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Small stream that separated Cisalpine Gaul from Italy in the era of the Roman republic. The movement of Julius Caesar's forces over the Rubicon into Italy in 49 BC violated the law that forbade a general to lead an army out of the province to which he was assigned. Caesar's act thus amounted to a declaration of war against the Roman Senate and resulted in the three-year civil war that left Caesar ruler of the Roman world. Crossing the Rubicon became a popular phrase describing a step that irrevocably commits a person to a given course of action.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on Rubicon, visit Britannica.com.