Alex Rover | February 6, 2023
Gaius Julius Caesar (b. July 100 BC, – d. 15 March 44 BC, Theatre of Pompey(d), Roman Republic) was a Roman political leader and general and one of the most influential and controversial figures in history. His role was instrumental in establishing dictatorship in Rome, liquidating the democracy of the Republic and establishing the Roman Empire. He provoked wars of conquest without the consent of the Roman Senate. Caesar”s planned conquest of Gaul included territories as far as the Atlantic Ocean under Roman rule. In 55 BC. Caesar launched the first Roman invasion of Britain.
Caesar emerged victorious in a civil war to become dictator of the Roman world, and initiated a vast effort to reform Roman society and its governance. He proclaimed himself dictator for life and centralised the government of a state weakened by Caesar”s civil war. Caesar”s friend Marcus Brutus plots to assassinate him in the hope of saving the republic. The dramatic assassination in Ides of Mars was the catalyst for a second civil war between the Caesars (Octavianus, Marcus Antonius, Lepidus) and the Republicans (Brutus, Cassius and Cicero among others). The conflict ended with the Caesars” victory at the Battle of Philippi and the formal establishment of a Second Triumvirate, in which Octavianus, Marcus Antonius and Lepidus together took control of Rome. Tensions between Octavianus and Marcus Antonius led to a new civil war, culminating in the defeat of Marcus Antonius at the Battle of Actium. Octavianus became the absolute leader of the Roman world.
The period of civil wars transformed the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire, with the grandson of Caesar”s grandfather and adopted son Octavian, later known as Caesar Augustus, installing himself as the first emperor.
Caesar”s military campaigns are known in detail through his own records: Commentarii de Bello Gallico. Many details of his life were later recounted by historians such as Suetonius, Plutarch and Cassius Dio.
Caesar was born in Rome into a well-known patrician family (the Ginta Iulia), presumably descended from Iulus, son of the Trojan prince Aeneas, who, according to legend, was the son of the goddess Venus. According to one legend, Caesar”s birth was possible by Caesarean section, but this is highly unlikely, as in those days such an incision was only performed on deceased women. Caesar grew up in a modest dwelling in an ancient building (insula) in Suburba, a middle-class district of Rome. Caesar”s family, although of patrician, and therefore aristocratic, descent, was not wealthy by the standards of the Roman nobility. Thus, no member of the family made a name for himself in society during Caesar”s childhood, although in his father”s generation there had been a renewal of family wealth. His paternal aunt Julia married Gaius Marius, a talented general and reformer in the Roman army. Marius became one of Rome”s wealthiest citizens, and his political influence also helped improve the material situation of Caesar”s family.
Towards the end of Marius” life, in 86 BC, domestic politics reached a breaking point. At this time, Roman politicians were generally divided into two parties: the Populares, which included Marius, and the Optimates, which included Lucius Cornelius Sulla. A series of disputes between the two parties led to a civil war, eventually paving the way for Sulla to become dictator. Because of his family ties, Caesar was an adherent of Marius” party. He was not only Marius” nephew: he was married to Cornelia Cinna Minor, the youngest daughter of Lucius Cornelius Cinna, who was Marius” greatest sympathiser and Sulla”s declared enemy. In 85 BC, when Caesar was 15, his father fell ill and died. Caesar became heir to most of the property and wealth held by his father and Marius.
When Sulla emerged victorious from the civil war and began his outlaw program, the 20-year-old Caesar found himself in a difficult situation. Sulla ordered him in 82 BC to divorce Cornelia, but Caesar refused and cautiously left Rome to go into hiding. Sulla pardoned Caesar and his family and allowed him to return to Rome. In a prophetic moment, Sulla is said to have commented on the danger of leaving Caesar alive. According to Suetonius, at the time of Caesar”s revocation of exile, the dictator is said to have said, “He, whose life you so much desire, will one day become the one who will overthrow the party of nobles whose cause you support with me; for in this one Caesar you will find many like Marius”!
Despite the pardon, Caesar did not stay in Rome and went to Asia and Cilicia to fulfill his military service. While in Asia Minor, Caesar was involved in several military operations. In 80 BC, still under the command of Thermus, he played a pivotal role in the siege of Miletus. During the battle, Caesar showed such personal bravery in saving the lives of the legionaries that he was later decorated with the corona civica(d), one of the highest honours bestowed on a military man without the rank of commander and worn in public even in the presence of Rome”s senators; everyone was obliged to stop and applaud the wearer of this civic crown.
In Rome, in 78 BC, after Sulla”s death, Caesar made his political debut in the Forum of Rome as a lawyer, known for his oratorical skills and for his uncompromising attitude in trials against former governors, brought to justice for fraud and corruption. The great orator Cicero comments: “Is there anyone who has a better speaking quality than Caesar?” Striving for perfection in rhetoric, Caesar left in 75 BC to study philosophy and oratory in Rhodes, where he was taught by the famous Apollonius Molo.
On his way to the island, Caesar was kidnapped in the Mediterranean Sea by Cilician pirates. When they demanded a ransom of twenty talents, Caesar laughed in their faces, saying they had no idea who they had captured. Caesar ordered them to ask for fifty. They accepted and Caesar sent his followers to various cities to collect the ransom money. In all, he was detained for thirty-six days, during which time he often threatened them, in an ironic tone, that he would crucify them. True to his word, soon after he was ransomed and set free, Caesar organised a naval force that managed to capture the pirates and conquer their island fortress. Caesar had the pirates killed by crucifixion as a warning to all pirates. But since the pirates had treated him well during the kidnapping, Caesar ordered that before the crucifixion their legs be broken to reduce their suffering during the ordeal.
