“Beware the Ides of March.” – soothsayer, "Julius Caesar" (Act 1, Scene II)
Long before William Shakespeare wrote those words, the Ides of March was known as the date on which Julius Caesar was killed in 44 B.C.
Caesar, who according to the historian Eutropidus fell out of favor when he began to conduct himself in too arrogant a manner, was the target of an assassination plot by 60 or more Roman senators. The senators, fearing Caesar intended to do away with Romans’ personal freedoms, decided to rid the country of a man they saw as a tyrant.
The Greek historian Plutarch recorded that a seer, or soothsayer, had warned the Roman emperor to be on his guard on March 15, the day the Romans referred to as the Ides. Caesar, dismissing the seer’s warning, chose to venture out that day and was on his way to the Senate when he spotted the seer and reportedly said, "Well, the Ides of March are come." To which the seer is said to have replied, "Ay, they are come, but they are not gone."
Caesar continued on his way to the Senate where he would soon meet his death. Plutarch explained the conspirators had chosen to carry out the deed at the Senate meeting since “for then they might appear all together without suspicion; and, besides, they hoped that all the noblest and leading men of the commonwealth, being then assembled as soon as the great deed was done, would immediately stand forward and assert the common liberty.”
The attack, when it finally came, was brutal. According to Eutropidus, Caesar was stabbed 23 times. Plutarch wrote, “and they so eagerly pressed towards the body, and so many daggers were hacking together, that they cut one another; Brutus, particularly, received a wound in his hand, and all of them were besmeared with the blood.”
The assassination of Caesar led to years of civil unrest and made the 15th of March one of the best-known dates in history.