Now, Caesar had with him not more than three hundred horsemen and five thousand legionaries; for the rest of his army had been left beyond the Alps, and was to be brought up by those whom he had sent for the purpose. He saw, however, that the beginning of his enterprise and its initial step did not require a large force at present, but must take advantage of the golden moment by showing amazing boldness and speed,
since he could strike terror into his enemies by an unexpected blow more easily than he could overwhelm them by an attack in full force. He therefore ordered his centurions and other officers, taking their swords only, and without the rest of their arms, to occupy Ariminum, a large city of Gaul, avoiding commotion and bloodshed as far as possible; and he entrusted this force to Hortensius.
He himself spent the day in public, attending and watching the exercises of gladiators; but a little before evening he bathed and dressed and went into the banqueting hall. Here he held brief converse with those who had been invited to supper, and just as it was getting dark rose and went away, after addressing courteously most of his guests and bidding them await his return. To a few of his friends, however, he had previously given directions to follow him, not all by the same route, but some by one way and some by another.
He himself mounted one of his hired carts and drove at first along another road, then turned towards Ariminum. When he came to the river which separates Cisalpine Gaul from the rest of Italy (it is called the Rubicon), and began to reflect, now that he drew nearer to the fearful step and was agitated by the magnitude of his ventures, he checked his speed.
Then, halting in his course, he communed with himself a long time in silence as his resolution wavered back and forth, and his purpose then suffered change after change. For a long time, too, he discussed his perplexities with his friends who were present, among whom was Asinius Pollio, estimating the great evils for all mankind which would follow their passage of the river, and the wide fame of it which they would leave to posterity.
But finally, with a sort of passion, as if abandoning calculation and casting himself upon the future, and uttering the phrase with which men usually prelude their plunge into desperate and daring fortunes,
‘Let the die be cast,’ he hastened to cross the river; and going at full speed now for the rest of the time, before daybreak he dashed into Ariminum and took possession of it.1
It is said, moreover, that on the night before he crossed the river he had an unnatural dream; he thought, namely, that he was having incestuous intercourse with his own mother.2