Top Ten Reasons to Beware the Ides of March
March 15 will live in infamy beyond the murder of Julius Caesar. Here are 10 events that occurred on that date to seal the Ides of March as a fateful day
- By T.A. Frail
- Smithsonian.com, March 04, 2010, Subscribe
1. Assassination of Julius Caesar, 44 B.C.
Conspirators led by Marcus Junius Brutus stab dictator-for-life Julius Caesar to death before the Roman senate. Caesar was 55.
2. A Raid on Southern England, 1360
A French raiding party begins a 48-hour spree of rape, pillage and murder in southern England. King Edward III interrupts his own pillaging spree in France to launch reprisals, writes historian Barbara Tuchman, “on discovering that the French could act as viciously in his realm as the English did in France.”
3. Samoan Cyclone, 1889
A cyclone wrecks six warships—three U.S., three German—in the harbor at Apia, Samoa, leaving more than 200 sailors dead. (On the other hand, the ships represented each nation’s show of force in a competition to see who would annex the Samoan islands; the disaster averted a likely war.)
4. Czar Nicholas II Abdicates His Throne, 1917
Czar Nicholas II of Russia signs his abdication papers, ending a 304-year-old royal dynasty and ushering in Bolshevik rule. He and his family are taken captive and, in July 1918, executed before a firing squad.
5. Germany Occupies Czechoslovakia, 1939
Just six months after Czechoslovak leaders ceded the Sudetenland, Nazi troops seize the provinces of Bohemia and Moravia, effectively wiping Czechoslovakia off the map.
6. A Deadly Blizzard on the Great Plains, 1941
A Saturday-night blizzard strikes the northern Great Plains, leaving at least 60 people dead in North Dakota and Minnesota and six more in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. A light evening snow did not deter people from going out—“after all, Saturday night was the time for socializing,” Diane Boit of Hendrum, Minnesota, would recall—but “suddenly the wind switched, and a rumbling sound could be heard as 60 mile-an-hour winds swept down out of the north.”
7. World Record Rainfall, 1952
Rain falls on the Indian Ocean island of La Réunion—and keeps falling, hard enough to register the world’s most voluminous 24-hour rainfall: 73.62 inches.
8. CBS Cancels the “Ed Sullivan Show,” 1971
Word leaks that CBS-TV is canceling “The Ed Sullivan Show” after 23 years on the network, which also dumped Red Skelton and Jackie Gleason in the preceding month. A generation mourns.
9. Disappearing Ozone Layer, 1988
NASA reports that the ozone layer over the Northern Hemisphere has been depleted three times faster than predicted.
10. A New Global Health Scare, 2003
After accumulating reports of a mysterious respiratory disease afflicting patients and healthcare workers in China, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Singapore and Canada, the World Health Organization issues a heightened global health alert. The disease will soon become famous under the acronym SARS (for Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome).
Subscribe now for more of Smithsonian's coverage on history, science and nature.