comes from William Shakespeare’s play, Julius Caesar. In the play, Julius Caesar is warned by a soothsayer (someone who is able to see the future) about his imminent assassination.
Whether Julius Caesar was actually warned by anyone to be extra cautious on March 15 or not is certainly questionable at best, but historic records do show that he really was, in fact, assassinated on the ides of March 44 B.C.
According to the ancient Roman calendar, the “ides” of a month would be the day of the month that corresponds with the full moon, which would also be the middle day of the month… typically the 13th day, but in March (and May, July, and October) the moon is full on the 15th day.
I found it a bit odd this morning when I went out for a run and saw that the moon was only half full. Our next full moon will not be until April 6.
The moon is nowhere near full on the ides of March… Why would that be?
The answer is that the Romans (like many cultures still today) relied on a lunar calendar, but Western nations, like the United States of America, use a solar calendar.
The lunar calendar tracks the 12 full cycles of the Moon (which ends up being 354 days), and the solar calendar tracks the amount of time it takes for the Earth to revolve around the sun (roughly 365 days, not counting the wonky leap year). Those 11 days may not seem like much, but in the course of three years that creates a more than 1 month difference. As a result, seasons are constantly shifting on a lunar calendar. Meanwhile, a solar calendar tells you nothing about the phases of the moon, but keeps the different seasons relatively in place from year to year.
I find all of this to be fascinating.
But that’s not actually what I wanted to write about today.
What I really wanted to do with today’s blog was to continue talking about lions.
Nations tend to have symbolic animals. In the United States of America, we have the bald eagle. In Kenya, it is the African lion.
But this is where today’s post goes full-circle. Did you know that the national symbol of ancient Rome was also the lion?
Today ancient Rome is best known by the symbol of the she-wolf, but that was not always the case. Prior to the Renaissance, the lion served as a symbol of national strength, sovereignty and justice for Rome.
During the Middle Ages, there was a grand staircase that led to the Senatorial Palace on the Capitoline Hill, and at the bottom of that staircase was an ancient statue of a lion attacking a horse. It was in front of this statue of a lion that death sentences were announced—and sometimes even carried out!
Historians point out that Medieval Rome was so strongly associated with the lion that people believed the city itself was laid out in the shape of a lion.