January 10, 2011

No turning back

Filed under: Uncategorized — jchatoff @ 12:05 am
Tags: , , , , ,

This is the day Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon and as he himself said, ‘Alea iacta est’ –  the die is cast.

The Rubicon. Photo by mym

The Rubicon wasn’t much then (in 49 BCE), and after centuries of various water projects and decimation of the aquifer, it’s even less now – looks a bit like a little canal, really.

But it had a significance way beyond its physical dimension – it was a border that no general from the north could cross with an army without incurring the wrath of the Roman Senate.  Caesar’s crossing was effectively a declaration of war, part of the Civil War that ended the Roman Republic and brought about the Roman Empire.

Caesar, despite being a proconsul and part of the Pompey/Crassus/Caesar triumvirate, wasn’t much trusted, so the Senate had sent him north to guard the forests – a bit of make-work to keep him out of Rome.


He was governor of Cisalpine Gaul and some other places and wound up with four legions under his command.  When he decided to take over as dictator, he took one of those legions and went to the Rubicon.

The little river was the border between the northern provinces and Italy proper. Caesar had imperium in his own provinces, but not in Italy.  ‘Imperium’ meant right of command and a general who took soldiers into a province where he did not have imperium was immediately branded an outlaw and so were his soldiers.  They were all enemies of the state.


So, once he led his men across the little red river,  he had declared war.  It was quite an effective declaration – when Pompey and the other consuls heard what Caesar had done, they fled the city.  But it took another four years to defeat all of his enemies – they were in Italy, but also in Greece, Egypt, Spain and Africa – and declare himself Perpetual Dictator.

Until very recently no one was quite sure where the Rubicon was.  In 1993, Italian scholars found evidence of the location and that was confirmed in 1999.  The Rubicon is the Fiumicino.  You can cross it at Savignano sul Rubicone if you like.


  1. Great story reporting thank you Jean.


    Comment by avery — January 10, 2011 @ 10:26 am | Reply

  2. ha – cool!! 🙂


    Comment by Nina C — January 10, 2011 @ 6:34 pm | Reply

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