Tossing and Tortured 'Till Dawn

I come back to you now, at the turn of the tide.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Alea iacta non est, si lingua Graecarum non scitis.

That is to say, if you don't understand Greek, you probably won't understand Caesar.

Are you under thirty?

Do you have any idea what I'm talking about?

Good on you!

I'm reading Tom Holland's Rubicon: The last years of the Roman Republic. While the author says he would have called his book Citizen, if the title were not already taken, he brielfy describes the fateful crossing of the Rubicon by Julius Caesar in his introduction.

The now-famed "Alea iacta est," meaning "the die is cast," would in modern English turn into something like "I'm all in." However, according to Holland, Caesar never said this phrase at all. Caesar didn't invent the passage often attributed to him; he was quoting Greek playwright Menander, and so said the phrase in Greek.

I was impressed to read this, because "the die is cast" is a phrase I've read many a time, usually in Latin and attributed to the Roman leader.

(When I mentioned this to a peer last night, their response was a blank face. That's why a certain lady makes me happy: her response was to furrow her brows, pull out a biography of Caesar from the bookshelf, and agree that she'd never read the language swap anywhere, either. Does anyone know if this is accurate?)


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