Kinkazzo Burning
~ reflections & disquisitions
It takes both sunshine and rain to make a rainbow...

Presenting Caesar

Great men are necessary for our life, in order that the movement of world history can free itself sporadically, by fits and starts, from obsolete ways of living and inconsequential talk. ~ Jacob Burckhardt

Julius Caesar

Gaius Julius Caesar [1] (July 12 or July 13, 100 BC – March 15, 44 BC) was a Roman military and political leader and one of the most influential men in world history. He played a critical role in the transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire. His conquest of Gaul extended the Roman world all the way to the Atlantic Ocean, and he was also responsible for the first Roman invasion of Britain in 55 BC.

Leading his legions across the Rubicon, Caesar sparked civil war in 49 BC that left him the undisputed master of the Roman world. After assuming control of the government, he began extensive reforms of Roman society and government. He was proclaimed dictator for life, and he heavily centralized the bureaucracy of the Republic. This forced the hand of a friend of Caesar, Marcus Junius Brutus, who then conspired with others to murder the dictator and restore the Republic. This dramatic assassination occurred on the Ides of March (March 15th) in 44 BC and led to another Roman civil war. In 42 BC, two years after his assassination, the Roman Senate officially sanctified him as one of the Roman deities.

Caesar's military campaigns are known in detail from his own written Commentaries (Commentarii), and many details of his life are recorded by later historians, such as Appian, Suetonius, Plutarch, Cassius Dio and Strabo. Other information can be gleaned from other contemporary sources, such as the letters and speeches of Caesar's political rival Cicero, the poetry of Catullus and the writings of the historian Sallust.

Now, since I love this man for all his charisma, stamina, intelligence and extraordinary drive (forget his expedient cruelty) -- and since he belongs to my heritage and ancestry -- I wish to briefly record his biography and achievements here, as assisted by Wikipedia.


Early life

Caesar was born into a patrician family, the gens Julia, which claimed descent from Iulus, son of the Trojan prince Aeneas, himself the son of the goddess Venus.[2] The branch of the gens Julia which bore the cognomen "Caesar" was descended, according to Pliny the Elder, from a man who was born by caesarian section (from the Latin verb to cut, caedo, -ere, caesus sum).[3] The Historia Augusta suggests three alternative explanations of the name: that the first Caesar killed an elephant (caesai in Moorish) in battle; that he had a thick head of hair (Latin caesaries); or that he had bright grey eyes (Latin oculis caesiis).[4]

Although of impeccable aristocratic patrician stock, the Julii Caesares were not rich by the standards of the Roman nobility. No member of the family had achieved any outstanding prominence in recent times, though in Caesar's father's generation there was a renaissance of their fortunes. His father, also called Gaius Julius Caesar, reached the rank of praetor, perhaps through the influence of Gaius Marius, the war hero and prominent politician who had married his sister Julia.[5] His mother, Aurelia Cottae, came from an influential family which had produced several consuls. They lived in a modest house in the Subura, a lower class neighbourhood of Rome,[6] where Marcus Antonius Gnipho, an orator and grammarian who originally came from Gaul, was employed as Caesar's tutor.[7] Caesar had two sisters, both called Julia. Little else is recorded of Caesar's childhood. Suetonius and Plutarch's biographies of him both begin abruptly in Caesar's teens: the opening paragraphs of both appear to be lost.[8]

Caesar spent his formative years in a period of turmoil. The Social War was fought from 91 to 88 BC between Rome and her Italian allies over the issue of Roman citizenship, while Mithridates of Pontus threatened Rome's eastern provinces. Domestically, Roman politics was divided between two factions, the optimates, who favoured aristocratic rule, and the populares, who preferred to appeal directly to the electorate. Caesar's uncle Marius was a popularis; his protegé and rival Lucius Cornelius Sulla was an optimas. Both distinguished themselves in the Social War, and both wanted command of the war against Mithridates, which was initially given to Sulla; but when Sulla left the city to take command of his army, a tribune passed a law transferring the appointment to Marius. Sulla responded by marching on Rome. Marius was forced into exile and command was returned to Sulla, but when Sulla left on campaign Marius returned, and he and his ally Lucius Cornelius Cinna seized the city and declared Sulla a public enemy. Marius's troops took violent revenge on Sulla's supporters. Marius died early in 86 BC, but his faction remained in power.[9]
In 84 BC Caesar's father died suddenly while putting on his shoes one morning,[10] and at sixteen, Caesar was the head of the family. The following year he was nominated for the position of Flamen Dialis (high priest of Jupiter—Lucius Cornelius Merula, the previous incumbent, had died in Marius's purges),[11] and since the holder of that position not only had to be a patrician but also be married to a patrician, he broke off his engagement to Cossutia, a girl of wealthy equestrian family he had been betrothed to since boyhood, and married Cinna's daughter Cornelia.[12]Young JuliusThen, having brought Mithridates to terms, Sulla returned to finish the civil war against the Marian party. After a campaign throughout Italy he finally crushed the Marians at the Battle of the Colline Gate in November 82 BC. With both consuls dead, he had himself appointed to the revived office of dictator: but whereas a dictator was traditionally appointed for six months at a time, Sulla's appointment had no fixed term limit. There followed a series of bloody proscriptions against his political enemies, which dwarfed even Marius's purges. Statues of Marius were destroyed and Marius' body was exhumed and thrown in the Tiber. Cinna was already dead, killed by his own soldiers in a mutiny.[13] Caesar, as the nephew of Marius and son-in-law of Cinna, was targeted. He was stripped of his inheritance, his wife's dowry and his priesthood, but refused to divorce Cornelia and was forced to go into hiding. The threat against him was lifted by the intervention of his mother's family, who were supporters of Sulla, and the Vestal Virgins. Sulla gave in reluctantly, and is said to have declared that he saw many Mariuses in Caesar.[14]