After returning to Rome in 73 BC, Caesar was elected a member of the College of Pontiffs. Caesar”s return to Rome took place in the midst of a slave revolt led by the former gladiator Spartacus. The Senate had sent legion after legion to defeat the revolt, but Spartacus” forces were victorious each time. In 72 BC, the Roman assemblies elected Caesar as military tribune, his first step into political life. In 71 BC, Marcus Crassus became the coordinator of the efforts to defeat the rebels led by Spartacus. Caesar was one of Crassus” few supporters in his attempt to restore order to the state. The Senate appointed Crassus to the cause, which formed six new legions, recruiting the young Caesar to serve as tribune with advocate duties. After several defeats, Crassus” army defeated Spartacus in 71 BC. During their time together, Caesar and Crassus became friends, which later contributed to both their careers. Caesar”s triumph was soon to turn to disaster.
In 69 BC, Caesar was left a widower after Cornelia”s death in an attempt to bear a child, who also died. In the same year he also lost his aunt Julia, to whom he was very attached. These two deaths left Caesar to raise a still minor daughter, Iulia Cezaris, on his own. There was no tradition for Roman women to have lavish public funerals, but Caesar deviated from tradition in this respect. During the funeral, Caesar sent eulogies from the Rostra. Aunt Julia”s funeral was fraught with political connotations, with Caesar insisting that the death mask should have Marius” physiognomy. Although Caesar was very close to both women (according to the writings of Suetonius), these words were interpreted by his political opponents as propaganda aimed at his election as quaestor.
The People”s Assembly elected Caesar to the office of quaestor in 69 BC, at the age of thirty, according to the cursus honorum. He was randomly assigned a quaestorship in Hispania Ulterior, a Roman province located in present-day Portugal and southern Spain. His time as an administrative and financial dignitary in Hispania Ulterior was generally uneventful; the famous encounter with a statue of Alexander the Great took place during this period. He is said to have stopped and wept at the temple of Hercules in Gades. Asked why he had such a reaction, he replied simply: “Do you think I am without cause to weep, when I believe that at my age Alexander had conquered so many nations, and I had achieved nothing memorable in all that time?”.
Caesar was soon relieved of his position as quaestor and allowed to return to Rome. Despite the grief of losing his wife, whom all accounts suggest he loved dearly, Caesar remarried in 67 BC out of political interest. This time, however, he chose an odd union. His new wife, Pompeia, was the niece of Sulla and daughter of Quintus Pompey. Although he seemed to have joined the oppositional senators, Caesar”s other actions had little to do with conservative politics, and he continued on his way to support the politics of the group called populares. Caesar supported the Lex Gabinia, which gave Pompey unlimited powers in dealing with Cilician pirates. Later, in the face of stiff resistance from the Optimates, Caesar supported Lex Manilia, which gave Pompey sole military command of Roman forces in the east in the wars against Mithridates VI Eupator. His good relationship with the great general Pompey was useful to Caesar for his political career. The rivalry between Pompey and Crassus, his mentor, seemed to have had no effect on Caesar. Crassus continued to take over the payment of Caesar”s great debts in later years. In addition to supporting the laws related to Pompey”s command, Caesar served as curator of the Appian Road (Via Appia). The maintenance of this road, which stretched from Rome to Cumae and passed beyond the heel of the ”boot” of the Italian peninsula, was of great importance, and the post of curator was a high dignity. Although it was personally costly, the position offered great prestige to a young senator. Crassus” support made the whole task feasible for Caesar. During this time, Caesar continued his judicial career until his election in 65 BC as aedile (curule aedile), alongside Bibulus, a young rival member of the Optimate faction.
The position of magistrate was the next step in the cursus honorum, proving to be a great opportunity for the master of the Roman public. Curule aediles were responsible for such public duties as the construction and care of temples, public buildings, traffic and other aspects of daily life in Rome; perhaps above all, aediles were concerned with the organisation of public games on state holidays and the administration of the Circus Maximus. Caesar borrowed and borrowed until he was on the verge of bankruptcy, but he irreversibly increased his popularity among the common people. The games he organised were spectacular and the building projects he proposed ambitious. In a show organised in honour of his father, Caesar depicted 320 pairs of gladiators in silver armour, which cost an enormous amount of money.
Caesar pushed his agenda further by erecting statues of Marius. The Senate felt outraged, but his popularity made him almost untouchable. Senators could try to block his political path by other means. Caesar could have been nominated to take charge of putting down an uprising in Egypt, but he failed to gain the political support to get the job. Caesar ended his year as mayor in glory, but went bankrupt. His debts reached several hundred gold talents (equivalent to several million euros at today”s exchange rate), threatening his future career. His co-editor, Bibulus, was so unspectacular in comparison that he was later to declare his frustration that, throughout his time as aedile, credit was attributed exclusively to Caesar, rather than shared in the praise.
His success in the dignity of aedile served Caesar well in his election as Pontifex Maximus (high priest) in 63 BC, following the death of his predecessor, Quintus Caecilius Metellus Pius. The position meant occupying a new house – the Domus Publica (public house) in For, and involved responsibility for all Roman religious duties and patronage of the virgin priestesses of the goddess Vesta. For Caesar, the appointment also meant relief from his debts; it also gave him considerable power. Although in technical terms the pontificate did not represent a political position, it also offered considerable advantages in dealing with the Senate and in legislative changes.
But his debut as pontifex was marked by scandal. Following the death of his wife Cornelia, Caesar remarried in 67 BC to Pompeia Sulla, a granddaughter of Sulla. As the wife of a pontifex and an important matron (Latin for ”married woman”), Pompeia was responsible for organising the Bona Dea festival in December, a ritual exclusively for women and considered sacred. But Publius Clodius Pulcher managed to enter the festival building disguised as a woman. This was considered an absolute sacrilege, and Pompeii received a letter of divorce. Caesar himself admitted that Pompeia might have been innocent, but said, “Caesar”s wife, like his whole family, must be above suspicion!”
The year 63 BC was difficult, not only for Caesar, but also for the Roman Republic. Caesar ran and won the election for urban praetor in 62 BC. Before he could be installed in his new post, the Catiline Conspiracy broke out, putting Caesar once again in direct conflict with his opponents. Lucius Sergius Catiline, twice a candidate for consul, faced accusations of planning to overthrow the Republic by armed rebellion. Catiline”s guilt, however, was controversial. In elections at the end of 63 BC, Marcus Tullius Cicero defeated Catiline in the consular race.
