Julius Caesar had waged unsanctioned wars in Gaul and was threatened with criminal charges in Rome. Instead he refused to step down from his military command, and initiated a civil war against his old rival Pompey when he crossed the Rubicon, a small river between Italy and Gaul, on 10 January 49 BCE. In Rome, the speed and effectiveness of Caesar’s advance with his 13th Legion was deeply shocking, and Pompey, whose over-confidence in his troops had been humiliatingly shattered, proposed a tactical retreat. The Pompeian army retreated to the port of Brundisium in southern Italy and requisitioned ships evacuated the army. Caesar was determined to take the fight to Pompey so, in the winter of 49/48 BCE, Caesar returned to Brundisium and his army sailed to Durres on the Albanian coast. Caesar’s supply lines were overstretched, and Pompey won a decisive victory at Dyrrachium, but did not push home his advantage, allowing Caesar’s troops to escape. Caesar marched further into Greek territory and, on 9 August 48 BCE, Caesar routed Pompey’s army at Pharsalus. Pompey fled to Egypt, where he was assassinated by a eunuch at the court of the Pharaoh. Caesar returned to Rome in triumph, and between 49 and 44 BCE he was voted four consulships and four dictatorships. When Caesar accepted the title of dictator for life in February 44 BCE, he was in effect becoming an emperor. On the Ides of March (15th), members of the Senate finally took decisive action and stabbed Caesar 23 times, proclaiming that ‘liberty’ had been restored.
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