Let us restart!

Renzo Servadei

Most management courses teach how to have a vision of the future for our companies, illustrating the need to develop so-called lateral thinking, i.e., the ability to analyse logical problems that confront us with a different approach, looking at issues from different perspectives rather than approaching them the traditional way. Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, in his best seller, even went as far as urging us to “stay foolish”. These may appear as mere theoretical concepts but, in reality, we all have certainties that, seen from different angles, are no longer so, and the discoveries we make by questioning these so-called certainties can open up new horizons. An example can be drawn from our junior high school years. We probably have heard and studied the famous words uttered by Julius Caesar who, wanting to return to Rome at the head of the army, something forbidden by the laws of the time, preparing to cross the Rubicon on the sacred border between Cisalpine Gaul (the current Po Valley) and Italy, on January 13, 49 BC said the famous words "the die is cast", in Latin "alea iacta est". Legions of students have studied these words, often by heart, and many have wondered what they meant. It seemed absurd to think that one of the greatest leaders of ancient times would go as far as defying the greatest power of the time and starting a civil war by rolling a dice. Fearing a bad grade from the teacher, who was probably just as perplexed, the students usually kept these considerations to themselves. Not believing the explanation that has always been handed down and looking deeper into the matter, you can easily discover that this epic statement is the result of a simple translation error, the phrase in fact, was uttered in Greek: yes, Julius Caesar, patrician of high rank, was perfectly bilingual and Greek was widely used by the Romans, even in the Senate. Those words, as explained by Plutarch in Parallel Lives, when properly translated, sound like this: "He [Caesar] declared in Greek in a loud voice to those who were present: 'let the die be cast' and led the army." Now the sentence acquires a clear sense that everyone can understand. Caesar had decided to throw down the gauntlet to Rome, its laws, its Senate and Pompey by challenging fate. Probably the error stems from the fact that the Latin translation of Caesar's statement would have been "Alea iacta esto", and because of a missing "o" that completely changes the sense of the statement, prompting generations of schoolchildren, even today, (the phrase in school texts has yet to be corrected) to wonder if Caesar was a foolhardy who had entrusted the decision whether or not to unleash a civil war to a dice. Even the most absolute certainties must therefore be questioned, sometimes just to confirm their validity: this is the most effective way to identify new paths inducing our minds to experience what we like to call "vision".