American Rhetoric: Movie Speech

"Gods & Generals" (2003)


Colonel Joshua Chamberlain Recalls Julius Caesar's Rubicon Crossing

Audio mp3 delivered by Jeff Daniels


Chamberlain: In the Roman civil war, Julius Caesar knew he had to march on Rome itself, which no legion was permitted to do. Marcus Lucanus left us a chronicle of what happened:

"How swiftly Caesar had surmounted the icy Alps and in his mind conceived immense upheavals, coming war. When he reached the water of the Little Rubicon, clearly to the leader through the murky night appeared a mighty image of his country in distress, grief in her face, her white hair streaming from her tower-crowned head, with tresses torn and shoulders bare she stood before him, and sighing said:

Where further do you march? Where do you take my standards, warriors? If lawfully you come, if as citizens, this far only is allowed.

Then trembling struck the leader's limbs; his hair grew stiff and weakness checked his progress, holding his feet at the river's edge. At last he speaks:

'O Thunderer, surveying great Rome's walls from the Tarpeian Rock --

'O Phrygian house gods of Iulus, clan and mysteries of Quirinus who was carried off to heaven --

'O Jupiter of Latium, seated in lofty Alba and hearths of Vesta --

'O Rome, equal to the highest deity, favor my plans.

Not with impious weapons do I pursue you. Here am I, Caesar, conqueror of land and sea, your own soldier, everywhere, now, too, if I am permitted. The man who makes me your enemy -- it is he who be the guilty one.'

Then he broke the barriers of war and through the swollen river swiftly took his standards. And Caesar crossed the flood and reached the opposite bank. From Hesperia's forbidden fields he took his stand and said:

'Here I abandon peace and desecrated law.

Fortune, it is you I follow.

Farewell to treaties.

From now on war is our judge.'"

Hail, Caesar: We who are about to die salute you.

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HTML transcription by Michael E. Eidenmuller.