And climb the stairs to the beach...

Saturday, March 15, 2014

What the Heck is an Ide?

"Beware, the Ides of March are upon us" was a quote a favorite teacher was fond of when I was in high school. I knew it was a reference to Shakespeare's Julius Caesar and the date on which he was assassinated in the year 44 BC. But I really never knew why they called March 15 the "Ides" of March. And what the heck is an Ide?

I went all through elementary and high school with a girl named Patty Ide, who sadly passed away a few years ago. When Patty and I were just preschoolers her family moved to my home town of Sudbury from West Virginia and she always said they were hillbillies. Back then anyone from neighboring Framingham seemed pretty exotic, let alone West Virginia. But that was the only other time I'd ever heard the word Ide.

So, of course today being the Ides of March I felt compelled to Google it this morning.

Aside from the Ides of March reference, Ides is  the acronym for Internet Demonstration and Evaluation System or Intrusion Detection Expert System and short for an Integrated Drive Electronics cable. Huh?

Ide is also a nymph who educated Zeus at Rhea's request. Zeus' father, Cronus was warned he'd be overcome by one of his own children. Apparently Cronus had done the same thing to his father, so he knew enough to heed the warning.

Cronus and Rhea had six kids and each time one was born, Cronus swallowed it so as to prevent it from overtaking him. Eeeeeeyooooooo!

Zeus was the baby of the family and when he was born, mama Rhea wrapped up a rock and gave it to Cronus tricking him.

 He swallowed the rock and she hid Zeus from him, having others "foster" him. Zeus was raised by others on Mount Ida, including the Nymph Ide and a goat nurse named Amaltheas.

 Eventually Zeus forced his father to regurgitate his siblings. I really don't remember that myth at all. I may have been absent when they covered that one in school.

Then there was Saint Ide who was an Irish nun  from the 5th century whose name is pronounced Ee-da. The name means thirst, as in thirst for goodness and knowledge and Irish parents still name their daughters Ide. Pabst makes a malt liquor named Saint Ide's  and probably had another kind of thirst in mind when they named it. Ide is an important Saint to the Irish, associated with education and foster parenting. She is  known as the patron saint of foster mothers because her convent became a place where very young children were left in her charge to be educated and many would later become important church men, including a saint or two. Probably no coincidence that Nymph Ide fostered Zeus and Saint Ide fostered young future Bishops and saints. Saint Ide is thought to have died from cancer as it is written "her side was consumed by a beetle that eventually grew to the size of a pig." No particular species of beetle was identified. That has nothing to do with the Ides of March, but I thought it was a kind of funny way to describe what was most likely a tumor. Oh my.

But as for the Ides of March and Julius Caesar in the Roman Calendar the Ides means roughly the middle of the month. Every month in the Roman calendar has an Ides that is acknowledged in some way. It's supposed to align with the full moon and can be the 13th or the 15th depending on the number of days in the particular month.

Tomorrow there will be a full moon on the 16th of March. My neighbor Vern likes to go out on his lanai and howl at the full moon. I think he does it for my benefit. That's neither here nor there, I just thought I'd mention it because I will be listening for him tonight.

In the Roman Calendar March was the first month of the year. The Ides of March marked the end of the "new year" period and the first full moon of the year. This had always been a time for celebration and public and private sacrifices and feasting and getting drunk. It was a carnival and Rome was whooping it up in 44 BC as it always had.

Ironically, 2 years prior Caesar decreed that the calendar would have to change. The Roman calendar feast days were no longer lining up properly with the seasons and when the autumn harvest was taking place in the summer Julius decided to make some changes. The Julian Calendar began in 46 BC and Caesar decreed that year would have 446 days in it. It would later be called the year of "confusion". After that on year, in 45 BC, everything started lining up better. However, March was no longer the first month of the year.

Hey did you hear we can celebrate the Ides of January and the Ides of March this year? Whoopeee!
Rome, however, was not ready to embrace the new calendar quite yet and it hadn't given up the Ides of March holiday right away. And so, in 44 BC the celebration was as it always had been, a wild and crazy day of partying. But, Caesar went to the Senate to conduct business as usual, despite his wife's warning him about a dream she had and various other warnings that he chose to ignore. Shortly after the proceedings had begun, Julius Caesar was held down and the plotting conspirators of the senate pulled their daggers from under their togas and stabbed him forever linking Caesar's death with the Ides of March.

"Et tu Brute, Then fall Caesar" were words in Shakespeare's play that had become popular in the retelling of the story long before Shakespeare put it on paper but they were never spoken by Caesar.

Most accounts say that he said nothing at all.

His body was left for 3 hours on the floor of the senate and he bled to death. Caesar's was the first recorded autopsy ever:  23 stab wounds were reported, the second of which was in his chest, the only one that would have caused his death.

So there you have it. The Ides of March are upon us. If you want an excuse to celebrate you could commemorate Caesar's death or the first full moon of the Roman year by howling at the moon like my friend Vern.
Howling Vern

Or you could follow the suggestion by somebody on Twitter who tweeted:  

"Note to self: On Saturday March 15th, order a Caesar salad, lure it into a false sense of security, then stab it 23 times #IdesofMarch"

 Have a great day! 

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