Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient and Modern

Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient and Modern

Article excerpt

Last week many commentators drew on the Ides (15th) of March, the anniversary of Julius Caesar's death in 44 BC, to reflect on the signing of Article 50 and Julius Caesar's famous cry 'The die is cast' (iacta alea est) in 49 BC, when he crossed the River Rubicon into Italy and started the civil war against Pompey. But they got it wrong: it does not mean 'no turning back'.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of the Caesar-Pompey power struggle, Caesar knew the consequences of this moment. Our sources describe the build-up. Caesar is camped with his troops in Ravenna. Messages are flying back and forth between him and Pompey in Rome. When his final offer is turned down, he secretly sends a force ahead to the Rubicon and spends the rest of the day without a care in the world -- enjoying a few local shows, checking out his planned gladiatorial school, and entertaining guests for dinner.

He then excuses himself and with a few men in a hired cart (not to attract attention) makes his way to the Rubicon by night. …

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