Two of my favourite quotes are as follows.
“Alea Iacta Est” – The Die is Cast
“Faber Es Suae Quisque Fortunae” – Every man is the artisan of his own fortune.
These quotes are so significant to me, in fact, that they caused me to take a complete about-turn in my stance on tattoos, and go from someone who disliked them and avowed never to get one to someone who actually got their first in June of this year.
Now on the surface, the majority of people ask me if there is a deliberate contradiction in place there… “But doesn’t the die is cast imply that the future is fixed?”
On a surface level, that may in fact be true. But you have to look beneath the surface of the water.
A lot of controversy surrounds the idea of determinism, that the future is set ahead of us. It is often contrasted and debated against the subject of free will. It can never and will never be known if we are “guided” or if we do in fact have control of our own destinies as we so hope, but my viewpoint supports (in absence of more information) the latter stance. Hence the quotes above.
“Alea Iacta Est” was something that Julius Caesar was quoted as saying in 49 BC as he made a momentous choice. He marched at the head of his army across the Rubicon river into northern Italy.
This defied the rulings of the Senate at the time, that no general or army should set foot in Italy armed – this was to be taken as a sign of rebellion. In making this decision, Caesar had committed himself and his armies to being rebels against the Roman Republic; it led to the long civil war against Pompey (Gnaeus Pompeiius Magnus) which Caesar would eventually go on to win and be proclaimed the first Imperator, the dictator in perpetuity, of the Roman Republic before his heir Octavian cemented the formation of the Roman Empire.
“He [Caesar] declared in Greek with loud voice to those who were present ‘Let the die be cast’ and led the army across.¹”
To me, the take away from this famous quote is courage in one’s convictions. There are many crossroads in life, inflection points from which there can be no return down the path you once walked – the road you once walked crumbles into dust behind you the second the choice is made. And from the choice, the only route that will remain is the one that you committed to in that instant.
We may never in our lives make a decision of the magnitude of Caesar’s. But that should not stop us taking as much care, and paying as much attention in everything that we do. From the second you make a choice the die is cast, and therefore you must make your choice with your entire being.
This is the reason these quotes pair so well in my mind – every man is the artisan of his own fortune. So cast the die now, and cast it with vigour. Always have courage in your convictions. Do what you believe in, and believe in what you do.