the die is cast

EnglishEdit

EtymologyEdit

Calque of Latin iacta ālea est, a grammatically, and thereby semantically, incorrect translation by the Roman historian Suetonius (c. 69 – p. 122 C.E.) in his work Vīta Dīvī Iūlī (On the Life of the Caesars, 121 C.E.)[1] of the Ancient Greek ἀνερρίφθω κύβος (anerrhíphthō kúbos), which was said to have been spoken by Julius Caesar (100 – 44 B.C.E.) when he crossed the Rubicon to irreversibly begin a civil war in the Roman Republic (see cross the Rubicon).[2]

Caesar was quoting from the comedy Ἀρρηφόρῳ (Arrhēphórōi, The Bearer of Ritual Objects)[3] by the dramatist Menander (c. 342 or 341 – c. 290 B.C.E.). The Greek phrase is more accurately translated as “let the die be cast” (meaning “let the game be played” and implying “let us proceed irreversibly”), and refers a game of chance in which the outcome is determined by the throwing of dice or a single die.

PronunciationEdit

PhraseEdit

the die is cast

  1. (idiomatic) Conclusive action has been taken, so events will proceed in an irreversible manner; the point of no return has been passed; the future is determined; there are no more options.
    Synonyms: genie is out of the bottle, les jeux sont faits, you can't put the toothpaste back in the tube, you can't unring a bell

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ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Suetonius (1914), “Book I. The Deified Julius.”, in J[ohn] C[arew] Rolfe, transl., Lives of the Caesars (Loeb Classical Library; 31), volume I, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, DOI:10.4159/DLCL.suetonius-lives_caesars_book_i_deified_julius.1914, OCLC 899735405, paragraph XXXII, pages 76–77: “Tunc Caesar: ‘Eatur,’ inquit, ‘quo deorum ostenta et inimicorum iniquitas vocat. Iacta ālea est,’ inquit. [Then [Julius] Caesar cried: ‘Take we the course which the signs of the gods and the false dealing of our foes point out. The die is cast,’ said he.]”
  2. ^ Plutarch (1917), chapter 60, in Bernadotte Perrin, transl., Plutarch’s Lives. [], volume V (Agesilaus and Pompey, Pelopidas and Marcellus), Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press; London: William Heinemann, OCLC 492779358, paragraph 2, lines 8–10: “Ἑλληνιστὶ πρὸς τοὺς παρόντας ἐκβοήσας, ‘Ἀνερρίφθω κύβος,’ διεβίβαζε τὸν στρατόν. [He [Caesar] declared in Greek with loud voice to those who were present: ‘Let the die be cast’, and led the army across.]”
  3. ^ The play exists only in fragmentary form. It is quoted in Δειπνοσοφισταί (Deipnosophistaí, The Dinner Sophists, 3rd century C.E.) by the Greek author Athenaeus of Naucratis (fl. late 2nd century – early 3rd century C.E.): “Δεδογμένον τὸ πρᾶγμ’ · ἀνερρίφθω κύβος [The thing has been arranged; let the die be cast]”: see Athénéé [i.e., Athenaeus] (1789), “Livre [Book] XIII”, in [Jean Baptiste] Lefebvre de Villebrune, transl., Banquet des Savans, [], volume IV, Paris: Chez Lamy, [], OCLC 491606022, paragraph 8.

Further readingEdit