The phrase “To Cross the Rubicon” is regarded today as a description for actions that cannot be undone and steps which cannot be retraced. These vary from anything such as choosing between a salad and a hamburger, or venturing into uncharted market territories guided only by your fundamental business idea.
There are some choices in life which cannot be undone, yet unnerved faith in one’s payoff and value strengthens us to march on. Some of these choices may not always be the most popular and looked down upon, whether it be careers, hobbies, or business. Yet in this society of arts and wars, it is always preferred to walk the moral yet lonely path than to follow the herd. The story of Rome’s greatest generals of all time, Julius Caesar, is one of such.
Since his inception as a scrawny, 19 year old legionary, Caesar was ambitious to attain fame and glory, a sentiment shared by many of Rome’s youth. His family wealth was stripped to the point where the only solace to his dreams was the Roman armed forces. Over the years, Caesar would engage in several skirmishes, including the defeat of the gladiator Spartacus and the conquest of Gaul.
With the help of fellow commanders Gnaeus Pompey and Marcus Crassus, Caesar would spread his wings in the political spectrum to attain a status of consul. The Battle of Alesia in 52 BC against the Gallic tribes was a decisive victory for Rome as Caesar was regarded as a national hero. Scribes would document battles to be distributed around the city. By this point, Caesar was a celebrity.
This immense popularity concerned Crassus and Pompey. Caesar was never meant to succeed, not to the extent of Gaul. Seduced by the glory, Crassus launched a campaign against the Partian empire, where he failed miserably. Enraged by the parades and celebrations awaiting Caesar’s return to Rome, conspiracies spun within the Senate. The senate voted a final verdict: Caesar was to return to Rome to be trialed.
Now, there were laws in Ancient Rome regarding marching legions across the border. Typically, it was illegal for Roman generals to march their troops to Rome unless a Roman triumph was prepared for them, or if they were consul. Since Caesar was ordered back by the Roman Senate, he had to comply or face charges of treason.
The 13th Legion had marched through Gaul for weeks. Caesar had deliberately cut Roman supply lines and relied solely on whatever was salvaged from the Gauls. The stinging cold was enough for the troops to move on. The final border between Rome and Gaul was neither fortified nor a devious barrier, but a river.
This river, however, held great political weight. To cross the Rubicon River with would be to formally declare war on Rome.
Despite his popularity, Caesar was aware of assassins on his life. He could not afford to cross Rome alone. To disobey the Roman senate was an infringement on the Republic at a cost of his troops’ loyalty. But despite his conquests and successes, Caesar was admiringly – and to some extent, stubbornly – loyal to Rome. He truly believed Pompey had corrupted the soul of the republic as a tumour, and marching to Rome would be an act of cleansing.
Together, with the support of his legion and general Marc Anthony, Caesar trudged on. This would mark as a decisive moment in Caesar’s career. Upon hearing of Caesar’s return via crossing the Rubicon, Pompey declares war on Caesar, but would eventually retreat to Egypt under the shelter of King Ptolemy. Later, by 44 BCE, Caesar was decreed Dictator of Rome, a transgression from the Roman republic to the Roman Empire.
To this day, Julius Caesar is hailed as an international celebrity, an overlord to the political and business aspirants. An extensive legacy, one that all began with a river.