I just happened to hear on the TV that today is the Ides of March. Having taken Latin for 3 years in high school, I am well aware that on the 15th of March, 44 BC Julius Caesar was assassinated, betrayed by not so nice friends.
In case you are wondering what the Ides of March are, according to Wikipedia,, instead of counting through a month sequentially, the Romans counted backwards from three fixed points in the month — the Nones (the 5th or 7th depending on the length of the month) the Ides(13th or 15th) and the Kalends ( first day of the next month). No one can accuse the Romans of being simple-minded.
So, it was on the Ides of March that Julius Caesar was assassinated. Various celebrations have surfaced in regards to the Ides of March. Back in the day, (Caesar’s time) people celebrated with picnics, drinking and revelry because as March was the first month of their year, the Ides were included in their new year celebrations. More than two weeks to celebrate the new year! Well, no one has ever accused the Romans of not knowing how to party! Today we can join the Canadians as they celebrate the day by drinking Bloody Caesar Cocktails. I personally avoid hanging out with guys named Cassius and Brutus every March 15th.
But what really came to mind when I realized that it was March 15th, was a certificate I came across while I was going through some old school papers to include in my memoir. This certificate was issued to me in 1969. Only a handful of people will remember the awarding of this certificate. (Kathi, if you are reading this, you might be one who remembers.)
We arrived at school one day and were given a Latin test by the Association For Promotion of Study of Latin. I must admit, I was not taking it completely seriously. In 1969, I was a sophomore in high school, finishing up my second year of Latin study. I didn’t think I had a chance of doing well, and remember writing “et, tu, Brute” as my response to several questions .
Well, either that phrase occurs in Latin far more frequently than one would expect, or those were the 19 points I missed, because imagine my utter and complete shock when sometime later, my name was called to come up and receive my Certificate of Superior Merit, Magna Cum Laude for “Meritorious Proficiency in Latin”, having correctly guessed (?) my way to a score of 101 out of a possible 120. The incredulous looks on the faces of my friends were an extra kick to receiving this award..
I was sure it had been a mistake, and that the day would come when I would be stripped of my honors and forced to return my certificate to its rightful owner. But that day never came.
A funny aside to this story — I ended up marrying the guy who won this award the previous year. In his case it was well deserved. I remember returning to my high school the summer before I married Bill, to help my younger brother pick up his text books for the coming school year. I ran into my religion teacher, Father O’Rourke, who asked how I was doing. When I told him I was engaged to Bill, he said, “That boy is a genius, you know.”
After 37 years of marriage, I tend to agree, and find myself proud to have achieved the same award as a genius. Maybe I really did know more Latin than I gave myself credit for. I did go on to take the optional third year of Latin and I believe the study of Latin helped me ace the vocabulary section of the SAT.
So, in retrospect, the Ides of March remind me to have a little more faith in myself, or that miracles can occur in the unlikeliest of circumstances, depending on my mood at any given time. And whereas it didn’t turn out well for Caesar in the end, I say, “Carpe Diem! Et tu, lectors?”
(The Canadians have just arrived with the Bloody Caesars. Time to party!)