|Article Title: The Rubicon|
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January 10th, 49 B.C.
“Stop,” Julius Caesar commanded, and his word brought the legion, the Legion XII Gemina, to a halt.
It was early winter, and the ground was covered in frost. The men were used to long marches but were tired. Caesar’s legion had made their way from Gaul all the way through northern Italy. The countryside was growing more familiar as they marched. They knew now where they must be headed. To Rome! Home!
Ten years ago, Julius Caesar had been elected consul of Rome, after which he had moved to Gaul where he had been named Governor. In those ten years, Caesar had fought numerous Celtic and Germanic tribes and brought them under Rome’s control. Because of this, Caesar had become very popular with the Roman people. However, he had become viewed as a threat by the Senate and by Pompey. Pompey was a great general who had conquered many lands to the east and south for Rome and was a favorite of the Senate and its most powerful member. Pompey had once been married Caesar’s daughter, Julia, who had been both beautiful and virtuous. Pompey had adored her, but she had died in childbirth five years ago, and since then rivalry and distrust had grown between the two generals.
Recently, the Senate had recalled Caesar to Rome and ordered him to disband his army. Fearful of the Senate’s motives, Caesar was not willing to do this. He would return to Rome, but he would come with his army.
The night before this day’s march, Caesar and his men had camped in Ravenna, where Caesar had mulled over his final decision: tomorrow they would reach a small river, a small stream really, for it was easy to cross. This stream was the river Rubicon, which separated Gaul and the northern part of Italy from Rome. By Roman law no general was allowed to cross this river toward Rome with an army. To do this was not just a serious crime against Rome—it was treason. Was he ready to do the unthinkable? Should he cross the river, or should he turn back? It was not something to be done lightly, for once he crossed the river ahead there would be no going back and Caesar knew that war would come—war within Rome herself. And Caesar knew that there would be great consequences to pay if they were defeated – he and his army would almost certainly be executed. However, Caesar decided they would go to Rome, and face the army of Pompey and the Senate with his legion.
Now the legion was halted before the river and Caesar seemed to be lost in thought. His legion waited while he appeared to consider their next course of action. But he had really made his decision the night before in Ravenna, and had led his army to the river of no return.
Suddenly, a man appeared in their midst who was not one of the legion. He was playing a pipe—and soon the soldiers were craning to listen to the stranger. Where had this stranger come from? Was he one of the locals, who had followed the army? He was well-dressed and noble-looking—who could he be? Some of the soldiers were shocked and confused by the stranger’s appearance. In the army were some trumpeters of the legion. The strange man seized a trumpet from one of the trumpeter’s hands and brought it to his lips. The blast was deafening—a forward command. The man crossed the Rubicon, giving the call to advance.
“Let us go where the omen of the Gods summon us,” Caesar commanded his men. “The die is cast.” With that, Caesar and his legion headed across the river to make their march on Rome.
There was no going back.
It was many days before Caesar’s legion caught sight of Rome. They had come across some of the Plebs and had gained some allies in their march. By the time that the legion neared the city, it was clear that news of their arrival had come many days ago, and that the news had spread throughout the city.
“Caesar, a message from the Senate,” one of Caesar’s men had received word via messenger. The legion had stopped temporarily outside the city of Rome.
“I shall take it,” said Caesar, and received the dispatch from the Senate.
“Pompey and Marcellus have left the Senate,” Caesar announced to the few soldiers in his tent. Pompey and Marcellus were his two chief opponents.
“Pompey, where have you gone?” Caesar wondered, though he had in some way anticipated that Pompey might not be there to face him.
“Pompey has gone to Apulia,” the messenger from the Senate informed him quickly. “He said that Rome could not be defended.”
Caesar began to envision a plan. His next order would be to replace the Senate, and he would choose the new Senate to rule Rome.
That night, Caesar slept, but it was not an easy sleep. He knew civil war was coming, a war between him and Pompey. It would be a long time before he could match Pompey’s army with one of his own. And there was no telling what the outcome of their battles might be.
Caesar slept that night, and knew no peace.