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