Shortly afterwards, Crassus received anonymous letters informing him that various senators had to leave Rome to avoid the massacre of government leaders. Crassus took the letters to Cicero, who presented the conspiracy to the Senate. Many of the senators did not believe him, convinced that Cicero had fabricated the whole story for political gain. Cicero”s oratorical eloquence, however, convinced the Senate that the plot required extreme measures. Senatus consultum ultimum granted Cicero the authority to deal with the conspirators. Catiline, among others, became the first target. In response, he decided to flee Rome, but not before he became involved in a plot to assassinate Cicero. The plot failed, and Catalina left to join the rebellion in the province of Etruria. Five notable Romans, Catiline”s allies, were sentenced to death and executed without trial. The alternative would have been exile, as imprisonment before trial was never used; but had they been exiled, the condemned would have been placed at the head of Catiline”s armies in Etruria. The Senate debated the issue, and Caesar was among the few who spoke out against capital punishment.
Involvement in the Catiline affair did not cause Caesar any lasting disadvantage, so in the following years he began a term as urban praetor. From this elite position he once again promoted his popular politics. He asked for money earmarked for a project to restore the capital, which the optimates refused. Unsuccessful in this attempt, Caesar strengthened his coalition with Pompey, who was soon to return to Rome from his campaigns in the east. Pompey”s return unnerved the Optimates, who feared a Sulla-style march on Rome and the establishment of dictatorship. They needed to present the city and its surroundings as a stable environment, devoid of the need for Pompey”s ”restorative order”. His ally, Caecilius Metellus Nepos, brought the matter before the Senate, demanding that Pompey be allowed to come to Rome and restore it. Caesar supported Nepos and Pompey, but Cato thwarted the motion. Nepos fled Rome to join Pompey, and Caesar was removed as praetor. When the mob that had come to support Caesar threatened violence, he was reinstated and calmed the crowd so that violence would not be used.
Towards the end of his term as praetor, Caesar was found to have embezzled and was to be prosecuted for misappropriation of administered funds. Crassus jumped to his aid again, paying a quarter of the 20 million dinars. Eventually, by 61 BC, Caesar was appointed governor proper of Lusitania, the province where he had previously been quaestor. With this appointment, his creditors withdrew, allowing him to enjoy an even lucrative status. Leaving Rome before he had officially taken it over proved that Caesar was unwilling to take any risks.
Caesar and his staff rode in force, reaching the Rhone in just 8 days, and he glimpsed his future ability to organize the movement of large army units at high speed. On their way, several members of the entourage noted the barbaric and, in their view, miserable standard of living in the villages. Caesar, demonstrating his ambition, replied, “For my part, I would rather be the first man among these inquisitors than the second in Rome!”. During his time as governor, Caesar strengthened his relationship with the Gallic peoples
Once in Hispania, Caesar made a name for himself as a military commander. Between 61 and 60 BC, he won important battles against Galician and Lusitanian tribes. After one of his victories, his soldiers hailed him as emperor on the battlefield, the ultimate accolade for an eligible Roman triumph. Caesar faced a dilemma. He wanted to run for consul in 59 BC, and to do so he had to be present in Rome, but he also wanted the honour of a triumph. The Optimates used this dilemma against him, forcing him to wait at the city gates until his triumph was confirmed. This delay would cost Caesar the opportunity to stand for election as consul, and faced him with a fateful decision. So in the summer of 60 BC, Caesar entered Rome to run for the highest office in the Republic.
In 60 BC, Caesar”s decision to get a bid for a possible triumph (due to his achievements in Hispania) put him in a position to run for consul. Although Caesar enjoyed overwhelming popularity among the citizenry, he had to manipulate formidable alliances in the Roman Senate to secure his election. Already having a solid friendship with the fabulously wealthy Marcus Licinius Crassus, he approached his opponent, Pompey the Great, proposing a coalition. Pompey was already frustrated at his inability to secure territorial reform for his veterans in the east, and Caesar brilliantly smoothed over any differences then existing between the two powerful leaders.
The alliance (known today as the First Triumvirate) was formed in late 60 BC, and remained remarkably secretive for a long time. Pompey and Crassus agreed to use their wealth and power to help Caesar”s candidacy for the consulship, and in return, Caesar was to influence the political agendas of the two. Caesar and Crassus, who had already been good friends for a decade, strengthened their alliance with Pompey by offering him Caesar”s daughter, Julia Caesaris, in marriage. The alliance combined Caesar”s enormous popularity among the plebs and his reputation with Crassus” wealth and influence over the plutocracy of the great counts, along with Pompey”s military reputation, wealth and senatorial influence. With their help, Caesar easily won the position of consul, but the Optimates succeeded in electing Caesar”s former co-edil, Marcus Calpurnius Bibulus, to the position of junior consul.
Once in office in 59 BC, the first item on Caesar”s agenda was to create a law that stipulated that all debates and proceedings in the Senate be made public. After this, he honoured his agreement with Pompey. Land in unpopulated parts of Italy was to be returned and given to Pompey”s veterans. Thus Caesar not only alleviated the problem of Rome”s homeless multitude, but also satisfied the wishes of Pompey”s legions. But Cato the Younger, along with the Optimate faction, opposed the concept, simply because it was Caesar”s idea. The consul rebuked the Senate and took the matter directly to the people.
While speaking to a Citizens” Assembly, Caesar asked his co-consul, Bibulus, about his feelings on such a legislative regulation. His answer was simple: the law could not be accepted, even if everyone wanted it to be. At this point, the so-called first triumvirate was made public, and Pompey and Crassus ardently endorsed the emergency measure. The law was supported by overwhelming public reaction, and Bibulus retired to his home in disgrace. Bibulus spent the rest of his consular year using religious signs to prove that Caesar”s laws were null and void in an attempt to bog down the political system. Instead, he unwittingly granted Caesar complete autonomy to make almost anything he set his mind to possible. After Bibulus”s retirement, the consular year of the two would be jokingly called the year of “Julius and Caesar”.
