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‘Beware The Ides of March’

March 15, 2011
By JOYCE COMINGORE, Garden Club of Cape Coral

By Joyce Comingore

Special to The Breeze

"Beware The Ides of March" was the soothsayer's warning, but would Julius Caesar listen? Nooooo. The result, "et tu Brutus?" The Ides of March is the early Romans way of saying March 15. Sixteen centuries later, William Shakespeare made us aware of it when he wrote a play about Julius Caesar's untimely demise in 44 B.C., with 23 stab wounds.

The Ides of March was the 15th day of the first month in the earliest Roman's calendar, as supposedly devised by Romulus, the mythical founder of Rome. It was their first day of spring. Later we had the Julian calendar established by Julius Caesar, which evolved into the Gregorian calendar, established in 1582 by Pope Gregory the VIII, which we now use.

The Roman calendar was believed, in part, to be originally adapted from the Greeks, with only 10 months and 304 days in a year. The missing 61 days were ignored because they were somewhere in the middle of the winter. Their year started, supposedly, in the 8th century, B.C., with March, or Martius, then Aprilis; Maius; Junius; Quintilis, which later became July after Julius Caesar; Sextilis, which later became August after Agustas Caesar, September; October; November; December, the last six were Latin for five, six, seven, eight, nine and 10. These were latter amended to add Januarius, named for Juno, a two-faced god looking forward and backward, and Februarius for the missing winter months, all based on lunar cycles, making a year 355 days long, still not enough to fulfill the lunar year.

Ancient astronomers had a limited knowledge of the solar year, so periodic adjustments were necessary to realign the calendar to the appropriate seasons. Their weeks consisted of three names of importance. The time in between were counted backwards to the next appropriate named day.

Calends or Kalends, dedicated to the god Juno, was the first day of every month, spanning more than two lunar phases, starting right after the full moon 'til the next crescent was sighted. Calendar came from this word. Ides, Latin for half division, meant halfway through the month, the 15th in any month containing 31 days, the 13th of all other months. Nones occurred nine days before the ides. It was necessary to make many adjustments. A pontifex, or priest, was assigned to watch the skies for the changing moons, and call out the new moon and declare that the next month had started.

Julius Caesar found this to be too confusing and framed his own Julian calendar. His astrologers told him that their horoscope work would be better if he tidied up the calendar. He needed an accurate way to collect taxes, plant and harvest crops and when to send his troops out to combat the barbarians. They invented leap year, because they realized a full trip of the Earth around the sun wasn't a well rounded-off number of 365 days. They needed one-fourth more day. Well, this still differed from the Earth's real excursion by 11 1/2 minutes a year and left us behind by about 10 days in the sixth century.

In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII ordered these 10 days deleted right after Oct. 1, which then became Oct. 11. He tweaked the calendar and future errors were stopped by declaring century years to not be leap years, unless they were divisible by 400. The year 2000 was therefore a leap year, but 2100 will not be. This still leaves an error of 26 seconds a year. Modern astronomers and the atomic clocks correct this unbeknownst to us from time to time.

Catholic countries adopted this calendar right off the bat, but the English countries, including the American colonies did not, until 1752. Alaska did not until 1867 because up until then they were under Russian rule. Orthodox churches as of now, 2011, still follow the Julian calendar and are 13 days behind the equinox. Julian and Gregorian calendars begin at midnight. Tempus fugits and marches onward!

Speaking of time, tonight we set our clocks, "spring forward." Daylight savings time is upon us. The first time was kept by sundials based on the position of the sun, later, mechanical clocks were invented, and now we have complicated them with Daylight Saving Time.

Daylight Saving Time was first conceived by Benjamin Franklin, but wasn't seriously thought about until 1907 in England. They enacted laws in 1925. The United States adopted forms of it in 1919, and then Franklin Roosevelt instituted it during World War II from 1942 to 1945. States were later allowed to do their own thing after President Nixon signed it into law in 1974. Arizona still has not changed and I lived in Indiana when they voted not to change, which lasted until 2005. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 decreed that DST starts at 2 a.m. on the second Sunday of March and ends at 2 a.m. on the first Sunday of November. Daylight Savings Time seems to be a misnomer to some people, who can't see that we have less or more of the hours, they insist it is just Daylight Shifting Time. Fire departments suggest we change the batteries of our smoke alarms when we change our clocks.

Today is the Garden Club's 3rd Annual March in the Park at Jaycee Park. Many vendors are participating and hourly prizes will be given as well as many raffle prizes offered at 4:30 pm join us.

Then there is St .Patrick's Day. I wish there was a Blarney tree to kiss, but find any tree to thank. Here's to oxygen!

Joyce Comingore is a master gardener, national board director of the American Hibiscus Society and member of the Garden Club of Cape Coral.



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