The Reason Why Julius Caesar Marched on Rome in 49 BC
Julius Caesar is one of the great figures of world history. He was born in 100 BC and stabbed to death in 44 BC. During his life span Caesar proved himself a great general and ambitious leader. He was a man with great political ambition. He was also a great orator and in 59 BC became the consul of Rome.
On completion of his term as consul he was appointed governor of Gaul. Here he exhibited his immense military skill by besting the Germanic tribes and subduing the Celts. These successes saw Caesar’s popularity soar. The senate was wary of Caesar and led by Pompey called upon Caesar to disband his army and give up his command. He was informed that in case he failed to do as instructed, he would be declared an ‘Enemy of the State’ and dealt with accordingly.
Caesar received the senate’s command and he had to make the fateful decision, either to oppose or acquiesce to the senate’s diktat. At that time he was staying in the Italian city of Ravenna in the north of Italy. Caesar took the fateful decision to oppose the senate and Pompey’s order. At that time there was an ancient law that forbade any Roman general from crossing the Rubicon River with his army. Any general attempting this was to be tried for treason.
Caesar took the fateful decision and in 49 BC crossed the Rubicon. The fact that he ignored the senate order revealed Caesar’s real intentions. He was thirsting for power and glory and nothing was going to stop him. He thus marched on Rome to realize his ambition of being a dictator and ruler of Rome. Once Caesar crossed the Rubicon, the point of no return was reached.
Caesar crossed the Rubicon with his army and moved victoriously to Rome. He was welcomed all along and the senate fearing the worst fled to Capua. In Rome he became a virtual dictator and after 11 days a consul he set out for Greece in pursuit of Pompey.
In hind sight after a lapse of some 2000 years historians have concluded that Caesar’s march on Rome was inevitable. He had no choice, either he had to relinquish power and be sidelined or he could aspire to control Rome. Caesar took the decision that he wanted greater glory and complete control of Rome, hence he marched on Rome. It was a furtherance of his dream of total power. In that respect Caesar is no different from later day rulers who desired absolute power like Napoleon.
Caesar's march on Rome is also referred to as Caesars civil war. There is no doubt he unleashed a civil war, but there is also no doubt that he was the ablest general and a great soldier. He was a man of decision and his crossing the Rubicon River was an act of great decisive importance. He would not have crossed the Rubicon, in case he was not consumed by a burning ambition to control the destiny of Rome.
Caesar carried out great conquests, but the senate fearful of his dictatorial powers assassinated him in 44 BC. Caesar was a man of ambition who was not only a great soldier, but a man who put the Roman Empire on a firm footing. For this he deserves the title ‘The Great’ and his crossing the Rubicon a masterstroke.