De Bello Civile, Book 1, lines 213 - 234

Caesar crosses the Rubicon

by Lucan

By crossing the Rubicon with his forces, Caesar commits himself to civil war.

See the illustrated blog post here.

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Fonte cadit modico, parvisque impellitur undis
puniceus Rubicon, cum fervida canduit aestas:
perque imas serpit valles, et Gallica certus
limes ab Ausoniis disterminat arva colonis.
tum vires praebebat hiems, atque auxerat undas
tertia iam gravido pluvialis Cynthia cornu,
et madidis Euri resolutae flatibus Alpes.
primus in oblicum sonipes opponitur amnem,
excepturus aquas: molli tum cetera rumpit
turba vado faciles iam fracti fluminis undas.
Caesar ut adversam, superato gurgite, ripam
attigit, Hesperiae vetitis et constitit arvis:
hic, ait, hic pacem temerataque iura relinquo;
te, Fortuna, sequor. Procul hinc iam foedera sunto.
credidimus fatis. Utendum est iudice bello.
sic fatus, noctis tenebris rapit agmina ductor
impiger, et torto Balearis verbere fundae
ocior, et missa Parthi post terga sagitta;
vicinumque minax invadit Ariminum. Ignes
solis lucifero fugiebant astra relicto,
iamque dies primos belli visura tumultus
exoritur.

When the summer has grown sultry and hot, the modest, reddish stream of the river Rubicon runs fed by scanty waters: it winds through the valley bottoms and marks the fixed boundary between the lands of Gaul and the farmers of Italy. But now, winter was giving it added power: a third wet moon with its water-laden crescent, and the Alps, thawing with the moist east wind, had swollen its waters. First the cavalry was drawn up slantwise across the river to take the force of the stream, and then the rest of the company forged their way across through waters that were manageable now that the flow of the river had been broken up. Once Caesar had won his way to the opposite bank across the torrent, and drew rein on the forbidden territory of Italy, “Here”, he proclaimed, “here I take leave of peace and an already desecrated rule of law; Fortune, it is you that I follow. Away with bargaining! We have put our trust in fate. We must proceed with war as the judge.” Then he pressed straight on at the head of his men through the darkness of the night, swifter than the bullet from a Balearic sling or a Parthian’s parting arrow; and, full of menace, moved on nearby Ariminum. Leaving only the morning star behind, the stars fled before the fires of the sun, and the day broke that was to see the first upheavals of the war.

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