I have reached the point of no return. From this place forward, I am committed to write today’s blog post. The ideomatic expression, “To cross the Rubicon” is generally used by modern people to signify that there is no more turning back. The only option is to finish the risky or revolutionary course of action. The implication usually refers to an action on a grand scale.
The historical source of the phrase dates back to the Roman Empire on this date in 49 BCE. Prior to this time, Julius Caesar was the Governor of Gaul. He was famous for waging successful campaigns on behalf of Rome. The victories greatly increased Caesar’s popularity among the Plebians and commoners. However, the men who had been jockeying for power and wealth in the upper classes resented Caesar’s successes.
In order to preserve their power and to prevent an increase in Julius Caesar’s standing among the rank and file Romans, the men of the status quo plotted to arrest or to defeat him. Caesar was no naïve upstart, he was well aware of the plotting by Rome’s leaders against him. After a few years of political posturing, Caesar decided to bring his army to Rome. To get to Rome from the northern province, the army needed to march across the border of Italy, the Rubicon River.
In its day, the short, shallow river was the boundary between provincial Cisalpine Gaul and Italy. Nobody had any permission to march any armed forces across the river. So, to bring an army across the Rubicon meant committing treason or an act of war. Julius Caesar informed his troops the significance of their crossing of the river bridge. At that point, Caesar said, “alea iacta est” (the die is cast).
Once they were across, the only option was that of a fight. Because diplomacy had ceased to be an option anymore, Caesar and his army’s gamble was an act against Rome. Senator Pompey and consuls Claudius Marcellus and Cornelius Lenulus along with most of the Senate body fled Rome in response. Civil war had been triggered. Caesar’s subsequent victory meant that any prosecution for treason could never be undertaken.
The Blue Jay of Happiness notes that Italy’s Via Aemilia still follows the original path today as it had in Caesar’s day. It’s interesting to note the highway number is nine. Beatles fans know the significance of that number.