Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics
CROSSING THE RUBICON
 ROME was the most powerful city in the world. The
Romans had conquered all the countries on the north
side of the Mediterranean Sea and most of those on the
south side. They also occupied the islands of the sea
and all that part of Asia that now belongs to Turkey.
Julius Cæsar, a man of wonderful courage and energy,
was sent with a large army into Gaul to conquer that
country also for Rome. Gaul was the region which we now
call France. It was inhabited by a great many warlike
tribes who fought against Cæsar with all their might
but were finally forced to submit.
For nine years Cæsar and his army served Rome loyally
and well. They took possession of all Gaul and made it
a Roman province. They crossed the Rhine and subdued a
part of Germany. They even went into Britain, which was
then a wild and savage country, and were the first to
make that island known to the civilized world.
But Cæsar had many enemies at home. They were jealous of
him because he had done such great
 deeds, and because the common people in Rome and other
parts of Italy praised him as a hero.
One of these persons, whose name was Pompey, had long
been the most powerful man in Rome. Like Cæsar, he was
the commander of a great army; but his army had done
very little to win the applause of the people. Pompey
saw that, unless something occurred to prevent it,
Cæsar would in time be his master. He therefore began
to lay plans to destroy him.
In another year the time of Cæsar's service in Gaul
would end. It was understood that he would then return
home and be elected consul, or ruler, of the mighty
republic of which Rome was the center. He would then be
the most powerful man in the world.
Pompey and other enemies of Cæsar were determined to
prevent this. They induced the Roman Senate to send a
command to Cæsar to leave his army in Gaul and come at
once to Rome. "If you do not obey this command," said
the Senate, "you shall be considered an enemy to the
Cæsar knew what that meant. If he went to Rome alone,
his enemies would make false accusations against him;
they would try him for treason; they would not permit
him to be elected consul.
 He therefore called the soldiers of his favorite legion
together and told them of the plot that had been made
for his ruin. The war-loving veterans who had followed
him through so many perils, and had helped him to win
so many victories, declared they would not leave him;
they would go with him to Rome and see that he received
the rewards that were his due; they would serve without
pay; they would even share with him the expenses of the
long march. In all the legion there was only one man
who proved false to Cæsar.
The march to Italy was begun. The soldiers were even
more enthusiastic than Cæsar himself. They climbed
mountains, waded rivers, endured fatigue, faced all
kinds of danger for the sake of their great leader.
At last they came to a little river called the
Rubicon. It was the boundary line of Cæsar's province
of Gaul; on the other side of it was Italy. Cæsar
paused a moment on the bank. He knew that to cross it
would be to declare war against Pompey and the Roman
Senate; it would involve all Rome in a fearful strife,
the end of which no man could foresee.
But he did not hesitate long. He gave the word and
rode boldly across the shallow stream.
"We have crossed the Rubicon," he cried as he
 reached the farther shore. "There is now no turning
Soon the news was carried to Rome: "Cæsar has crossed
the Rubicon;" and there was great dismay among those
who had plotted to destroy him. Pompey's soldiers
deserted him and hastened to join themselves to Cæsar's
army. The Roman senators and their friends made ready
to flee from the city.
"Cæsar has crossed the Rubicon!" was shouted along the
roads and byways leading to Rome; and the country
people turned out to meet and hail with joy the
The word was carried a second time to the city: "Cæsar
has crossed the Rubicon;" and the wild flight began.
Senators and public officers left everything behind and
hurried away to seek safety with Pompey. On foot, on
horseback, in litters, in carriages, they fled for
their lives—all because Cæsar had crossed the
Rubicon. Pompey was unable to protect them. He hurried
to the sea coast, and, with all who were able to
accompany him, sailed away to Greece.
Cæsar was the master of Rome.