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Crossing the Rubicon. A Historiographical Study

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This paper contains a typological comparison of the extant accounts of Caesar's crossing of the Rubicon (Velleius Paterculus, Lucan, Plutarch, Suetonius, Appian, Orosius) and highlights interrelationships among the various accounts as well as patterns and topoi in the Rubicon myth. This episode has been dramatized by five of the authors as a point of transition from peace to war, although Caesar has set himself at fault much earlier by maneuvering to resign his command. Common motifs are the speed with which Caesar proceeds, his hesitation and pondering the consequences, and the connection of the crossing with a supernatural element. Caesar's nocturnal wanderings in Suetonius can be explained as a misinterpretation of Plutarch's account; the scene about the apparition with the reed pipe plays with generic markers to express the beginning of war. Finally, a conclusion can be drawn about Asinius Pollio as the common source. As a child of the Late Republic he might have been interested in mitigating his representation of the Rubicon scene by having Caesar hesitate, ponder the consequences, be under divine influence and act in self-defense, features that were exploited by his successors and turned into topoi of the Rubicon myth.

Affiliations: 1: Yale University, Department of Classics, 344 College Street, P.O. Box 208266, New Haven CT 06520-8266, USA;, Email:


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