Early career

Caesar did not return to Rome, but instead joined the army, serving under Marcus Minucius Thermus in Asia. Ironically, it had been the loss of his priesthood that allowed him to pursue a military career: the Flamen Dialis was not permitted to ride or even touch a horse, sleep three nights outside his own bed or one night outside Rome, or look upon an army.[15] On a mission to Bithynia to secure the assistance of King Nicomedes's fleet, he spent so long at his court that rumours of an affair with the king arose, which would persist for the rest of his life. Nonetheless, he served with distinction, winning the Civic Crown for his part in the siege of Mytilene. He also served briefly under Servilius Isauricus in Cilicia.[16]

After two years of unchallenged power, having reformed the Roman constitution to his satisfaction, Sulla resigned his dictatorship and re-established consular government. He dismissed his lictors and walked unguarded in the forum, offering to give account of his actions to any citizen.[17] This lesson in supreme confidence, Caesar later ridiculed — "Sulla did not know his political ABC's".[18] Ironically and dramatically, Caesar followed suit on the Ides of March and was not as lucky as Sulla.
Sulla was elected to a second consulship before retiring to private life. He died two years later of liver failure and was accorded a magnificent state funeral.[19]

In 78 BC, on hearing of Sulla's death, Caesar felt it would now be safe for him to return to Rome. His return coincided with an attempted anti-Sullan coup by Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, but Caesar, lacking confidence in Lepidus's leadership, did not participate.[20] Instead he turned to advocacy, bringing a failed prosecution against Cornelius Dolabella. He became known for his exceptional oratory, accompanied by impassioned gestures and a high-pitched voice, and ruthless prosecution of former governors notorious for extortion and corruption. The great orator Cicero even commented, "Does anyone have the ability to speak better than Caesar?"[21] Aiming at rhetorical perfection, Caesar travelled to Rhodes in 75 BC for philosophical and oratorical studies with the famous teacher Apollonius Molon, who was earlier the instructor of Cicero himself.[22]

On the way across the Aegean Sea,[23] Caesar was kidnapped by Cilician pirates and held prisoner in the Dodecanese islet of Farmakos. He maintained an attitude of superiority throughout his captivity. When the pirates thought to demand a ransom of twenty talents of gold, he insisted they ask for fifty. After the ransom was paid, Caesar raised a fleet, pursued and captured the pirates, and imprisoned them in Pergamon. The governor of Asia refused to execute them as Caesar demanded, preferring to sell them as slaves, but Caesar returned to the coast and had them crucified on his own authority, as he had promised to when in captivity – a promise the pirates had taken as a joke. He then proceeded to Rhodes, but was soon called back into military action in Asia, raising a band of auxiliaries to repel an incursion from Pontus.

On his return to Rome he was elected military tribune, a first step on the cursus honorum of Roman politics. He was elected quaestor for 69 BC, and during that year he delivered the funeral oration for his aunt Julia, widow of Marius, and included images of Marius, unseen since the days of Sulla, in the funeral procession. His own wife Cornelia also died that year. After her funeral Caesar went to serve his quaestorship in Hispania under Antistius Vetus. While there he is said to have encountered a statue of Alexander the Great, and realised with dissatisfaction he was now at an age when Alexander had the world at his feet, while he had achieved comparatively little. He requested, and was granted, an early discharge from his duties, and returned to Roman politics. On his return he married Pompeia, a granddaughter of Sulla.[24] He was elected aedile, restored the trophies of Marius's victories, brought prosecutions against men who had benefited from Sulla's proscriptions, spent a great deal of money on public works and games, and outshone his colleague Marcus Calpurnius Bibulus. He was also suspected of involvement in two abortive coup attempts.[25]

Pontifex Maximus and Governorship in Hispania

Caesar1In 63 BC, Quintus Caecilius Metellus Pius, who had been appointed to the post of Pontifex Maximus by Sulla, died. In a bold move, Caesar put his name up for election to the post. He ran against two of the most powerful members of the boni, the consulares Quintus Lutatius Catulus and Publius Servilius Vatia Isauricus. There were accusations of bribery by all sides in the contest but Caesar emerged as the victor. The election to the post of Pontifex Maximus was very important to Caesar's career. The post held vast political and religious authority and firmly placed Caesar in the public eye for the remainder of his career.

Caesar was elected to the post of praetor in 62 BC. After his praetorship, Caesar was allotted Hispania Ulterior (Outer Iberia) as his province. Caesar's governorship was a military and civil success and he was able to expand Roman rule. As a result, he was hailed as imperator by his soldiers, and gained support in the Senate to grant him a triumph. However, upon his return to Rome, Marcus Porcius Cato blocked Caesar’s request to stand for the consulship of 60 (or 59) in absentia. Faced with the choice between a triumph and consulship, Caesar chose the consulship.

First Consulship and First Triumvirate

Caesar 2In 60 BC (or 59 BC), the Centuriate Assembly elected Caesar senior Consul of the Roman Republic. His junior partner was his political enemy Marcus Calpurnius Bibulus, an optimas and son-in-law of Cato the Younger. Bibulus' first act as Consul was to retire from all political activity in order to search the skies for omens. This apparently pious decision was designed to make Caesar's life difficult during his Consulship. Roman satirists ever after referred to the year as "the consulship of Julius and Caesar", as Romans expressed the time period by the names of the two consuls that were elected.

