The 7th of January. A long time ago. 49 B.C. in fact. Caesar made the some say fateful decision, some say the only decision he could and cross the Rubicon. For which he said once he was across the “Die is cast”, iacta alea est. Some historians suggest different words from a Greek slang for dicing “Let the die be thrown!” *Meander. Lets go with tradition for now.
It is important in our journey through the 2 Generals lives that we look at their military achievements, and more importantly develop opportunities to understand how each came into his own spirit of Generalship. Thats why we are doing this series after all. We would however be remiss in if we did not at least provide a cursory examination of the root causes of the two men being at each others throats.
You may note from the picture above that neither Pompey nor Caesar was physically involved. This battle serves as a introduction to a few topics of note. Politics, power, sex, greed, envy, control, and military force are woven together in a tight tapestry through out history as we all know. The stakes here were huge. The consequences shattering and the judgement of each person brought into the question. We shall never know why Caesar crossed the river and forced Pompeys hand. We will never know why Pompey would not accept the compromises proposed by Caesar. We do know that these actions spelt the end of the Republic as we knew it.
Let us look at the cause of conflict here. Caesar had been gloriously successful, made himself and others rich and was positioning to ensure he could move from one title or role to another seamlessly such that he would not face challenges, legal disputes nor acrimony due to charges laid against him nearly a decade ago. Typical stuff of the time, rules were adjusted, tweaked and accommodations made. So why then resort to a Civil War to get your way? It runs a little deeper.
Many of us are aware or know that Caesar and Pompey were allies and even relatives via marriage. With Crassus dead (Battle of Carrhae) the triumphate was only nominally working. Pompey ever the egoist I believe saw Caesar not as an equal but an upstart, and not one to be accorded the same privileges, and more importantly exceptions and should just ‘trust’ Pompey with the legal issues at hand, and accept Pompey as a benefactor and stand by his side, yet one step below.
Other players such a Cicero, Cato and Metellus wanted to bring down Caesar, diminish him, and thwart his rise. Whilst Mark Antony and Caesarian supporters were being Caesars advocates in Rome, their voices whilst heard, were not as effective as Caesars personal charm.
With Caesar out of Italy, and facing a time period of many months between when he ‘could’ accept a new role, and the possibility of facing a humiliating trial during that time, his risk was high that popularity would wane, momentum could be lost and above all his dignity and authority would be impacted. After all none of this had happened to Pompey! Despite his ability to buy votes, and sway judges he refused to back down. That was a singular trait of his. He never backed down unless there was no other way. With all other paths closed to him, compromises on both sides rejected, mistrust running high all of a sudden war seemed inevitable.
Pompey was dismissive of Caesar and his claims, but understood and respected his power. He was one of two or three men in Italy who had the same influence and resources. The 3 months of back and forth came to a head on January 7th