Crossing the Rubicon

The fact of the matter is that power blindfolds you and takes you away from reality.

It was much before the eventful times of emperors such as Augus­tus, Caligula, Marcus Aurelias, Com­modus and Nero. Rome was still a Re­public. Marred by corruption and governance issues, the Repub­lic had started to come apart at the seams. It was much before Rome became an empire when the son of a noble named Julius Caesar started a career in the army, on the losing side of a civ­il war. The young man had a dream. He was brave, skillful, intelligent and driven. Soon he was able to build his reputation as a fearless military leader. He wanted to become rich and power­ful and be the Consul. The Consul, be­ing the supreme leader in Rome, used to lead the all-powerful Senate in run­ning the affairs of the Republic. He was treading the journey of success- quiet­ly but surely.

According to historians like Plutar­ch and Cassius Dio, side by side, Caesar used his charms and power to lure any­one and everyone who could be of any help in fulfilling his political dreams. Servilia was perhaps the most influen­tial woman of that time. Caesar’s inti­mate relationship with Servilia surfaced when she was still married. Some main­tain that Servilia saw in Caesar a future for her son and got involved with him after the death of her second husband. One of the Senators who planned and executed Caesar’s assassination, Marcus Junius Brutus, was Servilia’s son.

The rivalry between the two aspi­rant candidates for the post of Consul - General Pompey and General Crassus, provided Caesar the opportunity he was looking for to enter the corridors of power. It was the time when a slave cum gladiator Spartacus had revolt­ed against the Roman elite and was quickly becoming a threat to the Re­public. With Caesar’s help, Crassus killed Spartacus and defeated him in the battlefield. However, Pompey clev­erly claimed victory by rounding up the remaining slaves before deliver­ing one of the most ludicrous victo­ry speeches. A golden opportunity for Caesar had just whisked away.

Seeing the two contenders in an eye­ball-to-eyeball situation, Caesar showed his genius and convinced Pompey and Crassus to avoid fighting and make him the Consul instead. In return, he prom­ised to look after their interests in the Senate. Crassus knew Caesar well. Both had spent time together at the battle­field. However, Pompey required some assurances from Caesar for honoring the agreed upon understanding. Caesar gave his only daughter, Julia’s hand in marriage to Pompey. Both Crassus and Pompey agreed. This was the first ever Triumvirate in Roman history whereby a group of three men would hold and share power. It was 60 BC.

The Triumvirate proved short lived. Being wary of Caesar’s growing ambi­tions, Pompey and Crassus would soon get together and ask him to leave Rome and be the Governor of any of the Re­public’s provinces of his choice. Instead of getting discouraged and feeling de­ceived, Julius Caesar decided to leave Rome but to come back as a glorious hero. During those days, bringing glory to Rome meant conquering more land and bringing the looted money home.

That’s exactly what Caesar did…!!

He conquered Gaul, the hitherto out-of-reach area for the proud Romans. Fearing his return as a hero and ruler of Rome at the back of his strong and loyal supporters, the Roman Senate and Gen­eral Pompey demanded his return to Rome as a private citizen and stand tri­al for killing thousands of Gallic tribes­men. The news of trial and the death of his only daughter reached him at the same time. For the first time in his life, he felt all alone in the world as his only other family, his wife, had already passed away. Mark Antony, his close aide and a valiant fellow soldier agreed when Caesar decided to face Pompey’s army, consolidate military power, sub­due the Senate and rule Rome. Antici­pating a crushing defeat at the hands of Caesar, Pompey and most Senators left Rome for Greece to primarily unite their forces and wait for his arrival.

The objective of taking you in ancient times for a while was twofold. One, that going to any lengths to reach the top and subsequently prolonging the era of power is an age-old phenomenon. Nothing new. Its instinctive. Except for a few honorable exceptions when a king would abdicate his throne for the love of his life, a leader would be seen cling­ing to power until he is either shown the door or simply eliminated. In the process, the same sterling characteris­tics that brought a leader to power, such as intelligence, ambitiousness and will­power, become the very reasons of his downfall. Secondly, one would see such ambitious leaders sometimes taking extremely bold decisions, just to hasten up their victory. So much so that you would burn an entire fleet of ships, forc­ing your troops to not even think about retreat. That’s precisely what they call - reaching a point of no return…!!

In the extreme northern border of It­aly, the Rubicon River was a bound­ary between Gaul and Rome. To enter Rome, Caesar had to cross the Rubicon River, but he knew the perils involved in doing so. For all practical purposes, it would be construed in Rome as a vi­olation of territorial integrity - in fact - a declaration of war. For Caesar, it was a point of no return. Hence, the idiom, crossing the Rubicon.

Khan was neither Julius Caesar nor was it 49 BC Rome. However, riding on his popularity, ambitious agenda and willpower, he did cross the Rubicon. No need to elaborate on Khan’s ‘point of no return’. No need to explain the obvi­ous. The fact of the matter is that pow­er blindfolds you and takes you away from reality. In the process, a point comes when you expect others to wor­ship you as a Greek god. You genuine­ly start feeling as the most adored, re­vered, invincible and indispensable hero. Unfortunately, meanwhile, you conveniently forget that victory would not have been possible for you with­out the visible and invisible support of ‘others.’ Imagine Khan’s stature as a strong leader in 2019 and during the difficult times of Covid-19. Who would have thought then that he and his party were not even be allowed to contest the next elections. Who would have imag­ined him behind bars indefinitely and being bombarded with a spate of rigor­ous sentences.

Using unorthodox tactics, Julius Cae­sar defeated General Pompey in the battle of Pharsalus. Utilizing his mili­tary genius, he overwhelmed an army twice the size of his own. However, the sad fact is that his amazing perso­na, great victories and the public’s un­wavering support proved insufficient for him to rule Rome for long. To some, his assassination was ‘the most sense­less crime in the history of mankind.’ He had to be eliminated - as a decision to that effect had been taken.

Najm us Saqib
The writer is a former Ambassador of Pakistan and author of eight books in three languages. He can be reached at najmussaqib1960

The writer is a former Ambassador of Pakistan and author of eight books in three languages. He can be reached at

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