Caesar needed allies and he found them where none of his enemies expected. The leading general of the day, Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus (Pompey the Great), was unsuccessfully fighting the Senate for farmlands for his veterans. A former Consul, Marcus Licinius Crassus, allegedly the richest man in Rome, was also having problems in obtaining relief for his publicani clients, the tax-farmers who were in charge of collecting Roman tributes. Caesar desperately needed Crassus's money and Pompey's influence, and an informal alliance soon followed: The First Triumvirate (rule by three men). To confirm the alliance, Pompey married Julia, Caesar's only daughter. Despite their differences in age and upbringing, this political marriage proved to be a love match.


Caesar 3Caesar was then appointed to a five year term as Proconsular Governor of Transalpine Gaul (current southern France) and Illyria (the coast of Dalmatia). Not content with an idle governorship, Caesar started the Gallic Wars (58 BC–49 BC) in which he conquered all of Gaul (the rest of current France, with most of Switzerland and Belgium and parts of Germany, effectively western mainland Europe from the Atlantic to the Rhine) and annexed them to Rome. Among his legates were his cousins Lucius Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, Titus Labienus and Quintus Tullius Cicero, the younger brother of Caesar's future political opponent, Marcus Tullius Cicero.

Caesar defeated the Helvetii (in Switzerland) in 58 BC, the Belgic confederacy and the Nervii in 57 BC and the Veneti in 56 BC. On August 26 55 and 54 BC he made two expeditions to Britain and, in 52 BC he defeated a union of Gauls led by Vercingetorix at the battle of Alesia. He recorded his own accounts of these campaigns in Commentarii de Bello Gallico ("Commentaries on the Gallic War").
According to Plutarch and the writings of scholar Brendan Woods, the whole campaign resulted in 800 conquered cities, 300 subdued tribes, one million men sold to slavery and another three million dead in battle fields. Ancient historians notoriously exaggerated numbers of this kind, but Caesar's conquest of Gaul was certainly one of the greatest military invasion since the campaigns of Alexander the Great. The victory was also far more lasting than those of Alexander's: Gaul never regained its Celtic identity, never attempted another nationalist rebellion, and remained loyal to Rome until the fall of the Western Empire in 476.

Fall of the First Triumvirate

Despite his successes and the benefits to Rome, Caesar remained unpopular among his peers, especially the conservative faction, who suspected him of wanting to be king. In 55 BC, his partners Pompey and Crassus were elected consuls and honored their agreement with Caesar by prolonging his proconsulship for another five years. This was the last act of the First Triumvirate.

In 54 BC, Caesar's daughter Julia died in childbirth, leaving both Pompey and Caesar heartbroken. Crassus was killed in 53 BC during his campaign in Parthia. Without Crassus or Julia, Pompey drifted towards the Optimates. Still in Gaul, Caesar tried to secure Pompey's support by offering him one of his nieces in marriage, but Pompey refused. Instead, Pompey married Cornelia Metella, the daughter of Metellus Scipio, one of Caesar's greatest enemies.


Caesar 4In 50 BC, the Senate, led by Pompey, ordered Caesar to return to Rome and disband his army because his term as Proconsul had finished. Moreover, the Senate forbade Caesar to stand for a second consulship in absentia. Caesar thought he would be prosecuted and politically marginalized if he entered Rome without the immunity enjoyed by a Consul or without the power of his army. Pompey accused Caesar of insubordination and treason. On January 10, 49 BC Caesar crossed the Rubicon (the frontier boundary of Italy) with only one legion and ignited civil war. Upon crossing the Rubicon, Caesar is reported to have said Iacta alea est. This is normally rendered as "The die is cast". Plutarch maintains that he spoke this in Greek, quoting a line from the poet Menander, Aneristho kubos

The Optimates, including Metellus Scipio and Cato the Younger, fled to the south, not knowing that Caesar had only his Thirteenth Legion with him. Caesar pursued Pompey to Brindisium, hoping to restore their alliance of ten years prior. Pompey managed to elude him, however. So instead of giving chase Caesar decided to head for Hispania saying " I set forth to fight an army without a leader, so as later to fight a leader without an army." Leaving Marcus Aemilius Lepidus as prefect of Rome, and the rest of Italy under Mark Antony, Caesar made an astonishing 27-day route-march to Hispania where he defeated Pompey's lieutenants. He then returned east, to challenge Pompey in Greece where on July 10, 48 BC at Dyrrhachium Caesar barely avoided a catastrophic defeat. He decisively defeated Pompey, despite Pompey's numerical advantage (nearly twice the number of infantry and considerably more cavalry), at Pharsalus in an exceedingly short engagement in 48 BC.

In Rome, Caesar was appointed dictator, with Mark Antony as his Master of the Horse; Caesar resigned this dictatorate after eleven days and was elected to a second term as consul with Publius Servilius Vatia as his colleague. He pursued Pompey to Alexandria, where Pompey was murdered by an officer of King Ptolemy XIII. Caesar then became involved with the Alexandrine civil war between Ptolemy and his sister, wife, and co-regnant queen, the Pharaoh Cleopatra VII. Perhaps as a result of Ptolemy's role in Pompey's murder, Caesar sided with Cleopatra; he is reported to have wept at the sight of Pompey's head, which was offered to him by Ptolemy's chamberlain Pothinus as a gift. In any event, Caesar defeated the Ptolemaic forces and installed Cleopatra as ruler, with whom he fathered his only known biological son, Ptolemy XV Caesar, better known as "Caesarion". Cleopatra moved into an elaborate estate in Rome.

Caesar and Cleopatra never married: they could not do so under Roman Law. The institution of marriage was only recognized between two Roman citizens; Cleopatra was Queen of Egypt. In Roman eyes, this did not constitute adultery, and Caesar is believed to have continued his relationship with Cleopatra throughout his last marriage, which lasted 14 years and produced no children.

