A Peasant’s Diary 10.1.49 BC

Woke up in my hovel. Ate a mess of pottage for breakfast. It was a bracing day in Cisalpine Gaul, so I thought I would take a trudge down to the river to wake my weary bones and slop out the pot. It is not the best of rivers for slopping out, for the water is muddy and red, but at least it is shallow, so there is no danger of drowning.

So there I was slopping out my pot in the river when, from behind me, back in Cisalpine Gaul, came the thumping and clomping of a Roman legion. “Legio XIII Gemina” it said on their banners, which I had read in the papyri was under the command of Julius Caesar. And indeed it was he, leading his legion, who now bore down upon me, a frightful look on his face.

“Hail, rude peasant!” he cried, “What river is this?”

I tugged my forelock and sprawled in the muck, and told him it was the Rubicon.

“So over on the other side is Italy?”

“That’s right, O mighty Caesar!” I replied, cowering.

Even though I am a mere peasant I am quite learned. I regularly read the papyri and have a grasp of current affairs and the laws governing the Roman Empire. I thought it best to tell Julius Caesar what I knew, so I pointed out that if he entered Italy at the head of his legion and tried to exercise imperium, the inevitable punishment was death, not only for him but for all the chaps in the legion.

This gave him pause, and for a while he seemed unsure what to do. While he was thus hesitating, the following incident occurred. A person remarkable for his noble mien and graceful aspect, appeared close at hand, sitting and playing upon a pipe. When, not only the shepherds, but a number of soldiers also flocked from their posts to listen to him, and some trumpeters among them, he snatched a trumpet from one of them, ran to the river with it, and sounding the advance with a piercing blast, crossed to the other side. Upon this, Caesar exclaimed, “Let us go whither the omens of the Gods and the iniquity of our enemies call us. The die is now cast.”

I watched as he led his legion across the shallow muddy red Rubicon into Italy, then took my slopped out pot and trudged back to my hovel. Nothing much else happened in Cisalpine Gaul for the rest of the day, though I suppose it is worth noting that I spotted a flock of birds swooping across the sky at dusk. Alas, my knowledge of ornithology is sparse, so I cannot say what kind of birds they were. Linnets? Starlings?

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