What Does “Luck is Cast” (Alea iacta est) Mean?

It is almost impossible that you have never heard the famous phrase:”Luck is cast“. If we haven’t used it before, I’m sure we’ve heard it from someone close to us.

Today we are going to bring a bit of History and go deeper into the origin and meaning of this famous quote.

Alea boasts est, but what are you telling me?

Let’s take a look at some Latin; if you ever hear one of these three phrases: Alea jacta est, Allea jacta est or Alea iacta est, you have to know they are speaking in Latin and what it means:”The die was cast”,”The die was cast” or “The die is cast“.

Luck is cast

But who was the first person to say this phrase? or who invented it? For the famous phrase we are dealing with here is attributed to the great Julius Caesar, political and military Roman leader of the Late-Republican era, a phrase that came to pronounce at the time he crossed the Rubicon River, in northern Italy, and that limits it to the same with Galia Cisalpina (province that had assigned the Roman Senate to Julius Caesar).

Passing this river, as we will tell you later, Julius Caesar rebelled against the Senate, starting a civil war against Pompey and the Optimates. Other versions state that Julius Caesar, instead of using the passive participle “boastful”, used the imperative “jaci”, which comes to be:”Cast out! (the luck)”.

However, the Greek biographer, historian and essayist Plutarch pointed out that Julius Caesar did not pronounce the phrase in Latin, but in Greek, alluding to a verse by Menander, a Greek comedian, of Julius Caesar’s favorites. The meaning of this verse becomes “The dice are cast”..

JULIUS CAESAR Alea iacta est

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In Greek, the phrase: “ανερριφθω κυβος anerriphthō kubos” would then be in the hands of Plutarch and Menandro. The most rigorous translation in Latin would be:”jacta esto alea”, which is equivalent to:”that the dice be rolled

Why did Julius Caesar say,”Luck is cast”?

The famous phrase implies that Julius Caesar had taken a risk and passed a point of no return. In the context of the time, crossing the Rubicon River was vitally important in Roman law, as no generals were allowed to cross it with his army in arms.

This river was the limit of the power of the governor of Gaul, and he could not enter legally into Italy with his troops. Julius Caesar paused for a moment before the Rubicon River, full of doubts; if he crossed it meant to fall into illegality, he would become an enemy of the Republic, thus initiating a civil war.

And this is the origin of this well-known phrase, generally, when it is used today, it refers to the fact that a definite decision has been made, which is assumed, after having meditated on it in due time.

Now, apart from having learned a little bit of history, we know something new, as the saying goes:“You will never go to bed without knowing one more thing”.

Here is a video illustrating the famous quote…

Video Julius Caesar – “The Luck Is Pitching”