The sudden appearance, out of nowhere, of March lilies has stimulated a whole stream-of-consciousness train of thought. These gorgeous Amaryllis belladonna lilies are so called because that’s when they push through the open fynbos in South Africa’s Western Cape. Sometimes, though, they make an earlier appearance, like right now in February. When they do emerge, it’s a sign that our summer is coming to an end.
Thinking about March, the phrase “Beware the Ides of March” popped into my head. On the Roman calendar, each month had what was called an “ides”, which fell either on the 13th or the 15th. The word derives from the Latin term videre, meaning to “separate”. Originally the ides marked the full moon. But lunar months were of a different length to the human-devised calendar months so they quickly got out of step. During the Roman era the ides in March fell on the 15th. It usually meant a time to settle your debts.
It was William Shakespeare who made the phrase “Beware the Ides of March” famous, in his play Julius Caesar. Caesar was warned of the date by a seer, but he took no notice, and on the ides, March 15, he was assassinated on the steps of the Senate (in real history and in the play).
It also just so happens that in 2021, the 20th of March is the Spring Equinox for the Northern Hemisphere and the Autumn Equinox for us, in the Southern Hemisphere.
And all of this was simply started by the appearance of March lilies!
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