To "Cross the Rubicon" is to pass a point of no return -- to commit yourself to something. In late 50 B.C., the Roman senate ordered Julius Caesar (then Governor of Gaul, a military hero whom the Senate feared) to disband his army and return to Rome. Since his term as Proconsul had ended, and the Senate forbade Caesar from running for a second term in absentia
, Caesar knew he would be politically marginalized -- and possibly imprisoned -- if he returned to Rome without the immunity of a Consul.
So, on the 10th of January in 49 B.C. (converted to the Gregorian calendar), Caesar crossed the southern border of Cisalpine Gaul and entered Italy with one legion, Legio XIII Gemina
. Since armies were forbidden by Roman law to enter Italy proper (primarily to defend against internal military threats), Caesar's actions marked the beginning of the Roman civil war. He is reported to have said "Alea iacta est"
("The die is cast"), hence our modern association of "Crossing the Rubicon"
with passing a point of no return.
What's ironic is you can learn far more about "Fiume Rubicone" (literally "River Rubicon") from Webster's Dictionary and Wikipedia than you can from Rand-McNally. On a March 1994 trip to Europe with my then-girlfriend, I harbored a plot to "pop the question" on the bank of the Rubicon -- after crossing it in our rental car while driving from Venice to Assisi. (If there had been 'blogs in 1994, the dawn of the old NCSA Mosaic web browser, I would have probably done like Dan at tdaxp
Only by consulting some large maps at the Navy lab where I worked was I able to find the river. And when we saw it in person, I had a brief pang of regret that I didn't ask Renee to marry me while we were on a gondola
floating on the Canale Grande
in Venice the night before. But since I had a plan, I stuck to it -- the arrow below shows the spot, and the "scenic grandeur" of what was simply an archaic border between Roman provinces (or a ditch by modern standards):
Labels: history, stability, travel