Road to Rome

January 10, the seven-hundred-and-fifth year since the foundation of Rome, the forty-ninth before the birth of Christ. The sun had long set behind the Apennine mountains. Lined up in full marching order, soldiers from the 13th Legion stood massed in the dark. Bitter the night may have been, but they were well used to extremes. For eight years they had been following the governor of Gaul on campaign after bloody campaign, through snow, through summer heat, to the margins of the world. Now, returned from the barbarous wilds of the north, they found themselves poised on a very different frontier. Ahead of them flowed a narrow stream. On the legionaries' side was the province of Gaul; on the far side Italy, and the road that led to Rome. Take that road, however, and the soldiers of the 13th Legion would be committing a deadly offence, breaking not only the limits of their province, but also the sternest laws of the Roman people. They would, in effect, be declaring civil war. Yet this was a catastrophe for which the legionaries, by marching to the border, had shown themselves fully steeled. As they stamped their feet against the cold, they waited for the trumpeters to summon them to action. To shoulder arms, to advance -- to cross the Rubicon.

--Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon on this day in 49 BC, sending the Roman Republic into civil war, and on the path to the Roman Empire; excerpted above is the first paragraph of Tom Holland's Rubicon: The Last Years of the Roman Republic

 


Daybook is contributed by Steve King, who teaches in the English Department of Memorial University in St. John's, Newfoundland. His literary daybook began as a radio series syndicated nationally in Canada. He can be found online at todayinliterature.com.

 

Crime fiction legends Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly discuss the new book that unites their beloved sleuths Patrick Kenzie and Harry Bosch.

advertisement
Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Paradise and Elsewhere

Canadian short story marvel Kathy Page emerges as the Alice Munro of the supernatural from these heartfelt tales of shapeshifting swimmers, mild-mannered cannibals, and personality-shifting viruses transmitted through kisses.

Pastoral

When a persuasive pastor arrives in a sleepy farm town, his sage influence has otherworldly results (talking sheep, a mayor who walks on water). But can he pull off the miracle of finding kindly local Liz Denny the love of her life?  Small wonder looms large in this charmer from Andre Alexis.

The Hundred-Year House

When a poetry scholar goes digging through the decrepit estate of his wife's family to uncover a bygone arts colony's strange mysteries, he awakens a tenacious monster: his mother-in-law. A wickedly funny take on aging aristocracies from author Rebecca Makkai (The Borrower).