Caesar received the proconsulship of Cisalpine Gaul and Illyria, giving him the opportunity to match his political victories with military glories. This five-year post, unprecedented in a relatively secure field, was a clear sign of Caesar”s ambition for foreign conquest. Future campaigns led by Caesar were, from this point on, at his own discretion. As luck would have it, the governor of Gaul Narbonensis had died and the province was also entrusted to Caesar.
In 59 BC, Caesar had the support of the people, along with the two most powerful men in Rome (except himself), and the opportunity for infinite glory in Gaul. At the age of 40, though he held the highest office in Rome and continued to defeat his opponents at every turn, his true greatness would come later. Swiftly marching through the relative safety of the provinces under his rule to invoke his empire and avoid judgement, Caesar was to alter the geopolitical platform of the ancient world.
Gaius Julius Caesar took official control of the provinces of Illyria, Cisalpine Gaul and Transalpine Gaul in 59 BC. Beyond the province of Transalpine Gaul was a vast territory, equivalent to today”s France, called Gaul Comata, where there were independent confederations of Gallic tribes
Several other tribes joined the movement of the Helvetians, and in time they became the largest and most powerful tribe in Gaul. In all, according to Caesar”s writings, they had gathered about 370,000 people, 260,000 of whom were women, children and other non-combatants. Having set off, regardless of Caesar”s objection, the troops would inevitably meet. After several skirmishes, Caesar conquered the mountainous side with his six legions, luring his opponent into an unequal battle. Near the capital of the Aedui tribe, Caesar crushed the Helvetians, slaughtering them regardless of the opponent”s combatant status. According to Caesar, of the 370,000 enemies, only 130,000 survived the battle. Over the next few days, he ordered troops to pursue what was left of the opposing army; another 20,000 were reportedly killed. At about the same time, in late 59 BC, the Germanic leader Ariovistus, chieftain of the Suebi tribe, led an invasion of Gaul with border attacks, but Caesar quelled the situation at that point by arranging an alliance with the Germans in early 58 BC. He forced the Germans back east along the Rhine and used the pretext of “defending Rome”s allies” to continue his conquests in the north.
In the spring of 57 BC, Caesar was in Cisalpine Gaul, looking after the administration of his government. Despite the grandiose thanks offered by various Gallic tribes, discontent was growing. Caesar heard a rumour about the formation of a confederation of Gallic tribes under Belgian rule to oppose the Roman presence in Gaul. So he rushed back to his troops, forming 2 new legions made up mostly of Gallic ”citizens”, the total number now standing at eight.
By the time Caesar arrived, probably in July 57 BC, the rumours of Gallic opposition had become true. Caesar moved swiftly, surprising the Gallic tribes before they had joined the opposition and turning them into allies. In retaliation, the Belgic tribes began the attack. With their eight legions, the Romans shattered the attack in a hard-fought battle. For Caesar, victory had a double connotation: not only an armed victory, but a political one, accompanied by a solitary propaganda as well. By protecting his ”allies” from external aggression, he could now easily secure the necessary legalities against the Belgian tribes. Although it would still be a difficult campaign, this was exactly the kind of chance Caesar wanted. He continued north, conquering everything in his path, either by politics or by military means.
At the beginning of the campaign in 56 BC, Caesar felt that Gaul was not yet ready for Roman occupation. He sent his generals into every corner of Gaul to quell any resistance in their path. Publius Crassus, son of Marcus Crassus, was sent to Aquitaine with 12 legionary cohorts to subjugate the tribes there. With the help of Gallic auxiliary troops, Crassus quickly brought Roman control to the westernmost part of Gaul. Decimus Brutus, Caesar”s young would-be assassin, was sent north to present-day Britain to build a fleet against the Venetians. They controlled the waterways with a formidable fleet of their own, but were also supported by the British Celts. Initially the Gallic ships outnumbered the Romans, with Brutus unable to prevent Venetian operations. But Roman ingenuity kicked in, and they began using hooks launched by archers to conquer the Venetian ships. Before long, the Venetians were completely defeated, and like many tribes before them, sold into slavery.
In all, dozens of tribes were forced to surrender to Roman rule and hundreds of thousands of prisoners were sent to Rome as slaves. With the defeat of Gallic resistance, Caesar turned his attention beyond the English Channel. However, the conquest was not as complete as it seemed. Caesar first had to face further Germanic incursions before he could cross to the island. And despite his confidence, the Gallic tribes were not nearly as subjugated as he thought. For the time being, however, Caesar returned to Cisalpine Gaul to deal with political matters in Rome.
By 56 BC, as Caesar pushed Roman control throughout the Gallic province, the political situation in Rome was on the verge of collapse. In the midst of planning his next moves in Gaul, Britain and Germany, Caesar returned to Cisalpine Gaul, knowing he had to assert himself again for the support of the Roman Senate. Pompey was in northern Italy tending to his duties on the grain commission, and Crassus went to Ravenna to meet with Caesar. But he summoned them both to Lucca for a conference, and the three triumvirs were joined by up to 200 senators. Although the support in Rome was unquestioned, this meeting was for the purposes of the triumvirate, and it proved to be more than a coalition of just 3. But Caesar needed Pompey and Crassus to get along in order to keep the whole deal together. Caesar”s command needed to be extended, to be assured against judgment.
The agreement reached would have given Caesar the extension he needed, while Pompey and Crassus had the opportunity to come to power. Pompey and Crassus were to be elected consuls simultaneously for 55 BC, with Pompey given the region of Hispania and Crassus given Syria. Pompey, jealous of the growth of Caesar”s army, wanted the security of a provincial rule with the help of legions, and Crassus wanted the opportunity for military glory eastwards to Parthia. After settling matters, Crassus and Pompey returned to Rome to take part in the elections of 55 BC. Despite fierce resistance from the Optimates, including a delay in the elections, the two were eventually confirmed as consuls. Caesar, however, took no chances and sent his nuncio, Publius Crassus, back to Rome with 1,000 men to ”keep order”. The presence of these men, coupled with the popularity of Crassus and Pompey, did little to stabilise the situation. Caesar rushed back to Gaul to launch the first Roman invasion of Britain.
