Caesar’s Crossing Of The Rubicon: Ambition Or A Call For A Change In Governance?

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University of Ghana


Most of the literature on the affairs of Caesar that survived was either written by people who stayed under the patronage of the Roman nobles or were themselves Roman aristocrats such as Appian, Livy, Plutarch, Sallust, and Cicero. For these reasons the main motive of Caesar‟s crossing of the Rubicon was seen to be the inordinate ambition of a Roman general who wanted more for himself. This propaganda has gotten hold of scholars of classical history so much that even notable historians and commentators such as Plutarch, William Smith, Tom Holland, Henry Boren, H. H. Scullard, Adrian Goldsmith, Christian Meier, and Phil Grabsky, have bought into this Optimates idea of deception that the main motives of Caesar‟s crossing of the Rubicon were ambition (excessive) and the fear of prosecution. In our estimation this is not borne out by the facts. Some of the questions answered by the thesis in the attempt to clarify these points were: What accounted for the apparent enmity borne by the senatorial nobility to Plebeians? Why were most of the vociferous champions of the Plebeians tagged as would-be tyrants and assassinated? The research is mainly literature-based, using a qualitative research method. The study made use of historical analysis of the happenings in Rome after the fall of Carthage till Caesar crossed the Rubicon. It also made use of comparative analysis in looking at the affairs of Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus, Marius, Sulla, Pompey, Cicero, and Caesar. Additionally, this study clearly outlined the affairs in Rome just after the fall of Carthage to the crossing of the Rubicon so as to make it quite obvious that as a Roman, Caesar had ambition to attain greater feats in oratory, warfare and politics but he was not driven by inordinate ambition in crossing the Rubicon as he was accused of. Consequently, Caesar‟s crossing of the Rubicon was not an act of ambition or the fear of prosecution but that he was the champion of the Plebeians who responded to their cry for help on the one hand just as the Gracchi brothers and on the other hand, the call of the Republic for a change in governance due to the failure of the existing system of governance under the watch of the Patricians. Finally, this research critically linked the happenings in some African countries to that of ancient Rome. This was aimed at making it clear that any attempt by the select few to maintain the same system of governance without innovations to improve it by introducing socialist interventions to assist the masses and making it possible for other emerging political parties to win power; form government, or contribute to the governance in the their respective countries coupled with the existing socio-economic and political inequalities would not have a happy ending.


Thesis (MPhil)


Caesar, Crossing Of The Rubicon, Change In Governance, Drama