Today on January 10, 48 BCE, Julius Caesar boldly crosses the Rubicon River at the head of his loyal legions, sparking another civil war for control of the republic.
Julius Caesar was one of the most successful and well-known commanders in Roman history. He led his legions to countless victories and achieved more territorial gains than any other Roman general before him. After conquering Gaul (present-day France), he became the first Roman to invade Britain. However, many Roman senators and elites grew increasingly jealous and wary of Caesar’s military achievements. Back in the days of Ancient Rome, popularity was heavily dictated by success on the battlefield. His conquests had made him the most powerful man in Rome. As a result, the Senate ordered Caesar to disband his army and return to the capital.
Caesar knew this was likely a trap. He faced a critical decision - obey his orders or march on the capital at the head of his army. On the morning of January 10, Caesar and soldiers from the 13th Legion waited along the banks of the Rubicon River (near Ravenna). While the Rubicon was no more than a small stream of water, it did represent the territorial line that separated Italy from Gaul. No Governor was legally allowed to cross the river with an army at their backs. To do so was simply considered an act of war. Standing in front of his soldiers, Julius Caesar famously proclaimed “Alea iacta est” (translating to “the die is cast”). He went on to say “we take the course from which signs of the gods and the false dealings of our foes point out.” Without hesitation, his loyal legionnaires followed him across the river.
As they approached the capital city, many of his enemies and senators fled to the eastern provinces. His actions immediately plunged the Roman Republic into another bloody civil war. Two years later, the conflict ended after defeating his rival Pompey the Great at the Battle of Pharsalus. Julius Caesar held the title of sole dictator of Rome for four years before being assassinated on the Ides of March. The country plunged into another bloody civil war which concluded with his adopted son Octavian (known as Augustus) becoming the first Roman Emperor.