Before Caesar could focus his attention on Britain, a Germanic invasion along the Rhine in Ubian territory turned his attention to Germany. The invaders sent ambassadors to Caesar saying they wanted peace, but Caesar asked them to move out of Gaul and ordered his legions mobilised to do so. Before Caesar could start his attacks, his cavalry was attacked by surprise, 78 Romans were killed in the battle. A full-scale assault was then launched on the Germanic camp and, according to Caesar, 430,000 Germans left without leaders, women and children were rounded up. The Romans slaughtered indiscriminately, sending masses of people to the Rhine, where many others succumbed by drowning. It is not known how many casualties there were by the end, but Caesar claimed not a single soldier was lost.
In 50 BC, the Senate led by Pompey ordered Caesar to return to Rome and disband his army because his term as proconsul had ended. In addition, the Senate forbade Caesar to run for a second consulship in his absence. Caesar thought he would be tried and politically marginalised if he entered Rome without the immunity his consulship conferred or the power of his army. Pompey accused Caesar of insubordination and treason. On 10 January 49 BC. Caesar crossed the Rubicon (Italy”s then border with Gaul) with his troops and attacked his own homeland, the Roman Republic, with the intention of installing himself as dictator. Historians disagree about what Caesar said at the Rubicon crossing. He is said to have said “Alea iacta est” (“The dice are thrown”), or “May the dice fly high!” (a quote from the poet Menander). This minor controversy occasionally appears in modern literature when one author attributes Menander”s less popular quote to Caesar. Opponents, including Metellus Scipio and Cato the Younger, fled south, unaware that Caesar was accompanied only by the Tenth Legion. Caesar pursued Pompey to Brundisium, hoping to restore their previous ten-year alliance. Pompey evaded him, however, and Caesar made an amazing 27-day march to Spain, where he defeated Pompey”s lieutenants. He then returned east to challenge Pompey in Greece, where on 10 July 48 BC at Dyrrhacium Caesar barely avoided a catastrophic defeat. He decisively defeated Pompey, despite the latter”s numerical advantage (almost double the infantry and additional cavalry) at Pharsalus in a violent and short-lived battle in 48 BC. Pompey fled to Egypt, where he was killed by an officer in the service of Pharaoh Ptolemy XIII. In Rome, Caesar asked to be appointed dictator, with Mark Antony as his first lieutenant; Caesar resigned as dictator after eleven days and demanded that he be elected consul for a second time, along with Publius Servilius Vatia Isauricus. He followed Pompey to Alexandria, where he set up camp for his army and became involved in the civil war between Ptolemy and his sister, wife and the queen with whom he ruled, Cleopatra VII. Perhaps Caesar”s alliance with Cleopatra was a result of Ptolemy”s role in Pompey”s murder; Caesar is said to have wept at the sight of Pompey”s head, which was given to him by Ptolemy”s chamberlain Pothinus as a gift. Caesar then defeats Ptolemy”s forces and installs Cleopatra as Pharaoh, with whom he will raise his only known biological son, Ptolemy XV Caesar, better known as “Caesarion”. Caesar and Cleopatra never married. After spending the early months of 47 BC in Egypt, Caesar travels to the Middle East, where he annihilates King Pharnace II of Pontus at the Battle of Zela; his battle was so concrete and complete that he commemorated it in the words Veni, vidi, vici (“I came, I saw, I conquered”). After this he set off for Africa to deal with Ptolemy”s remaining senatorial supporters. He quickly won a significant victory at Thapsus in 46 BC over the forces of Metellus Scipio (who dies in battle) and Cato the Younger (who commits suicide). However, Pompey”s sons, Gnaeus Pompeius and Sextus Pompeius, along with Titus Labienus, Caesar”s former propraetorian nuncio (legatus propraetore) and second in command in the Gallic War, survive the battles in Spain. Caesar routed and defeated the last remnants of the opposition at the Battle of Munda in March 45 BC. Meanwhile, Caesar was elected to his third and fourth terms as consul in 46 BC (with Marcus Aemilius Lepidus) and 45 BC (without a partner).
Caesar returns to Italy in September 45 BC and completes the will among his first tasks, naming Octavian as his sole successor. The Senate had already begun to honour him even in his absence. Although Caesar did not outlaw his enemies, but pardoned almost every one of them, there seemed to be extremely little open resistance.
Great games and festivities were held on April 21 to honor Caesar”s great victory. Along with the games, Caesar was honoured with the right to wear triumphal dress, including a dark red robe (evocative of the kings of Rome) and laurel wreath on all public occasions. A large estate was built at Rome”s expense for Caesar”s exclusive use. The title of emperor became a legal one, which he was to use for the rest of his life. An ivory statue in his likeness was to be carried at all public religious processions.
Another statue of Caesar was placed in the temple of Quirinus with the inscription of the Invincible God. As Quirinus was the deified likeness of the city and its founder and first king, Romulus, this act identified Caesar not only on the same scale as the gods, but also with the ancient kings. A third statue was erected on the Capitol next to those of the seven Roman kings and Lucius Junius Brutus, the man who led the revolt that led to the removal of the kings. But in other outrageous behaviour, Caesar struck coins with his likeness; for the first time in Roman history a living Roman figured on a coin!
When Caesar returned to Rome in October 45 BC, he relinquished the fourth consulship (which he had led without a partner) and placed Quintus Fabius Maximus and Gaius Trebonius in his place. This irritated the Senate because Caesar disregarded the republican system of election and so acted at his own whim. He celebrates a fourth triumph, this time to honour his victory in Spain. The Senate went on to bestow other honors. A temple to Libertas was to be built in his honour, and he was given the title of Liberator. He was elected consul for life and allowed to hold any office he wished, including those generally reserved for commoners. Rome seemed willing to grant Caesar the unprecedented right to be the sole Roman holder of imperium. With this, Caesar alone would be immune from legal judgement and would technically have supreme command over all Roman legions.
