Crossing the Rubicon

Posted by ESC on January 08, 2001

In Reply to: Crossing the Rubicon? posted by marcus on January 08, 2001

: : what is the meaning and derivation of this phrase?

: : When Julius Gaius Caesar headed out from Gaul in or about 40 BC to take over Rome, he exclaimed, "The die is cast!" You Latin scholars know what I mean. Crossing the Rubicon is crossing the point of no return. I might add he went on to an illustrious career.

Yep, right you are. It says here:

RUBICON - Cross the rubicon: "(ru bi kan) a boundary or limit, which when crossed commits a person irrevocably. In 49 B.C., Julius Caesar led his army to the banks of the Rubicon, a small river that marked the boundary between Italy and Gaul and which the Roman Senate had forbidden him to cross. 'The die is cast,' said Caesar, wading in, knowing full well that this step would mean civil war." An example: Pat Buchanan, Newsweek, March 1, 1999: "I haven't crossed the Rubicon yet. I'm up in the trees looking down at the river." From "Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Allusions" by Elizabeth Webber and Mike Feinsilber (Merriam-Webster, Springfield, Mass., 1999).

"Die is cast" as in throwing dice, I presume. I always thought it was "dye is cast" as in coloring something. Oh, well.