Is There a Connection Between March the Month and “Marching”?

The name March is derived from the Roman Martius named after Mars, the Roman god of war. In ancient Rome, March 1st marked the first day of spring, which coincided with the beginning of the calendar year and the start of the military campaign season—which may explain why soldiers “march into battle.” The Roman ruler, Numa Pompilius, added January and February to the calendar thus making March the third month of the year. While many have adopted the Gregorian calendar, some cultures and religions still celebrate the start of the New Year on March 1st.

(Is it true there used to be one more month called Mercedonius? The accurate answer is sometimes. Here’s the reason why.)

Hares mate during the month of March and a female hare may be seen “boxing” (striking another hare with her paws) off a male to prevent an act of procreation – hence “Mad as a March hare”—a phrase that appeared for the first time in Sir Thomas More’s “The supplycacyon of soulys,” published in 1529. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll, also referenced this annual event in 1865’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (often shortened to Alice in Wonderland) and the passage: “The March hare…as this is May, it won’t be raving mad—at least not so mad as it was in March.”

The Ides of March is a reference to the date Julius Caesar was stabbed to death in 44 B.C. and is observed on the 15th day of the month. Julius Caesar was many things good and bad, but did he deserve to have the month of July named after him? Read our explanation of the mess that defined the Roman calendar before Julius Caesar, here.