‘Alea Iacta Est’ (translated roughly to The Die is Cast) may just be one of the coolest Latin phrases ever spoken in history. Said to be uttered by Julius Caesar after a decision that would go on to change the course of history as we know it.
This story takes us back to 49BC at the River Rubicon. The river was said to separate Rome proper from the rest of its provinces. Julius Caesar, Rome’s greatest general was on the banks of the river (opposite side of Rome). Caesar had just finished many years of campaigning in Gaul where he had built a very strong reputation for himself. He was successful in subjugating all the Gauls and incorporating them into Rome. Caesar was a man who was loved by his legions but probably more importantly, by the people of Rome itself. For this reason, he quickly became despised by the Senate who were envious (and frightened) of his growing power. The Senate sent an ultimatum to Caesar; lay down your arms and surrender to Rome, where he would be put on trial for his crimes against the state. Caesar, thus marched his legion to the banks of the Rubicon. Probably still unsure as to his next course of action. If he surrendered, he would surely die, be jailed or best case scenario; exiled. On the contrary if he marched his troops across the river, it would be seen as an act of war against the state and would surely plunge Rome into a long and bloody civil war in which he would not be favoured to come out triumphant.
Caesar must have had an idea as to what he was going to do before he got the river. But like all great decisions one must make in life, he must have deliberating for a pain staking long time, realising that there would be great consequences regardless of the decision he would go on to make. I can see the image played out perfectly in my head, his men waiting a little further out watching their great general, nervous; anxious but supportive. And Caesar; aloof, thinking, reflecting, staring across the river into Rome and contemplating the struggle, death and pain that will surely follow. Caesar turns his horse to face his men and utters the words that will go down in history- Alea Iacta Est – and with that marched his forces into Rome and took on the Roman Senate in a four year civil war which would prove to be as bloody as everyone had predicted and feared.
I guess what sticks out most to me in such a story (unfortunately there is no concrete evidence that Caesar uttered those words, historians of the time were notorious for stretching the truth) was that Caesar had no idea of the way it would all play out. I mean he must have gone over every scenario in his head before deciding to march on Rome and even then he must have asked himself if the correct path was chosen – but what Caesar didn’t do is back down. He made his decision and never turned back. He decided then and there he would capture Rome or die trying. His sheer determination and strength of character which was hardened by all the years campaigning in Gaul ultimately helped him succeed. He knew he was a man capable of great things and the most importantly – he backed himself. Julius Caesar went all in and Julius Caesar won.