After spending the first months of 47 BC in Egypt, Caesar went to the Middle East, where he annihilated King Pharnaces II of Pontus in the battle of Zela; his victory was so swift and complete that he commemorated it with the words Veni, vidi, vici ("I came, I saw, I conquered"). Thence, he proceeded to Africa to deal with the remnants of Pompey's senatorial supporters. He quickly gained a significant victory at Thapsus in 46 BC over the forces of Metellus Scipio (who died in the battle) and Cato the Younger (who committed suicide). Nevertheless, Pompey's sons Gnaeus Pompeius and Sextus Pompeius, together with Titus Labienus, Caesar's former propraetorian legate (legatus propraetore) and second in command in the Gallic War, escaped to Hispania. Caesar gave chase and defeated the last remnants of opposition in the Munda in March 45 BC. During this time, Caesar was elected to his third and fourth terms as consul in 46 BC (with Marcus Aemilius Lepidus) and 45 BC (without colleague).

Aftermath of the civil war

Caesar 5Caesar returned to Italy in September 45 BC. As one of his first tasks, he filed his will, naming his grand-nephew Gaius Octavius (Octavian) as the heir to everything, including his title. Caesar also wrote that if Octavian died before Caesar did, Marcus Junius Brutus would be the next heir in succession. The Senate had already begun bestowing honours on Caesar in absentia. Even though Caesar had not proscribed his enemies, instead pardoning nearly every one of them, there seemed to be little open resistance to him.

Great games and celebrations were held on April 21 to honour Caesar’s great victory. Along with the games, Caesar was honoured with the right to wear triumphal clothing, including a purple robe (reminiscent of the kings of Rome) and laurel crown, on all public occasions. A large estate was being built at Rome’s expense, and on state property, for Caesar’s exclusive use. The title of Dictator became a legal title that he could use in his name for the rest of his life. An ivory statue in his likeness was to be carried at all public religious processions. Images of Caesar show his hair combed forward in an attempt to conceal his baldness.

Another statue of Caesar was placed in the temple of Quirinus with the inscription "To the Invincible God". Since Quirinus was the deified likeness of the city and its founder and first king, Romulus, this act identified Caesar on equal terms with not only the gods, but also the ancient kings. A third statue was erected on the capitol alongside those of the seven Roman Kings and of Lucius Junius Brutus, the man who originally led the revolt to expel the Kings. In yet more scandalous behaviour, Caesar had coins minted bearing his likeness. This was the first time in Roman history that a living Roman was featured on a coin.

When Caesar returned to Rome in October of 45 BC, he gave up his fourth Consulship (which he held without colleague) and placed Quintus Fabius Maximus and Gaius Trebonius as suffect consuls in his stead. This irritated the Senate, because he completely disregarded the Republican system of election, and performed these actions at his own whim. He celebrated a fifth triumph, this time to honour his victory in Hispania. The Senate continued to encourage more honours. A temple to Libertas was to be built in his honour, and he was granted the title Liberator. They elected him Consul for life, and allowed to hold any office he wanted, including those generally reserved for plebeians. Rome also seemed willing to grant Caesar the unprecedented right to be the only Roman to own imperium. In this, Caesar alone would be immune from legal prosecution and would technically have the supreme command of the legions.

More honours continued, including the right to appoint half of all magistrates, which were supposed to be elected positions. He also appointed magistrates to all provincial duties, a process previously done by lot or through approval of the Senate. The month of his birth, Quintilis, was renamed Julius (hence the English July) in his honour, and his birthday, July 12, was recognized as a national holiday. Even a tribe of the people’s assembly was to be named for him. A temple and priesthood, the Flamen maior, was established and dedicated in honour of his family.
Caesar, however, did have a reform agenda, and took on various social ills. He passed a law that prohibited citizens between the ages of 20 and 40 from leaving Italy for more than three years, unless on military assignment. Theoretically, this would help preserve the continued operation of local farms and businesses, and prevent corruption abroad. If a member of the social elite did harm, or killed a member of the lower class, then all the wealth of the perpetrator was to be confiscated. Caesar demonstrated that he still had the best interest of the state at heart, even if he believed that he was the only person capable of running it. A general cancellation of one-fourth of all debt also greatly relieved the public, and helped endear him even further to the common population. Caesar tightly regulated the purchase of state-subsidized grain, and forbade those who could afford privately supplied grain from purchasing from the grain dole. He made plans for the distribution of land to his veterans, and for the establishment of veteran colonies throughout the Roman world.

In 63 BC Caesar had been elected Pontifex Maximus, and one of his roles as such was settling the calendar. A complete overhaul of the old Roman calendar proved to be one of his most long lasting and influential reforms. In 46 BC, Caesar established a 365-day year with a leap year every fourth year (this Julian Calendar was subsequently modified by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582 into the modern Gregorian calendar). As a result of this reform, a certain Roman year (mostly equivalent to 46 BC in the modern Calendar) was made 445 days long, to bring the calendar into line with the seasons.

Additionally, great public works were undertaken. Rome was a city of great urban sprawl and unimpressive brick architecture, and desperately needed a renewal. A new Rostra of marble was built, along with courthouses and marketplaces. A public library under the great scholar Marcus Terentius Varro was also under construction. The Senate house, the Curia Hostilia, which had been recently repaired, was abandoned for a new marble project to be called the Curia Julia. The Forum of Caesar, with its Temple of Venus Genetrix, was built. The city Pomerium (sacred boundary) was extended, allowing for additional growth.

All of the pomp, circumstance, and public taxpayers' money being spent incensed certain members of the Roman Senate. One of these was Caesar's closest friend, Marcus Junius Brutus.

Assassination plot

Caesar 6He was honored by the Roman Senate as Imperus Maximus Dalte Sum Romana, or Highest of the Roman Imperators. This title stated that he was Praetori et Romanus, meaning High Protector of Rome (this title was later passed under the reign of Augustus).

