This Month in History- January Published on: 17 Jan, 2022


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This Month in History

Caesar Crossing the Rubicon


This incident that occurred in the history of the Great Roman Empire, gave us the two extremely  famous phrases of the English Language, ‘ Crossing the Rubicon’ and ‘the die is cast’

When Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon in January 49 BC, an unprecedented move, which brought Rome at the brink of a civil war and turned Caesar into a dictator. By traversing the Rubicon, which was considered an illegal act, he ended up waging a war against the Roman Republic.It also led to the establishment of the Imperial Era of Rome.

It is believed that on the morning of January 11th, 49BC, Caesar had stood on the banks of a small stream in Northern Italy when he said to his fellow officers, ‘ The die is cast’ This was followed by his crossing that stream along with 300 of his cavalrymen. This phrase ‘the die is cast’ was often employed by Roman gamblers when they wished for their fortunes to turn by throwing of the dice. This chancy and anomalous move by Caesar was indeed a gamble.

How did it all start?

During the Late Roman Republic, the river Rubicon had functioned as a boundary between the Roman Province of Cisalpine Gaul and Italy. Meanwhile, Caesar had spent 9 years of his life campaigning in Gaul, (which comprises of modern day’s Western Europe), fighting the Gallic Wars. The man who gave us the famous phrase, ‘Veni Vidi Vici’, and had fascinated the mind of Shakespeare, was an excellent General who however, had aroused jealousy in a good many. Despite of being popular among the people of Rome, he made several foes, on his way to success. Later, his enemies decided to plot against him so as to curtail his power. They conspired  to disband his army. Surprisingly, Caesar conceded to their demands only if Pompey, Caesar’s friend tuned foe, agreed to so the same. However, in the turn of several events, the Senatorial hard liners stripped Caesar off his two legions and gave them to Pompey, and at the same time declared him a public enemy. This was also accompanied by the passing of Senatus consultum ultimatum, a special yet controversial decree, which had empowered the state representatives to carry any means for defending the Republic. This finally led Caesar to cross the Rubicon with a single legion under his command. This move caught the Senate unawares and gave Caesar enough time to gain Italy under his control.  Things could never go back to the same, eventually Caesar was assassinated in 44 BC and Augustus became the first Emperor of the Roman Empire.


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