alea iacta est - The die is cast

You may have come across this phrase a time or two. But what exactly is it about the fall of the dice, where does this statement come from and why is it still used today? In today's article, we will take a closer look at all of these questions and more.


Alea iacta est, these famous words are most often attributed to Julius Caesar, but the latter merely made use of an older Greek phrase. Caesar uttered these words, or rather muttered them to himself, when he and his arms crossed the Rubicon, a small river near today's San Marino, and thus started a civil war within the Roman Empire.

He made this statement because from this point on there was no turning back. He knew that he had to justify his actions, whether victory or defeat. Just as you have to take the dice you rolled, because here too, as we know, there are no second chances.


A sentence consisting of only three words, or four in German, one should not suspect what kind of content it can have. "Alea iacte est - The dice have fallen" is generally understood in two ways. When the Romans played with the dice, they used leather cups or hats, as we know them from today's Yahtzee. Thus, it is not immediately obvious after the fall of the dice what the result will be. In the second case, the dice are rolled without a cup, so it is immediately obvious what the result of the roll is.

The intersection of the two assumptions, however, is that whether you see the dice or not, the result is fixed. So something has happened that cannot be changed now.

In Caesar's situation, it also didn't matter what the outcome would be. Whether victory or defeat was not important here. It was merely his manifestation that from this point on his decision had been made. He made his first move, the consequences of this move were not known to him at that time. But what became of him nowadays every child knows.

Today's application

Although not quite as common as in days gone by, this statement still resonates today. In very few situations, however, I hear the Latin version, but every now and then you hear someone talk about fallen dice. Nevertheless Alea iacta est in no way lost in importance, because every single deed that every person ever makes, has effects that can no longer be changed. Whether it is a small act like throwing a butt in the garbage or the invention of renewable energies, every action of all people has an impact on far more than one might imagine at the first moment.

So the next time you make a decision, remember that the die will be cast at that moment as well. Feel free to let us know in the comments if there are any other statements or sayings that we should take a closer look at.

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