Plutarch records that at one point, Caesar informed the Senate that his honours were more in need of reduction than augmentation, but withdrew this position so as not to appear ungrateful. He was given the title Pater Patriae ("Father of the Fatherland"). He was appointed dictator a third time, and then nominated for nine consecutive one-year terms as dictator, effectually making him dictator for ten years. He was also given censorial authority as prefect of morals (praefectus morum) for three years.

At the onset of 44 BC, the honours heaped upon Caesar continued and the rift between him and the aristocrats deepened. He had been named Dictator Perpetuus, making him dictator for the remainder of his life. This title even began to show up on coinage bearing Caesar’s likeness, placing him above all others in Rome. Some among the population even began to refer to him as ‘Rex’ (king), but Caesar refused to accept the title, claiming, "Rem Publicam sum!"(I am the Republic!) At Caesar’s new temple of Venus, a senatorial delegation went to consult with him and Caesar refused to stand to honour them upon their arrival. Despite it being believed that Caesar was suffering from diarrhea at that time (a painful symptom of his epilepsy), the Senators present were deeply insulted. He attempted to rectify the situation later by exposing his neck to his friends and saying he was ready to offer it to anyone who would deliver a stroke of the sword. This seemed to at least cool the situation, but the damage was done. The seeds of conspiracy were beginning to grow.

The fear of Caesar becoming autocrat, thus ending the Roman Republic, grew stronger when someone placed a diadem on the statue of Caesar on the Rostra. The tribunes, Gaius Epidius Marcellus and Lucius Caesetius Flavius, removed the diadem. Not long after the incident with the diadem, the same two tribunes had citizens arrested after they called out the title Rex to Caesar as he passed by on the streets of Rome. Now seeing his supporters threatened, Caesar acted harshly. He ordered those arrested to be released, and instead took the tribunes before the Senate and had them stripped of their positions. Caesar had originally used the sanctity of the Tribunes as one reason for the start of the civil war, but now revoked their power for his own gain.

At the coming festival of the Lupercalia, the biggest test of the Roman people for their willingness to accept Caesar as king was to take place. On February 15, 44 BC, Caesar sat upon his gilded chair on the Rostra, wearing his purple robe, red shoes and a golden laurel and armed with the title of Dictator Perpetuus. The race around the pomerium was a tradition of the festival, and Mark Antony ran into the forum and was raised to the Rostra by the priests attending the event. Antony produced a diadem and attempted to place it on Caesar’s head, saying "the people offer this [the title of king] to you through me." There was, however, little support from the crowd and Caesar quickly refused being sure that the diadem didn’t touch his head. The crowd roared with approval, but Antony, undeterred attempted to place it on Caesar’s head again. Still there was no voice of support from the crowd and Caesar rose from his chair and refused Antony again, saying, "I will not be king of Rome. Jupiter alone is King of the Romans." The crowd wildly endorsed Caesar’s actions.
All the while Caesar was still planning a campaign into Dacia and then Parthia. The Parthian campaign stood to bring back considerable wealth to Rome, along with the potential return of the standards that Crassus had lost over nine years earlier. An ancient legend has told that Parthia could only be conquered by a king, so Caesar was authorized by the Senate to wear a crown anywhere in the empire, save Italy. Caesar planned to leave in April 44 BC, and the secret opposition that was steadily building had to act fast. Made up mostly of men that Caesar had pardoned already, they knew their only chance to rid Rome of Caesar was to prevent him ever leaving for Parthia.

Brutus began to conspire against Caesar with his friend and brother-in-law Cassius and other men, calling themselves the Liberatores ("Liberators"). Many plans were discussed by the group, as documented by Nicolaus of Damascus:

The conspirators never met openly, but they assembled a few at a time in each others' homes. There were many discussions and proposals, as might be expected, while they investigated how and where to execute their design. Some suggested that they should make the attempt as he was going along the Sacred Way, which was one of his favourite walks. Another idea was for it to be done at the elections during which he had to cross a bridge to appoint the magistrates in the Campus Martius; they should draw lots for some to push him from the bridge and for others to run up and kill him. A third plan was to wait for a coming gladiatorial show. The advantage of that would be that, because of the show, no suspicion would be aroused if arms were seen prepared for the attempt. But the majority opinion favoured killing him while he sat in the Senate, where he would be by himself since only Senators would be admitted, and where the many conspirators could hide their daggers beneath their togas. This plan won the day.

Two days before the assassination of Caesar, Cassius met with the conspirators and told them that, if anyone found out about the plan, they were going to turn their knives on themselves.

On the Ides of March (March 15; see Roman calendar) of 44 BC, a group of senators called Caesar to the forum for the purpose of reading a petition, written by the senators, asking him to hand power back to the Senate. However, the petition was a fake. Mark Antony, having vaguely learned of the plot the night before from a terrified Liberatore named Servilius Casca, and fearing the worst, went to head Caesar off at the steps of the forum. However, the group of senators intercepted Caesar just as he was passing the Theatre of Pompey, and directed him to a room adjoining the east portico.