Caesar demanded other honours, which would eliminate democracy for good and establish dictatorship. He even demanded the right to appoint half of all magistrates, positions that until then had been filled by vote. He also appointed magistrates to all provincial duties, a process hitherto done by random election or Senate consent. The month of his birth, Quintilis, was named July (after the Latin Iulius) in his honour, and the day of his birth, 13 July, was recognised as a national holiday. Even a clan in the assembly of the people was to bear his name. A temple and its religious class, Flamen Major, was to be erected and dedicated in his family”s honour.
Caesar, however, also had a so-called reform agenda, also dealing with various social issues. He passed a law stipulating that Roman citizens aged between 20 and 40 were forbidden to leave Italy for more than 3 years, except those on military service. In theory, this would have helped keep local farms and businesses operating and prevented corruption abroad. If a member of the social elite wronged or killed a member of the lower class, then their entire wealth would be confiscated. Caesar demonstrated that he still had the best interests of the state at heart, even though he believed he was the only person capable of running it. A general cancellation of one-fourth of all debts greatly relieved the public and helped to endear him even more to the common people.
Caesar tightly regulated the purchase of subsidized grain by the state and forbade those who could afford private grain supplies to buy from the state. He made plans for the distribution of land to his veterans and for the settlement of veteran colonies throughout the Roman world. One of his most important reforms came after his election for life as Pontifex Maximus. Caesar ordered a complete overhaul of the Roman calendar, establishing one of 365 days with a leap every four years (this Julian calendar was later modified by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582, becoming today”s modern calendar). As a result of this reform, the year 46 BC was actually 445 days longer to bring it into order.
In addition, major public works were carried out. Rome was a city of vast urban sprawl and unimpressive brick architecture, in urgent need of massive renovation. A new marble Rostra, horse fields and new markets were built. A public library under the tutelage of the great scholar Varro was also under construction. The Senate House, Curia Hostilia, which had recently been repaired, was abandoned for a new marble project to be called Curia Iulia. The sacred border, the Pomerium, of the city was extended allowing for additional growth.
Plutarch reports that at one point Caesar informed the Senate that he was gay and that his honors were bestowed more out of a need for reduction than augmentation, but he withdrew this position so as not to appear ungrateful. He was given the title Pater Patriae (“Father of the Fatherland”). He was appointed dictator for a third time and then nominated for nine consecutive one-year terms as dictator, making him effective dictator for ten years. He also received censorial authority as prefect of morals (praefectus morum) for three years.
At the beginning of 44 BC, the honours demanded by Caesar continued and the gulf between him and the aristocratic democrats deepened. He was named Dictator Perpetuus, making him dictator for life. This title even began to appear on coins bearing Caesar”s likeness, placing him above all other citizens of Rome. Some even began to refer to his person as “Rex” (Latin for king), but Caesar prudently refused to accept this title even though he wanted the position. At Caesar”s new temple to Venus, a senatorial delegation went to consult him, but Caesar refused to stop and talk to them. Although the event is overshadowed by several other different versions of the story, it is obvious that the senators present there felt deeply insulted. In an attempt to rectify the situation, some time later Caesar theatrically exposed his neck to his friends, saying that he was prepared to offer it to anyone who brought a blow of the sword upon him. Apparently this at least calmed the situation, but the damage had already been done. The seeds of conspiracy had begun to grow.
Caesar”s deeds, the liquidation of democracy and the possible proclamation of Caesar as king have increased anti-dictatorial spirits especially after the deposition of a diadem on the statue of Caesar on the Rostra. The tribunes, Gaius Epidius Marcellus and Lucius Caesetius Flavius removed this diadem. Not long after this incident, the same two tribunes arrested citizens who had pronounced the title of Rex to Caesar as he passed through the streets of Rome. Seeing his supporters threatened, Caesar acted sternly. He ordered the release of those arrested and instead brought the tribunes before the Senate, removing their positions. Caesar had originally used the sanctification of the tribunes as one of the reasons for starting the civil war, but now he revoked their power for his own gain.
The Lupercalia Festival was to be the greatest test for the Roman people of Caesar”s acceptance as king. On 15 February 44 BC, Caesar sat on his gilded throne on the Rostra, wearing his red robe, red shoes, laurel wreath and armed with the title Dictator Perpetuus. The race around the pomerium was a tradition of the festival, and when Mark Antony entered the forum, he was lifted onto the Rostra by the priests participating in the festivities. Antony took out a diadem and tried to place it on Caesar”s head, saying “The people offer you this title of king through me”. But the cheers from the audience were almost non-existent, and Caesar quickly refused, careful not to let the diadem touch his head. The audience shouted approvingly, but Antony ignored the facts and tried to place it on his head for a second time. This time the audience did not exult either, and Caesar rose from his seat and refused it again, saying: “I will not be king of Rome. Jupiter is the only king of the Romans.” The crowd immediately approved of Caesar”s actions.
All the while, Caesar was planning a new campaign in Dacia and then in Parthia. The Parthian campaign could have brought considerable wealth back to Rome, and the possibility of recovering the battle standards (Acvile) that Crassus had lost almost nine years earlier. An old legend said that Parthia could only be conquered by a king, so Caesar was authorised by the Senate to wear a crown anywhere in the empire. Caesar planned to leave in April 44 BC, and his secret democratic opponents, whose numbers were growing, had to act quickly. Most of them were men Caesar had already pardoned, and they were aware that the only way to remove Caesar from Rome”s leadership was to act before he set off for Parthia.
