|The Story of Rome|
|by Mary Macgregor|
|A vivid account of the story of Rome from the earliest times to the death of Augustus, retold for children, chronicling the birth of a city and its growth through storm and struggle to become a great world empire. Gives short accounts of battles and campaigns, and of the men who expanded the borders of the Roman empire to include all lands bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Ages 10-14 |
CÆSAR CROSSES THE RUBICON
 WHILE Cæsar was winning glory for himself and for his
country in Gaul, Crassus was also fighting against a
foreign foe, and in 53 B.C. he was tricked into leading
his men into an ambush and was slain. Pompey was the
only member of the Triumvirate in Rome.
The more the Senate approved of Pompey's rule, the more
he wished that there was no Cæsar to come home to
share his power. And however the Senate might receive
the victorious general, Pompey knew that Cæsar was
still remembered and adored by the people.
He himself had gradually withdrawn his sympathy from
the popular party, and he now threw his influence
wholly on the side of the Optimates, who disliked
Cæsar, and like Pompey himself, dreaded his return.
Meanwhile Rome was in need of a strong ruler, for
disorder and lawlessness was rife within the city, and
the Senate seemed unable to restore order.
In the streets riots took place, which often ended in
bloodshed. And while there was violence among the
people, among the nobles there was bribery.
The Senate in despair determined to appoint only one
Consul for the year 52 B.C. If only one person was
responsible for law and justice, it thought that order
might be restored. The choice of the Senate naturally
fell upon Pompey, and through its influence he was
appointed sole Consul. But the people were not
pleased, and muttered that Cæsar should have been
elected as the colleague of Pompey.
 To avoid this, for he was determined not to share his
power with Cæsar, Pompey, after ruling alone for six
months, arranged that Metellus Scipio should be chosen
as second Consul.
There was no beautiful Julia now at hand to persuade
Pompey to be true to Cæsar, and from this time the
Consul showed plainly that he meant to separate his
fortunes from those of his father-in-law. And what was
worse was that he used his power to undermine the
influence of the absent general to whom his faith was
Cæsar, who was always in touch with Rome knew what was
being done. His friends, too, warned him that Pompey
would soon be too strong for him unless he speedily
returned to the city. But Cæsar was not yet ready to
The Senate soon showed how it meant to treat the absent
general. It proposed, more than once, that Cæsar
should dismiss his army before being elected Consul for
the year 48 B.C.
Pompey heard these proposals and at first said nothing,
although he must have remembered the arrangement he and
Crassus had made with Cæsar at Lucca.
When the Senate repeated its wish more decidedly, he
said only, that what the Senate ordered Cæsar would
doubtless do. But this he could scarcely have found it
easy to believe.
While the Senate still hesitated to order Cæsar to lay
down his command, Pompey fell ill. It was believed
that his life was in danger, and throughout Italy
prayers were offered for his recovery. In time Pompey
grew better, but he was deceived by the anxiety the
people had shown, and believed their affection for him
was greater than it really was. He found it pleasant
to think that they had forgotten Cæsar and were
devoted to him alone.
Some foolish person told him that even his soldiers
were ready to desert Cæsar. Pompey seemed to believe
this also, and remarked complacently that he, if he but
 foot, would find soldiers ready to follow him from
every town and village in Italy.
At length, in the autumn of 50 B.C., the Senate
determined to act, and accordingly it sent a message to
Cæsar, bidding him lay down his command and dismiss
Cæsar answered without the least hesitation, "If
Pompey will give up his command and dismiss his army, I
will do the same." But this, as you know, Pompey had
not the least intention to do. The people of Rome
began to tremble at the thought that civil war was
drawing near. For if neither of the two great generals
would yield, it seemed inevitable.
"There is no hope of peace
beyond the year's end," wrote
a friend to Cicero. "Pompey is determined
Cæsar shall not be chosen Consul till he has given up
his province and army. Cæsar is convinced that he
cannot leave his army safely."
In Rome, the strife between Pompey's friends and those
of Cæsar grew daily more bitter. At length the Senate
boldly proposed that Cæsar should be told to give up
his province on a certain day, otherwise he would be
denounced as a traitor.
Mark Antony and another tribune, both of whom were
friends of Cæsar, rose to their feet to protest
against such a decree. But the Senate was in no mood
to listen to them, and the tribunes were expelled from
In the city, they soon found that their lives were not
safe. So they disguised themselves, dressing in old
clothes that had belonged to slaves. Then hiring carts
they lay in the foot of them, covered with sacking, and
thus passed safely through the city gates. Still in
this strange garb they at length reached Cæsar's camp
It was at Ravenna, in January 49 B.C., that the great
general was told of the decree of the Senate.
He had only one legion with him, but leaving orders for
the others to follow, he at once began to march toward
 Rubicon. The Rubicon was the stream which divided his
province from Italy.
Should he cross the stream with his army, it would be a
declaration that he had determined on war.
So momentous was the decision, that as Cæsar drew near
to the Rubicon he hesitated. Looking down upon the
stream, he stood for a time deep in thought, while his
soldiers watched him anxiously from the distance.
Looking down upon the stream, he stood awhile deep in thought.
Turning at length to his officers, he said, "Even now
we may draw back."
At that moment, so it is said, a shepherd on the other
side of the stream, began to pipe carelessly upon his
Over the stream dashed some of the soldiers, perhaps to
dance to the shepherd's lilting measure.
It was an omen! Cæsar at once made up his mind.
"Let us go where the omen of the gods and the iniquity
of our enemies call us," he cried. "The die is cast."
Then at the head of his army, on the 16th January 49
B.C., Cæsar crossed the Rubicon.
So important was the decision, that the words, "to
cross the Rubicon," grew into a proverb. And still
to-day, when one takes the first step towards a great
undertaking, one is said to have "crossed the
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