As Caesar began to read the false petition, the aforementioned Casca pulled down Caesar's tunic and made a glancing thrust at the dictator's neck. Caesar turned around quickly and caught Casca by the arm, crying in Latin "Villain Casca, what do you do?" Casca, frightened, called to his fellow senators in Greek: "Help, brothers!" ("αδελφοι βοήθει!" in Greek, "adelphoi boethei!"). Within moments, the entire group, including Brutus, was striking out at the dictator. Caesar attempted to get away, but, blinded by blood, he tripped and fell; the men eventually murdering him as he lay, defenseless, on the lower steps of the portico. According to Eutropius, around sixty or more men participated in the assassination.
The dictator's last words are, unfortunately, not known with certainty, and are a contested subject among scholars and historians alike. In Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, Caesar's last words are given as "Et tu, Brute? Then fall, Caesar." ("And you, Brutus? Then fall, Caesar."). However, this is Shakespeare's invention. Suetonius reports his last words, spoken in Greek, as "καί σύ τέκνον" (transliterated as "Kai su, teknon?"; "You too, child?" in English).[26] Plutarch says he said nothing, pulling his toga over his head when he saw Brutus among the conspirators.[27]

Regardless, shortly after the assassination the senators left the building talking excitedly amongst themselves, and Brutus cried out to his beloved city: "People of Rome, we are once again free!". However, this was not the end. The assassination of Caesar sparked a civil war in which Mark Antony, Octavian (later Augustus Caesar), and others fought the Roman Senate for both revenge and power.

Aftermath of assassination

Caesar 7Caesar's death also marked, ironically, the end of the Roman Republic, for which the assassins had struck him down. The Roman middle and lower classes, with whom Caesar was immensely popular, and had been since Gaul and before, were enraged that a small group of high-browed aristocrats had killed their champion. Antony did not give the speech that Shakespeare penned for him more than 1600 years later ("Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears..."), but he did give a dramatic eulogy that appealed to the common people, a reflection of public opinion following Caesar's murder. Antony, who had been drifting apart from Caesar, capitalized on the grief of the Roman mob and threatened to unleash them on the Optimates, perhaps with the intent of taking control of Rome himself. But Caesar had named his grand nephew Gaius Octavian his sole heir, giving him the immensely powerful Caesar name as well as making him one of the wealthiest citizens in the Republic. Gaius Octavius was also, to all intents and purposes, the son of the great Caesar, and consequently also inherited the loyalty of much of the Roman populace. Octavius, only aged 19 at the time of Caesar's death, proved to be dangerous, and while Antony dealt with Decimus Brutus in the first round of the new civil wars, Octavius consolidated his position.

In order to combat Brutus and Cassius, who were massing an army in Greece, Antony needed both the cash from Caesar's war chests and the legitimacy that Caesar's name would provide any action he took against the two. A new Triumvirate was found—the Second and final one—with Octavian, Antony, and Caesar's loyal cavalry commander Lepidus as the third member. This Second Triumvirate deified Caesar as Divus Iulius and—seeing that Caesar's clemency had resulted in his murder—brought back the horror of proscription, abandoned since Sulla, and proscribed its enemies in large numbers in order to seize even more funds for the second civil war against Brutus and Cassius, whom Antony and Octavian defeated at Philippi. A third civil war then broke out between Octavian on one hand and Antony and Cleopatra on the other. This final civil war, culminating in Antony and Cleopatra's defeat at Actium, resulted in the ascendancy of Octavian, who became the first Roman emperor, under the name Caesar Augustus. In 42 BC, Caesar was formally deified as "the Divine Julius" (Divus Iulius), and Caesar Augustus henceforth became Divi filius ("Son of a God").

Caesar's literary works

Caesar was considered during his lifetime to be one of the finest orators and authors of prose in Rome — even Cicero spoke highly of Caesar's rhetoric and style. Among his most famous works were his funeral oration for his paternal aunt Julia and his Anticato, a document written to blacken Cato's reputation and respond to Cicero's Cato memorial. Unfortunately, the majority of his works and speeches have been lost to history.

• The Commentarii de Bello Gallico (Commentaries on the Gallic War), campaigns in Gallia and Britannia during his term as proconsul; and
• The Commentarii de Bello Civili (Commentaries on the Civil War), events of the Civil War until immediately after Pompey's death in Egypt.
Other works historically attributed to Caesar, but whose authorship is doubted, are:
De Bello Alexandrino (On the Alexandrine War), campaign in Alexandria;
De Bello Africo (On the African War), campaigns in North Africa; and
De Bello Hispaniensis (On the Hispanic War), campaigns in the Iberian peninsula.
These narratives, apparently simple and direct in style— to the point that Caesar's Commentarii are commonly studied by first and second year Latin students — are highly sophisticated advertisements for his political agenda, most particularly for the middle-brow readership of minor aristocrats in Rome, Italy, and the provinces.

Very little of Caesar's poetry survives to this day. One of the poems he is known to have written is The Journey.

Military career

Historians place the generalship of Caesar on the level of such military genii as Alexander the Great, Hannibal, Genghis Khan, Napoleon Bonaparte and Saladin. Although he suffered occasional tactical defeats, such as Battle of Gergovia during the Gallic War and The Battle of Dyrrhachium during the Civil War, Caesar's tactical brilliance was highlighted by such feats as his circumvallation of Alesia during the Gallic War, the rout of Pompey's numerically superior forces at Pharsalus during the Civil War, and the complete destruction of Pharnaces' army at Battle of Zela.
Caesar's successful campaigning in any terrain and under all weather conditions owes much to the strict but fair discipline of his legionaries, whose admiration and devotion to him were proverbial due to his promotion of those of skill over those of nobility. Caesar's infantry and cavalry were first rate, and he made heavy use of formidable Roman artillery; additional factors that made him so effective in the field were his army's superlative engineering abilities and the legendary speed with which he maneuvered his troops (Caesar's army sometimes marched as many as 40 miles a day). His army was made of 40,000 infantry and many cavaliers, with some specialized units, such as engineers. He records in his Commentaries on the Gallic Wars that during the siege of one Gallic city built on a very steep and high plateau, his engineers were able to tunnel through solid rock and find the source of the spring that the town was drawing its water supply from, and divert it to the use of the army. The town, cut off from their water supply, capitulated at once.