The meeting place of the Roman Senate was, according to tradition, in the Curia Hostilia, whose repair had recently been completed after the fires that had destroyed it in previous years, but the Senate abandoned it for a new house under construction. So Caesar convened the Senate in the Theatrum Pompeium (built by Pompeii) at the Idele of Mars on 15 March 44 BC. A few days earlier, a soothsayer had said to Caesar: “Beware of the Ides of Mars!”. On the day of the Senate meeting, Caesar was attacked and stabbed to death by a group of senators calling themselves Liberatores (they justified their action by saying they had committed tyrannicide, not murder, defending the Republic from Caesar”s claimed monarchical ambitions. Among the assassins who locked themselves in the Temple of Jupiter were Gaius Trebonius, Decimus Junius Brutus, Marcus Junius Brutus and Gaius Cassius Longinus; Caesar had pardoned most of their crimes and even promoted them in their careers. Marcus Brutus was a distant cousin of Caesar and had been named as one of his heirs. It is also speculated that Marcus Brutus was Caesar”s illegitimate son, since Caesar had had an affair with Servilia Caepionis, Brutus” mother; but Caesar was only 15 years old at the time of Brutus” birth. Caesar received 23 stab wounds (some say as many as 35), ranging from superficial to fatal, and, ironically, collapsed at the feet of a statue of his former friend-turned-rival Pompey the Great. Pompey had recently been deified by the Senate, with some accounts saying that Caesar prayed to Pompey as he died. His last words have been variously reported as:
Here follows an eyewitness account of Caesar”s assassination written by Nicolaus of Damascus(d), a few years after it took place.
“The conspirators never met in public, but occasionally met at each other”s homes. There was much discussion and proposals, as expected, as they investigated how and where to execute their plan. Some suggested trying it while he was walking the Sacred Way, which was one of his favorite walks. Another idea was to have him killed at the election, while crossing a bridge to appoint magistrates to Campus Martius; they were to see which was the least lucky among them, so that he could push Caesar off the bridge and the others could run up and kill him. A third plan was to wait for the next gladiator show. The advantage was that, because of the show, no suspicion would be aroused if the weapons to be prepared for the assassination were seen. But the majority decided to have him killed while sitting in the Senate, where he was unaccompanied, since non-senators were not admitted, and where the many conspirators could hide their daggers in their togas. This plan was the winner of the day.”
“Before entering the altar, the priests brought the victims forward so that he could perform what was to be his last sacrifice. The signs were clearly unfavorable. After this unsuccessful sacrifice, the priests made others, repeatedly, to see if anything else, more favourable than those already revealed, might appear. In the end, the priests concluded that they could not clearly see the divine intention, because there was a transparent and evil spirit hidden among the victims. Caesar felt irritated and abandoned divination until sunset, although the priests continued their efforts more and more.
The assassins present at the time were delighted to see these, although Caesar”s friends advised him to cancel the Senate meeting that day because of what the priests had said. He agreed, but some of the participants stood up, shouted at him and told him that the Senate was already full. He looked at his friends, but Brutus approached him again saying ”Come, good sir, pay no attention to the chatter of these people and do not postpone what Caesar and his great power has seen fit to arrange. With these words he persuaded Caesar; taking him by the right hand, he led him towards the Senate, which was just near. Caesar followed him in silence.”
“The Senate rose in respect for his position when they saw him enter. Those who were to be part of the plot stood near him. Right beside him stood Tillius Cimber, whose brother had been exiled by Caesar. On the pretext of a humble request from this brother, Cimber approached Caesar and tightened the mantle of his toga, seeming to want to make an even more extensive move with his hands on Caesar. Caesar wanted to stand up and use his hands, but was prevented by Cimber, thus becoming excessively irritated.
That was the signal for the conspirators to act. They all hastily drew their daggers and pounced on him. First Servilius Casca struck him with the tip of his blade on the left shoulder, just above the neck bone. He aimed at that one, but in his excitement he missed. Caesar rose to defend himself, and in the commotion Casca shouted in Greek at his brother. The latter heard him and plunged his dagger into his ribs. After a moment, Cassius made a wound on his face and Decimus Brutus pierced him in the side. As Cassius Longinus tried to strike him again, he missed and struck Marcus Brutus” hand. Minucius also struck Caesar and Rubrius in the thigh. It was simply a crowd in battle with one opponent.
Under the mass of wounds, he fell at the foot of the statue of Pompey. Everyone seemed to want to have a part in the killing, no participant not striking his body as he lay, until, stabbed twenty-three times, he breathed his last.”
Then they left his stabbed and bloodied body there. After three days, the slaves discovered his body. Julius Caesar”s body was exposed in the forum and examined by Antistius, who proved that only one of the 23 wounds was lethal. It penetrated the thorax between ribs 1 and 2. Roman soldiers then wrapped his body and placed it on the altar, where it was cremated, according to Roman tradition. The women threw jewellery and their children”s clothes and household furniture into the flames that consumed Caesar”s body.
Mark Antony himself attended the funeral, mourning the loss of his former military superior, whom he had accompanied on the military campaign in Gaul.
It was a watershed day for Rome; with the demise of the dictator, a new Roman era began.
