February 15

The Ides of March, 44 BCE

The first of the three pieces on February 14 - the Lupercalia and the Roman names associated with St Valentine - lead directly to this piece on February 15.

The Lupercalia ran from February 13th to 15th, leading me to wonder at an odd coincidence of terms, for there are
the Ides of the Roman and there are the Eids of the Moslem world. Did both come from William Jones' "common source" - that overlap of languages and cultures that he noticed when he was studying Sanskrit in the Raj and kept encountering remarkable similarities with the Greek and Hebrew and Romance and Germanic. Are the Ides and the Eids in fact the same thing? Research time.

Ides is an English mispronunciation of the Latin Idus, probably derived from the Etruscan īduo; which is not surprising, as we know that the Romans got their alphabet from the Greeks, who got it from the Phoenicians of Ugarit and Byblos, who invented it.
Yehudit (Biblical Hebrew) derived its alphabet from exactly the same source, as did Aramaic, and originally Arabic - the Qur'an was written using the Persian script, which was adopted in the 4th century CE. Nevertheless the vocabulary shares a common source, so the conjecture is certainly feasible.

Surfing the Internet I find: "The word Ides derives from a Latin word which means 'to divide'. The Ides were originally meant to mark the full moon, but because calendar months and lunar months were different lengths, they quickly got out of step. The Romans also had a name for the first day of every month. It was known as the 'kalends'."

But if they originally marked the full moon, then the Roman calendar must originally have been lunar, just like the Moslem, and the Hebrew, and there are Eids to mark the full moons, just as there are Tus (Tet-Vav - טו) in Hebrew - or really Yahs (Yud-Heh - יה), but you will have to go and explore my
BibleNet to understand that little curiosity.

The 15th of a lunar month is always the full moon; in Islam as in Judaism key festivals are allied to it, and in Islam two of those festivals bear the name Eid (see below). The Roman calendar was solar; and yet, in March, May, July and October, the 15th of the month was called the Ides - in all other months it was the 13th. Presumably this was because it became solar, retaining its original lunar structure, and the variations were the attempt to reconcile the ensuing problems.


Eid is an Arabic term meaning "festivity" or "celebration". There are two major Eids in a lunar year: Eid al-Fitr on Shawwal 1st and Eid al-Adha on Dhu al-Hijjah 10th; I would give these in their solar equivalents, but cannot as the Moslem lunar calendar, unlike the Jewish one, does not have intercalary days that enable the two to be synchronised, so those dates in the Moslem calendar move through the solar year and can only be pinned down by choosing a specific year and learning where they happen to fall in that year; and then it will depend where you are geographically, because different parts of the Moslem world celebrate the Eids for different lengths of time.

Eid al-Fitr (fitr means "breaking the fast") marks the end of Ramadan, the Lenten period during which no food is consumed in daytime.

Eid al-Adha (the "festival of Sacrifice"), also known as the Greater Eid, is the second most important festival in the Muslim calendar. It tells the story of Ibrahim's sacrifice of his son (not actually named, but assumed to be Isma'il in the Moslem tradition; see Surah 37, As-Saffaat, verse 102), which is of course a parallel of Abraham's sacrifice of Yitschak (Isaac) in Genesis 22, and the key date for that story is not just any new moon, but the new moon of Tishrey, which (just to make things even more awkward) is both the seventh month and the first of the Jewish Year. 
So we have an Id and an Eid, but in Hebrew we also have an OT (think how Latin "pater" becomes Italian "padre" and it isn't all that far from a soft "t" to a hard "d"). An OT - אות - is a "sign", or "symbol", or "semiotic", is used for a letter, in the sense of alphabet, and in the Bible is specifically used to indicate the festivals, the lunar changes, the "divisions" of the calendar, as in... far too many occasions to list, but click here, and you will find them all.



William Jones' hypothesis of a "common source" is much derided by today's scholars, though actually the evidence is entirely to the contrary (the source of the common source was probably the Hittites, who went into the Indus valley as well as Greece and the Middle East), as can be demonstrated through the vocabulary of comparative mythology in particular, which extends the commonalities into West Africa, and from there into both of the Americas.

But who are we amateurs to argue with the respected scholars of respected universities? Probably the similarity of the Idus and the Eid and the Ot is just coincidence (in Hindi, by the way, the word is इडस, and it is pronounced Idas; a festival is an Utsav - उत्सव, which I am told should be pronounced as though that "t" were a "d").

A shame, in a way, that Jones got it so badly wrong, because I quite like coincidence (should that be coinceidence?)





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