The Crossing of the Rubicon
The news of Pompey's hostility was soon conveyed to Cæsar, who therefore tried harder than ever to keep in the good graces of the Romans, and asked to be named consul.
Cæsar had now been governor of Gaul almost nine years. In that short space of time he managed to subdue eight hundred towns and three hundred tribes; and he had fought against more than three million soldiers. His services had been so great that Pompey did not dare oppose his wishes openly, lest the people should be angry.
Pompey, however, was very anxious that his rival should come to Rome only as a private citizen. He therefore bribed a man to oppose Cæsar's election as consul, on the plea that it was against the law to elect any man who was absent from the city.
Then, as Cæsar staid in Gaul, Pompey advised the senate to recall two of his legions; but even when parted from him, these men never forgot the general they loved, and remained true to him.
As all the attempts to hinder Cæsar and lessen his glory had been vain, Pompey now fancied that it would be a good plan to make him come back to Rome, where he would not have an army at his beck and call. So the senate sent out the order that Pompey wished; but, instead of starting out for Italy alone, Cæsar came over the Alps at the head of his army. The great general was determined to get the better of his rival, arms in hand, if he could not secure what he wished more peaceably.
The news of Cæsar's crossing the Alps at the head of his army filled the senators with dismay. They feared the anger of a man who had won so many victories. Remembering that Pompey had often saved the state from threatening dangers, they implored him to take an army and go northward to check Cæsar's advance.
As we have already seen, Cæsar did not like bloodshed; and he was unwilling to fight with other Romans if he could secure what he wished without doing so. He therefore paused several times, and made several attempts to make peace with Pompey. But, when all his offers were refused, he ceased to hesitate, and boldly crossed the Rubicon, crying, "The die is cast!"
The Rubicon was a small river which flowed between the province of Gaul and the territory of the Roman republic. For this reason, it was against the law for the governor of Gaul to cross it without laying down his arms. As Cæsar did not obey this law, he plainly showed that he no longer intended to respect the senate's wishes, and was ready to make civil war.
Cæsar's crossing of the Rubicon was a very noted event. Ever since then, whenever a bold decision has been made, or a step taken which cannot be recalled, people have exclaimed: "The die is cast!" or "He has crossed the Rubicon!" and, when you hear these expressions used, you must always remember Cæsar and his bold resolve.
When Pompey heard that Cæsar had invaded Roman territory, and was coming toward Rome, his heart was filled with terror. Instead of remaining at his post, he fled to the sea, and embarked at Brundisium, the modern Brindisi. His aim was to sail over to Greece, where he intended to collect an army large enough to meet his rival and former friend.
Cæsar marched into Rome without meeting with any opposition. Arrived there, he broke open the treasury of the republic, and took all the money he needed to pay his troops. Then he sent out troops to meet Pompey, while he went straight to Spain, where he added to his fame by conquering the whole country in a very short time.
The conquest of Spain completed, the untiring Cæsar next set out for Greece, where he planned to meet Pompey himself. In the mean while, however, Pompey had gathered together many troops, and had been joined by many prominent Romans, among whom were Cicero, the great orator, and Brutus, a severe and silent but very patriotic man.