10 January 2014

Crossing the Rubicon

The Rubicon River formed the border between Gaul and the Roman Republic. According to legend, when Caesar got to the river with his army, he still was not sure if he should cross and invade - something that would start a civil war.

In Suetonius' history of the emperors (written more than 100 years after Caesar crossed the Rubicon), he wrote: "Overtaking his cohorts at the river Rubicon, which was the boundary of his province, he paused for a while, and realizing what a step he was taking, he turned to those about him and said: 'Even yet we may draw back; but once cross yon little bridge, and the whole issue is with the sword.' As he stood in doubt, this sign was given him. On a sudden there appeared hard by a being of wondrous stature and beauty, who sat and played upon a reed; and when not only the shepherds flocked to hear him, but many of the soldiers left their posts, and among them some of the trumpeters, the apparition snatched a trumpet from one of them, rushed to the river, and sounding the war-note with mighty blast, strode to the opposite bank."

Then Caesar cried: 'Take we the course which the signs of the gods and the false dealing of our foes point out. Alea iacta est, ("the die is cast").

And so, the Roman Republic was thrown into a civil war that was eventually won by Caesar defeating Pompey and his allies.

The phrase "crossing the Rubicon" entered popular culture to mean "past the point of no return." A Google search on "crossing the Rubicon" will turn up everything from shopping sites to Vie-President Joe Biden saying "I crossed the Rubicon about not being president and being vice president when I decided to take this office" and Supreme Court justice Anthony Kennedy saying, "Sometimes you don't know if you're Caesar about to cross the Rubicon or Captain Queeg cutting your own tow line."


  1. Nice graphic, but the Rubicon is a tiny tiny river, maybe one jump and you are on the other side Oo

  2. I'd like to think it was more of a river back then... Wikipedia says: "Today there is very little evidence of Caesar’s historical passage. Savignano sul Rubicone is an industrial town and the river has become one of the most polluted in the Emilia-Romagna region. Exploitation of underground waters along the upper course of the Rubicon has reduced its flow—it was a minor river even during Roman times (“parvi Rubiconis ad undas” as Lucan said, roughly translated "to the waves of [the] tiny Rubicon")—and has since lost its natural route, except in its upper course between low and woody hills."

  3. Hi Kenneth, great graphic. I'm a homebrewer from the Czech Republic and I use this picture as my beer label for one of my beer. The beer name is Rubicon because it's really strong and at the time when you drink first, there is no way back :-) ... actually, I don't like copyright abuse. So, Is that OK with you? The using is tottaly non-commercial and I share my beer only with my friends and homebrew colegues for promotion my beer as you can see in my blog http://diversity-pivo.blogspot.cz/2015/08/rubikon-19-american-porter.html.

  4. It is a great graphic, but I can't grant any rights to it. In a Google search it did show up as "labeled for noncommercial reuse" but I don't know what legal protection that offers. It does appear elsewhere such as http://www.mechanictomillionaire.com/160-crossing-the-rubicon/
    Your use sounds safely private. And homebrewing is to be encouraged!

  5. Thanks for your response, I thought that is your picture. Yeah, I think that homebrewing have to be encouraged :-)

  6. Anonymous5/23/2018

    Petr Novotny, I don't think anybody is going to care if you're using it for private use. Josh