Little Bits of History

Point of No Return

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 10, 2013
Julius Caesar

Julius Caesar

January 10, 49 BC: Julius Caesar crosses the river from Gaul into Italy, towards Rome. This provocation was the deciding moment, the point of no return, the Crossing of the Rubicon. Gaius Julius Caesar was born into a patrician family with a moderate power base. His father rose as high as praetor, the second highest elected magistrate rank of the Republic. Young Gaius was born in turbulent times. The Social Wars raged from 91 BC to 88 BC (Julius was born either in 100 BC or 102 BC).

At age 16, when his father died suddenly, Gaius became the head of his family. He joined the army and served with distinction. He lost his fortune, lived with scandals, and even was kidnapped. He was a brilliant politician and made deals and persuaded those in power to pass some of that power to him. Caesar was elected as consul via bribes and dirty politics in 59 BC. Even as consul, Caesar had mounting debts and political intrigue dogging his every step.

As a provincial governor, money would surely flow in. Either extortion or military adventure would fill the coffers. Caesar went off to Gaul and defended the Republic against invasion and just happened to loot and pillage. Caesar is said to be one of the most brilliant strategists of all time, compared favorably with Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, and Napoleon. While he sometimes lost a battle, he was victorious frequently regardless of terrain or weather conditions.

In 50 BC, Caesar was ordered to return to Rome and disband his armies. His Proconsul term had ended. Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus accused Caesar of insubordination and treason. If he returned without an army or political immunity, he was powerless. Instead, he violated orders and brought one legion of battle-hardened warriors with him on his journey to Rome. Leaving the wilds of the territories, he brought his troops to the River. He crossed the Rubicon River saying, “The die is cast.” Civil War followed and Julius Caesar passed his point of no return and into history.

“I love the name of honor, more than I fear death.”

“Cowards die many times before their actual deaths.”

“As a rule, what is out of sight disturbs men’s minds more seriously than what they see.”

“If you must break the law, do it to seize power: in all other cases observe it.”

“I came, I saw, I conquered.” – all from Julius Caesar

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: Another famous sound byte we get from Caesar is the Ides of March, the date on which he was assassinated. March 15, 44 BC saw a cadre of enemies waylaying Caesar on his way to speak before the Senate. Mark Antony had learned of the assassination plot the night before and went to warn Caesar. However, Antony was intercepted and not given a chance to warn Caesar. On the steps, Tillius Cimber presented a petition and while Caesar stopped to look at it, the other conspirators crowded around. He was stabbed 23 times and died on the steps. 

Also on this day: No. 5 – In 1971, Coco Chanel died.
The Tube – In 1863, London’s Metropolitan Underground Railroad opened for business.
Uncommon Sense – In 1776, a pamphlet was published anonymously.

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