chapter
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Outbreak Crossing the Rubicon

By 50 the mood in Rome was increasingly tense. The fear was similar to that in anticipation of Pompey’s return in 62, but probably even worse, for Caesar was perceived now as a more open revolutionary, and his province, with its large, veteran army, lay on Italy’s own border. Many Romans feared that this force would be turned against the state in a bid for dictatorship. A much smaller group of senators, led by Cato and including many of the House’s most influential members, was determined that Caesar should not be allowed to return to normal politics, since his new-found wealth and prestige would make it difficult to oppose him. Were he allowed a second consulship, it was feared that his behaviour this time would be even worse than in 59. Everyone realised that Pompey’s attitude would be decisive, but his intentions remained unclear. Stopping Caesar from arranging to stand in absentia (and so retaining his army) for the consulship required at the very least Pompey’s inaction, while if it came to a war, he was the only one capable of matching Caesar’s military might. Yet if Caesar was defeated and killed or exiled, this would remove Pompey’s last serious rival, leaving him with massively greater power, influence and wealth than anyone else within the Republic. This in itself threatened monarchy, but Cato and his supporters clearly believed this to be the lesser of two evils. At worst Pompey was a less skilful politician than Caesar and so would have greater difficulty in exploiting his position, but it seems likely that they hoped in some way to negate him. Perhaps the only real chance for the Republic would have been to accept Caesar’s return and continue to have two leading senators or principes far outstripping their fellows and so balancing each other’s power. Even if this had occurred, there was always the risk that the two would fall out at a later date and that a war would result. In the event, intransigence on both sides prevented any compromise.