Alea iacta est


The Roman Senate, like any other political body, was only as good as the people making it up. In 50BC, when Julius Caesar was ending his governorship of Gaul, there was a major anti-Caesar faction in power. Their reasons were jealousy; plus fear of what Caesar was capable of, with his legions behind him. Normally a governor would resign his command, disband his army outside the pomerium on returning to Rome, then run for consul. Caesar could not do this because of the fear of prosecution for his 59BC consulship, once a civitus. Cato the Younger had looked forward to prosecuting him. {Suetonius}

Delicate negotiations could have saved the situation, but that was not possible with senators who disliked him; Cato the Younger, Lucius Cornelius Lentulus Crus and the Marcellii. “They had always hated Caesar and they now used every means, fair or foul, to dishonour and discredit him.” {Plutarch Caesar V} Marcus Claudius Marcellus, consul in 51BC, said that Caesar’s armies should be disbanded and he should stand for consul in person, rather than in absentia, as suggested by Pompey. {Suetonius Julius Caesar I} Cato added that Caesar should become an ordinary citizen, judged by other civitii. {Plutarch Pompey IV}

Caesar’s man in Rome was the tribune Quintus Scribonius Curio. He suggested that if Caesar lay down his command and disband his armies, then Pompey should also. This was passed by the Senate, with only 22 opposed. {} Claudius reacted with: “Enjoy your victory and have Caesar for a master.” {Appian Civil Wars IIxxx}

A rumour was spread that Caesar was already marching on Rome. Pompey was called upon to defend the city. He had once been an ally of Caesars, married to his daughter Julia, but this broke down with her death in 54BC. {} Now he became the Senate’s man, fighting against Caesar in the Civil War.

In 49BC, the consuls were Lentulus and Gaius Claudius Marcellus, who denounced Caesar as “robber”. {Plutarch Pompey IV} On 7 January 49BC, they passed the senatus consultum ultimum, outlawing Caesar. His followers Curio and Marcus Antonius were driven from the Senate, then fled Rome.

This would lead to the famous march across the proverbial Rubicon River, civil war and finally the end of the Roman Republic as a representative form of government. Truly, the die was cast.


3 thoughts on “Alea iacta est

  1. Are you allowed to use BC or do you have to change it all to BCE so as not to offend? We were told in arts advantage today that we have to use BCE even though we are a Catholic University. Ridiculous eh.

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