Tuesday, January 10, 2006


This Day in Ancient History

On this day in 49 BC, Gaius Julius Caesar crosses the minor river Rubicon with his soldiers and moves towards Rome in defiance of the Senate. It is reported that he said at the time: "Alea iacta est." The die is cast. He meant, of course, that he had made a move which could not be taken back and the ultimate result of which was unknowable. The die has been thrown, but the number is not yet known. Notice too that alea is in the singular--one die, not multiple dice. Who plays with just one die?

I think the casting of one die is predictive practice to disceren fate, while the throwing of dice is, indeed, connected to play.
Thanks for the info. My education continues daily.
Well, from the point of view of a game designer, the primary reason to use a single die is to get a flat probability curve. (Multiple dice, used in the most common ways, generate results with different probabilities.) The curve shape you want depends on the game result desired.

Of course, Caesar's use was metaphorical. Since the result of a single die is inherently less well-known than that of multiple dice, he was alluding to the randomness inherent in the result of his action.

(With that english-major-worthy overanalysis, I'll stop.)

My emphasis is on the wait period between throwing the die and seeing what side comes up. It came up pretty good for Caesar for 5 more years and a bit. He even got to bed Cleopatra.
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Are you sure the translation is not, the dye is cast, hence singular or plural makes no difference.
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