The Ides of March and Other Dates to Beware

WORLD HISTORY | February 23, 2019

Painting depicting the assassination of Julius Caesar. Source: (history.com)

Some days are just born bad. Not really, but there are some days of the year which have gained a reputation for being unlucky. The most notorious of these is Friday the 13th, despite the lack of historical tragedies to justify its reputation. However, there are a few days which seem to attract disaster a bit more often than others.

The Ides of March

The only date to come close to rivaling Friday the 13th’s notoriety is the Ides of March, which falls between the 13th and 15th of the month. Anyone who read Williams Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar knows that this was the day, specifically March 15, 44 B.C., on which the Roman dictator was murdered by a group of conspirators, one of whom was his close friend. The play is based on a real event and Caesar was warned by a soothsayer to “Beware the Ides of March,” though these may not have been his exact words. However, the soothsayer was speaking specifically to Julius Caesar, not condemning the day itself. Nevertheless, the day has achieved a legacy of ill fortune, immortalized in movies such as the 2011 film The Ides of March as well as in Thornton Wilder’s novel of the same name. It has also appeared in several television shows and is always represented as a day to fear.

Czar Nicholas and his daughters. Source: (pinterest.com)

However, the Ides of March was not always a day to beware. It was originally a day of celebration as it signified the new year. At least it did until Julius Caesar introduced the Julian calendar and January became the first month of the year. However, Caesar’s assassination was only the first tragedy to occur on the Ides of March. The day also lays claim to a raid on southern England in 1360, a cyclone in 1889 which wrecked six warships and killed 200 sailors, the abdication of Czar Nicholas II in 1917, and a blizzard in 1941 which killed more than sixty people. However, there are several dates which have seen even more tragedy and yet failed to gain such a reputation.

Titanic approaching iceberg. Source: (thestar.com)

April 14

If April 14 sounds familiar, it’s because this day proved unlucky for more than 1,500 people on the night of April 14, 1912, when the Titanic struck an iceberg, causing it to sink. As tragic as that event was, it wasn’t the only misfortune to occur on the fourteenth of April. Abraham Lincoln was shot on that date in 1865. It was also the date in 1935, referred to as “Black Sunday,” when a massive sandstorm occurred in the area of the United States known as the “Dust Bowl” resulting in several deaths and forcing others to leave their homes. In 1944, it proved unlucky for two separate groups of people as it was the day the first group of Jews, totaling 5,200 people, was transported from Athens to Auschwitz concentration camp. On the same day, the SS Fort Stikine exploded in the harbor at Bombay, India, resulting in hundreds of casualties. The day also claims a deadly hailstorm in 1986, the bombing of Northern Ireland in 1972, and a deadly hotel fire in 2013.

"Mary, Queen of Scots in captivity", Anonymous after Nicholas Hilliard. Source: (smithsonianmag.com)

April 20

April 20 was unlucky for Mary, Queen of Scots in 1567, as it was the day that Queen Elizabeth I signed her death warrant. It was unlucky for the rest of the world in 1889 when Adolf Hitler was born. On this date in 1920, 219 people were killed by tornadoes in Alabama and Mississippi. In 1999, it was the date of the Columbine High School massacre and in 2010 the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded. The date also claims a fatal plane crash in 2012 as well as a deadly earthquake and an avalanche in 2013.

September 2

The Great Fire of London began on September 2, 1666. In 1792, the “September Massacres” of the French Revolution began. September 2 was also the date of the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, the most intense hurricane to make landfall in the United States. This date proved unlucky for Anne Frank as it was the day she was deported to Auschwitz. This date also claims a deadly fire in 1949, a bridge collapse in 1956, and an earthquake in 1992.

9/11 Memorial. Source: (wikipedia.org)

September 11

The terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, was not the first or the last tragedy to occur on this date. In 1649, 3,000 royalists were killed during the Massacre of Drogheda, Ireland. Another massacre, this time of 120 colonists in Utah, occurred in 1857. In 1963, Typhoon Gloria killed 330 people in Taiwan. The date also claims the storming of the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi in 2012 and the collapse of a crane which killed 100 people in 2015.

October 29

October 29, 1929, also known as “Black Tuesday,” was the day the stock market crashed, triggering the Great Depression. In 1942, this date saw the murder of 16,000 Jews by the Nazis. In 1998, Hurricane Mitch made landfall in Honduras, killing over 11,000 people. The next year, a cyclone hit Orissa, India, killing 15,000. This date also claims a flood in 1913, a snowstorm in 2011, and Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

Attack on Pearl harbor. Source: (wikipedia.org)

December 7

The final date on the list is famous for being the day in 1941 when the Japanese forces attacked Pearl Harbor, killing over 2,000. In 1988, an earthquake killed 25,000 people in Armenia. This date also claims a hotel fire in 1946, the collision of two jets in 1983, and the Long Island Rail Road Massacre in 1993.

While many of these dates are famous for a single tragic event, none of them have achieved the legendary status of Friday the 13th or even the Ides of March.

Tags: the ides of March, Julius Ceasar, dates feared

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