Julius Caesar Crosses the Rubicon

An illustration of Julius Caesar crossing the Rubicon River into Italy, signalling the beginning of the civil war in Rome
An illustration of Julius Caesar crossing the Rubicon River into Italy, signalling the beginning of the civil war in Rome

Historical Context

Caesar's early success as a military general had reached a crescendo with his appointment to the governorship of southern Gaul and Illyricum. When his term came to a close, the Roman Senate ordered Caesar to disband his legion and return to Rome, specifically ordering him not to bring his army across the Rubicon river which was then the northern boundary of Italy.

Caesar, as history knows, defied this order. As he took his legion across the Rubicon in 49BC (possibly 10 January of that year) he uttered the famous phrase "alea iacta est" meaning "the die has been cast." It sure had been - and it would roll in Caesar's favor.

Crossing the Rubicon led to a civil war which Caesar won, and he became dictator for life of the Roman Republic. He would be assassinated in 44BC.

Today the phrase 'crossing the Rubicon' is used whenever somebody goes past the point of no return.

Drawing Info


Artist: Unknown
Location drawn: Rubicon, Italy, Roman Republic

Source: 19th century publication

Related Events

  • 0049-01-10 BC Julius Caesar defies the Roman Senate and crosses the Rubicon, uttering "alea iacta est" (the die is cast), signaling the start of civil war which would lead to his appointment as Roman dictator for life

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Historical Drawings