Caesar's name - Etymology

Using the Latin alphabet as it existed in the day of Caesar (i.e., without lower case letters, "J", or "U"), Caesar's name is properly rendered "GAIVS IVLIVS CAESAR" (the form "CAIVS" is also attested using the old Roman pronunciation of letter C as G; it is an antique form of the more common "GAIVS"). It is often seen abbreviated to "C. IVLIVS CAESAR". (The letterform "Æ" is a ligature, which is often encountered in Latin inscriptions where it was used to save space, and is nothing more than the letters "ae".) In classical Latin, it was pronounced IPA [ˈgaːius ˈjuːlius ˈkaisar] (note that the first name, like the second, is properly pronounced in three syllables, not two) (see Latin spelling and pronunciation). In the days of the late Roman Republic, many historical writings were done in Greek, a language most educated Romans studied. Young wealthy Roman boys were often taught by Greek slaves and sometimes sent to Athens for advanced training, as was Caesar's principal assassin, Brutus. In Greek, during Caesar's time, his family name was written Καίσαρ, reflecting its contemporary pronunciation. Thus his name is pronounced in a similar way to the pronunciation of the German Kaiser. Clearly, this German name was not derived from the Middle Ages Ecclesiastical Latin, in which the familiar part "Caesar" is [ˈtʃeːsar], from which the modern English pronunciation (a much-softened "SEE-zer") is derived.

Caesar's family

• Father Gaius Julius Caesar.
• Mother Aurelia (related to the Aurelia Cottae)

• First marriage to Cornelia Cinnilla
• Second marriage to Pompeia Sulla
• Third marriage to Calpurnia Pisonis

• Julia with Cornelia Cinnilla
• Possibly Caesarion, with Cleopatra VII, who would become Pharaoh with the name Ptolemy Caesar.
• Adopted son, Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus (his great-nephew by blood), later known as Augustus.
• Possible, but seemingly unlikely, Marcus Junius Brutus with Servilia Caepionis.
• Grandson from Julia and Pompey, dead at several days, unnamed

Female lovers
• Cleopatra VII
• Servilia Caepionis, mother of Brutus

Notable relatives
• Gaius Marius (married to his Aunt Julia)
• Lucius Cornelius Sulla (possibly through Marriage)

Possible male lovers
Roman society viewed the passive role during sex, regardless of gender, to be a sign of submission or inferiority. Indeed, Suetonius says that in Caesar's Gallic triumph, his soldiers sang that, "Caesar may have conquered the Gauls, but Nicomedes conquered Caesar".[28] According to Cicero, Bibulus, Gaius Memmius (whose account may be from firsthand knowledge), and others (mainly Caesar's enemies), he had an affair with Nicomedes IV of Bithynia early in his career. The tales were repeated by some Roman politicians as a way to humiliate and degrade him. It is possible that the rumors were spread only as a form of character assassination. Caesar himself, according to Cassius Dio, denied the accusations under oath.[29]
Mark Antony charged that Octavian had earned his adoption by Caesar through sexual favors. Suetonius described Antony's accusation of an affair with Octavian as political slander. The boy Octavian was to become the first Roman emperor following Caesar's death.[30]

Was voted the title Divus, or "god," after his death.
During his life, he received many honours, including titles such as Pater Patriae (Father of the Fatherland), Pontifex Maximus (Highest Priest), and Dictator. The many titles bestowed on him by the Senate are sometimes cited as a cause of his assassination, as it seemed inappropriate to many contemporaries for a mortal man to be awarded so many honours.
As a young man he was awarded the Corona Civica (civic crown) for valor while fighting in Asia minor.
Perhaps the most significant title he carried was his name from birth: Caesar. This name would be awarded to every Roman emperor, and it became a signal of great power and authority far beyond the bounds of the empire. The title became the German Kaiser and Slavic Tsar/Czar. The last tsar in nominal power was Simeon II of Bulgaria whose reign ended in 1946; for two thousand years after Julius Caesar's assassination, there was a least one head of state bearing his name.
Note, however, that Caesar was an ordinary name of no more importance than other cognomen like Cicero and Brutus. It did not become an Imperial title until well after Julius Caesar's death.

1. Official name after 42 BC, Imperator Gaius Iulius Caesar Divus (in inscriptions IMP•C•IVLIVS•CAESAR•DIVVS), in English, "Imperator Gaius Julius Caesar, the deified one". Also in inscriptions, Gaius Iulius Gaii Filius Gaii Nepos Caesar, in English, "Gaius Julius Caesar, son of Gaius, grandson of Gaius".
2. Suetonius, Lives of the Twelve Caesars: Julius 6; Velleius Paterculus, Roman History 2.41; Virgil, Aeneid
3. Pliny the Elder, Natural History 7.7. The misconception that Julius Caesar himself was born by Caesarian section dates back at least to the 10th century (Suda kappa 1199). However, he was not the first to bear the name, and in his time the procedure was only performed on dead women, while Caesar's mother, Aurelia, lived long after he was born.
4. Historia Augusta: Life of Aelius 2.
5. Suetonius, Julius 1; Plutarch, Caesar 1, Marius 6; Pliny the Elder, Natural History 7.54
6. Suetonius, Julius 46
7. Suetonius, Lives of Eminent Grammarians 7
8. Suetonius, Julius 1; Plutarch, Caesar 1
9. Appian, Civil Wars 1.34-75; Plutarch, Marius 32-46, Sulla 6-10; Velleius Paterculus, Roman History 2.15-20; Eutropius 5; Florus, Epitome of Roman History 2.6, 2.9
10. Suetonius, Julius 1; Pliny the Elder, Natural History 7.54
11. Velleius Paterculus, Roman History 2.22; Florus, Epitome of Roman History 2.9
12. Suetonius, Julius 1; Plutarch, Caesar 1; Velleius Paterculus, Roman History 2.41
13. Appian, Civil Wars 1.76-102; Plutarch, Sulla 24-33; Velleius Paterculus, Roman History 2.23-28; Eutropius, Abridgement of Roman History 5; Florus, Epitome of Roman History 2.9
14. Suetonius, Julius 1; Plutarch, Caesar 1
15. William Smith, A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities: Flamen

