Having defeated the Gauls in 49 B.C., Julius Caesar is depicted here on his return to Rome at the banks of the Rubicon River, in northern Italy. Any military crossings of the river had been forbidden by the Roman Republic as a security measure during the on-going civil war under Pompey. Paying no heed to the ruling, Caesar and his armies marched through the river, defeated Pompey at Pharsalus the following year and established the Empire in Rome with himself as its self-appointed head.
Executed in 1900, the original plaster model of Gérôme's Caesar franchissant le Rubicon is in the collection of the Musée de Vésoul.
Another gilt-bronze cast of this model was sold Christie's London, October 29, 1998, lot 57 (£8,050).