ROME-THE IMPERIAL REPUBLIC.
to Caesar's camp at Ravenna. The senators, on the receipt of this message,
buzzed about like old wasps stiffened with age around their venerable nest
of privilege. A resolution was carried that Caesar should by a given day
disband his army and surrender his province, under penalty of being
declared a public enemy. Against this measure the tribunes of the people
protested in vain, and then fled from the city to join Caesar. The Senate
thereupon proceeded to arm the consuls with dictatorial powers, and called
on Pompeius to defend the city.
Now must Caesar decide. From Ravenna he looked into Italy. To cross the
Rubicon, which here constituted the boundary between his province and the
parent state, was to break the law, already broken by his enemies. He is
represented as pausing-hesitating whether he would or would not take the
step which should waken the echoes of war and revolution in all the
civilized world. But the hesitation was only momentary. He delivered an
address to his soldiers, declared that the die was cast, gave the order,
and crossed the Rubicon. Rome was once more in the throes of civil war.
In the mean time Cicero had returned to the capital, and was exerting his
influence for peace. His constitutional timidity and lack of any well-
grounded political faith left him all at sea; but he was able to apprehend
clearly enough that the only security for him lay in the direction of
reconciliation. He wrote to both Caesar and Pompeius, beseeching them to
make peace; and it is not unlikely that but for the aristocracy at the back
of the latter the efforts of the great orator might have somewhat availed.
It is said that when Caesar had advanced to Ariminum he was met by secret
messengers from Pompeius, proposing an adjustment. To these Caesar replied
in a conciliatory tone, repeating in substance the terms which he had
offered to the Senate. But the Pompeians-whatever their leader might have
been disposed to do-durst not accept a settlement; for in that event
Caesar's popularity would burst out like a flame through