Beware the Ides of March

Yeah, I know. We’ve still got a couple weeks ahead of us on that topic.

But a colleague of mine plans to return to Germany / Regensburg / the office on that day after a big long business trip around several of our company’s Asian locations. When asked, he said he’d return on March 15th, which you and I know as the Ides of March.

I said

Whoa. Be careful.

He said


I said

March 15th! On that day Julius Caesar was murdered!

He said

Cliff, what are you talking about?

I said, with disbelief

Um, “Et tu, Brute?” and all that?

His eyes told me he had no idea what I was talking about.

I said

OK, March 15th is pretty famous as a bad luck day because Kaiser Julius got stabbed in the back by people he trusted on that day.

He said

Wow, Cliff, you know a lot about history.

He walked off and I stood there, shaking my head. This is country of Asterix and Obelix. This is the country whose Gymnasien made me sit through 4th-year Latin classroom instruction, reading Pliny the Elder and tales of Roman conquest and exploration throughout Gaul and Brittania (uh…18 years ago…maybe things have changed since then). This is Shakespeare’s spiritual Heimat (as far as they are concerned). This is the country of Roman baths and where people know what Q.E.D. stands for.

But the Ides of March — or even the significance of March 15th — is a mystery? But that reminds me of a similar incident a few months ago: another guy in our same office is getting married on May 8th.

I say

Congratulations! May 8th, May 8th, May 8th, why does that sound familiar to me?


Oh right, ‘L’ — I guess you’re capitulating, huh?

L says

Uh, what?

So then I told him about V-E Day, and how Russians celebrate it on May 9th, and all I got were those polite nods and grunts you receive when the conversation has lost its relevance and can we please just go back to looking at our computer screens?

7 thoughts on “Beware the Ides of March”

  1. G

    That’s very funny. This came up for me last week as well. We have an Eltern sprechstunde on March 15th. When the teacher wanted to give me a note, I said I din’t need one, as I couldn’t forget the Ides of Marz. She looked at me as if I were mad. I explained the Caesar connection (she knew he was assassinated, she knew by whom, but she didn’t know what the Ides were).
    I just asked my husband, who, like me, took 4 years of Latin (or, here, Latein). He also didn’t know the Ides. It’s very strange that when studying Roman history they didn’t look at the Roman calendar, I think, but not so strange that without studying the calendar one doesn’t know the significance of the word Ides. After all, do Americans know the Kalends or the Nones?

  2. headbang8

    Here’s my suspicion: The Ides of March were not made famous in histories of Rome. The stichwort about the Ides of March was actually made famous by Shakespeare.

    Even though German was among the first languages to enjoy a translation of Shakespeare (thanks to Schiller), some of the famous English expressions which derive from the bard aren’t quite so well known auf Deutsch.

  3. Sarah

    I think we might be extra sensitized to this situation because we’ve heard references to Americans not being all that bright and having little grasp of European history and culture. So it’s a bit surprising to make comments like the above and get nothing but blank stares.

  4. expatsagain

    How interesting! It’s good to know that the Germans’ have cultural gaps in their education as well. Now, if we could just put these people on a game show and feed it to the Americas we wouldn’t have to suffer the indignity of ignorance alone.

  5. Margot

    I go with Headbang8. I’m sure we all learned it from Shakespeare in school. But I, too, am always pleased when I can out-culture a European. It gives me particular pleasure to tell the English, who have yet to get over their scorn for the colonists, that where usage and spelling differ, we Americans are not the ones who changed. A couple of days ago, I added to my collection in learning that the original spellings for metre, centre and such are the American ones: meter, center and such. “Ha!” I say.

  6. ann

    I defnitely learned it from good ol’ Bill S. (I also had a car accident on the ides of march, so it’s a bad luck day for me.) The same year the acting students held an Ides of March fund-raiser – for a fee you could “betray a friend” and they would show up in togas during a lecture and “stab” the betrayed with plastic forks. Much fun was had by all.

  7. Dave

    HBO’s “Rome” was one of the best historical drama series I’ve seen. Not that I’ve watched that many, but I highly recommend this one! There’s nothing like human interest and real characters to make one interested in history.

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