Caesar”s death also marked, ironically, the end of the Roman Republic, for whose sake he had been killed. The middle and lower classes, where Caesar had been so popular even before his victory in Gaul, were furious that a small group of aristocrats had killed their hero. Antony”s famous speech in Shakespeare”s play, “Friends, Romans, fellow citizens, give me your attention!” may have had no real equivalent, but it accurately reflects public attitudes to Caesar”s death. Antony, who had been distancing himself from Caesar for some time, took advantage of the anger of the Roman mob and threatened to unleash it on the Optimatians, perhaps with the intention of taking control of Rome himself. But Caesar had named his nephew Gaius Octavius (Octavianus) as sole heir to his vast wealth, giving him both the immense power secured by Caesar”s name and control over one of the largest fortunes in the republic. In addition, Gaius Octavius was, for all intents and purposes, the son of the great Caesar, and consequently the loyalties of the Roman population shifted from Caesar to Octavius. The latter, only 19 years old when Caesar died, proved to be ruthless and cruel. While Antony dealt with Decimus Brutus in the first round of the new civil wars, Octavius consolidated his position. In order to fight Brutus and Cassius, who lacked a large army in Greece, Antony needed both the wealth in Caesar”s war chests and the legitimacy that Caesar”s name offered to any action he took against the two. A new triumvirate was formed, the second and last, with Octavius, Antony, and the loyal commander of Caesar”s cavalry, Lepidus. The Second Triumvirate deified Caesar as Divus Julius, and, seeing that his murder was made possible precisely because of his clemency, the horror of the outlaws, abandoned since Sulla”s time, was brought back upon the enemies of the triumvirate in order to appropriate even more funds for the second civil war, waged against Brutus and Cassius, whom Antony and Octavius defeated at Philippi. A third civil war then broke out between Octavius against the alliance of Antony and Cleopatra. This last civil war culminated in the defeat of Antony and Cleopatra at Actium and the political rise of Octavianus, who became the first Roman emperor, named Caesar Augustus. In 42 BC, Caesar was officially deified as divus Iulius (“Julius the divine”), and Caesar Augustus thus became divi filius (son of the divine).
Caesar was considered one of Rome”s greatest orators and prose writers of his time. Cicero himself praised Caesar”s rhetoric and style. Among his best-known works are the funeral speech for his aunt on his paternal line, Julia (widow of Marius), and Anticato, a document intended to destroy the reputation of Cato of Utica and to be a rejoinder to Cicero”s memorial Cato. Most of Caesar”s works and speeches have been lost. The most famous of which have been preserved:
Other writings attributed to Caesar, but whose literary authorship is in doubt, are:
These narratives, written in a straightforward and simple style, are in fact sophisticated means of propaganda for his political agenda, aimed especially at the middle class or small aristocracy of Rome, Italy and the provinces.
In ancient Rome, male homosexuality was common and widespread in society, especially among the upper classes. However, Roman society officially disapproved of homosexuality. According to Cicero, Bibulus and other opponents of Caesar, early in his career he had an affair with Nicomedes III of Bithynia. Whether true or fictional, the stories were intended to discredit him by trying to make Caesar appear to have been an Oriental court prostitute in his youth, which in Roman eyes was socially despicable. There is not enough evidence to confirm an amorous relationship with Nicomedes. Virtually the same uncertainty persists about all other accounts. What is certain is that the story of Nicomedes was based on his youthful stay with the king. Caesar himself did not attempt to disprove the allegations, but neither did his nephew Augustus confirm any account of his relationship with Nicomedes. 3
Marc Antony claimed that Octavian was adopted by Caesar through sexual favours. Suetonius, while reporting that the affair between Caesar and Nicomedes was true, described Antony”s accusation as political slander against his rival Octavius. 4
Caesar was chosen number 67 in Michael H. Hart”s list of the most influential figures in history.
He received the title Divus, or god, after his death.
During his lifetime, he received many honours, including titles such as Pater Patriae (“Father of the Fatherland”), Pontifex Maximus (“Highest Priest”) and Dictator. In fact, many of the titles that the Senate voted for are considered a cause of his assassination, as it seemed inappropriate to many of his contemporaries for a mortal to receive so many honours.
Perhaps the most significant title he bore was the name he received at birth: Caesar. The name was to be bestowed on every Roman emperor and became a signal of great power and authority far beyond the borders of the empire (like the German ”kaiser” and the Russian ”tsar”).
Caesar”s comet is known to ancient authors as Sidus Iulium (“Julian Star”) or Caesaris astrum (“Caesar”s Star”). This bright, daytime-visible comet appeared suddenly during the Ludi Victoriae Caesaris, now known to have been held in July 44 BC, four months after Caesar”s assassination, as well as in Caesar”s birthday month. According to Suetonius, while the celebrations were going on, “a comet rose at the eleventh hour, shone continuously for seven days, and was believed to be the soul of Caesar received into heaven.”
For his deeds and merits, Julius Caesar was declared a god, with the epithet divus attached to his surname. Popular belief spread that Jupiter took him with him to Olympus.
- Iulius Cezar
- Julius Caesar
- ^ a b Google Cărți
- ^ a b „Iulius Cezar”, Gemeinsame Normdatei, accesat în 10 decembrie 2014
- ^ a b , p. 167
- a b Caesarin syntymävuodesta on kiistelty. Jotkut tutkijat ovat väittäneet syntymävuodeksi 101 tai 102 eaa., sen perusteella minkä ikäinen Caesar tullessaan valituksi eri virkoihin, mutta vuodesta 100 eaa. on tutkijoiden keskuudessa konsensus. Samoin osa tutkijoista suosii syntymäpäiväksi 12. heinäkuuta, mutta suurin osa esittää päiväksi 13. heinäkuuta.
- Johtuen latinan ääntämisen muutoksista ajan kuluessa nimen ääntäminen vaihtelee. Yleisin muoto suomessa lienee /ˈjulius ˈkeːsːɑr/. Nimen alkuperäinen lausuminen oli todennäköisesti lähempänä muotoa /ˈgaːius ˈjuːlius ˈkaisar/. Vanhastaan muiden kielten vaikutuksessa suomessa on esiintynyt myös c:n lausumista s:nä.
- Suet., De Grammaticis 7.
- Ο Ιούλιος Καίσαρ κυβέρνησε ως αδιαφιλονίκητος ηγέτης της Ρωμαϊκής Δημοκρατίας από το 49 π.Χ. μέχρι τη δολοφονία του το 44 π.Χ. Κατά την περίοδο αυτή, κυβέρνησε είτε ως δικτάτορας είτε ως ύπατος ή και τα δύο.
- Το πλήρες όνομα του Ιουλίου Καίσαρα ήταν Imperator Gaius Iulius Gaii filius Gaii nepos Caesar Patris Patriae. Η επίσημη ονομασία του μετά τη θεοποίησή του το 42 π.Χ. ήταν Divus Iulius.