16. Suetonius, Julius 2-3; Plutarch, Caesar 2-3; Dio Cassius, Roman History 43.20
17. Appian. Civil Wars 1.103
18. Suetonius, Julius 77.
19. Plutarch, Sulla 36-38
20. Suetonius, Julius 3; Appian, Civil Wars 1.107
21. Suetonius, Julius 55
22. Suetonius, Julius 4. Plutarch (Caesar 3-4) reports the same events but follows a different chonology.
23. Again, according to Suetonius's chronology (Julius 4). Plutarch (Caesar 1.8-2) says this happened earlier, on his return from Nicomedes's court. Velleius Paterculus (Roman History 2:41.3-42 says merely that it happened when he was a young man.
24. Suetonius, Julius 5-8; Plutarch, Caesar 5; Velleius Paterculus, Roman History 2.43
25. Suetonius, Julius 9-11; Plutarch, Caesar 5.6-6; Dio Cassius, Roman History 37.8, 10
26. Suetonius, Julius 82.2)
27. Plutarch, Caesar 66.9
28. Suetonius, Julius 49
29. Suetonius, Julius 49; Dio Cassius, Roman History 43.20
30. Suetonius, Augustus 68, 71

[for specific links to texts below, click titles]

~ Primary sources
Caesar's own writings
Forum Romanum Index to Caesar's works online in Latin and translation
Collected works of Caesar in Latin, Italian and English
Caesar and contemporaries on the civil wars (a good search engine on comparative history)
omnia munda mundis Hypertext of Caesar's De Bello Gallico [Latin]
Works by Julius Caesar at Project Gutenberg

Ancient historians' writings
• Suetonius: The Life of Julius Caesar (Latin and English, cross-linked: the English translation by J. C. Rolfe)
• Suetonius: The Life of Julius Caesar (J. C. Rolfe English translation, modified)
• Plutarch: The Life of Julius Caesar (English translation)
• Plutarch: The Life of Mark Antony (English translation)
• Plutarch on Antony (English translation, Dryden edition)
• Cassius Dio, Books 37–44 (English translation)
• Appian, Book 13 (English translation)

~ Secondary sources
• Goldsworthy, Adrian. Caesar: Life of a Colossus. New Heaven, CT; London: Yale University Press, 2006 (hardcover, ISBN 0-300-12048-6).
• Jiménez, Ramon L. Caesar Against Rome: The Great Roman Civil War. Westpoint, CT: Praeger Publishers, 2000 (hardcover, ISBN 0-275-96620-8).
• Meier, Christian. Caesar: A Biography. New York: Basic Books, 1996 (hardcover, ISBN 0-465-00894-1); 1997 (paperback, ISBN 0-465-00895-X).
• Julius Caesar makes an appearance in Dante's Inferno (Canto IV) of the Divine Comedy, in which he is seen in Limbo amongst other great historical figures including Aeneas, Homer, Ovid, Horace and Lucan.
• Of popular interest are also the historical novels by Conn Iggulden in the Emperor series (2004-2006), and the more massive Masters of Rome series (1990 ff.) by Colleen McCullough - both authors, Iggulden more so, inevitably play fast and loose with the facts for reasons of pace and lack of relevant information.

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A Caesarian Biography

Caesar's face

Born: 13-Jul-100 BC
Birthplace: Rome, Italy
Died: 15-Mar-44 BC
Location of death: Rome, Italy
Cause of death: Assassination

Gender: Male
Religion: Pagan
Race or Ethnicity: White

Occupation: Head of State, Roman Dictator 45 BC until 44 BC
Nationality: Ancient Rome
Military service: Roman Legion, Asia and Cilicia

The great Roman soldier and statesman, born on the 12th of July 102 BC. His family was of patrician rank and traced a legendary descent from Iulus, the founder of Alba Longa, son of Aeneas and grandson of Venus and Anchises. Caesar made the most of his divine ancestry and built a temple in his forum to Venus Genetrix; but his patrician descent was of little importance in politics and disqualified Caesar from holding the tribunate, an office to which, as a leader of the popular party, he would naturally have aspired. The Julii Caesares, however, had also acquired the new nobilitas, which belonged to holders of the great magistracies. Caesar's uncle was consul in 91 BC, and his father held the praetorship. Most of the family seem to have belonged to the senatorial party (optimates); but Caesar himself was from the first a popularis. The determining factor is no doubt to be sought in his relationship with Marius, the husband of his aunt Julia. Caesar was born in the year of Marius's first great victory over the Teutones, and as he grew up, inspired by the traditions of the great soldier's career, attached himself to his party and its fortunes. Of his education we know scarcely anything. His mother, Aurelia, belonged to a distinguished family, and the historian Tacitus couples her name with that of Cornelia, the mother of the Gracchi, as an example of the Roman matron whose disciplina and severitas formed her son for the duties of a soldier and statesman. His tutor was M. Antonius Gnipho, a native of Gaul (by which Cisalpine Gaul may be meant), who is said to have been equally learned in Greek and Latin literature, and to have set up in later years a school of rhetoric which was attended by Cicero in his praetorship 66 BC. It is possible that Caesar may have derived from him his interest in Gaul and its people and his sympathy with the claims of the Romanized Gauls of northern Italy to political rights.

In his sixteenth year (87 BC) Caesar lost his father, and assumed the toga virilis as the token of manhood. The social war (90-89 BC) had been brought to a close by the enfranchisement of Rome's Italian subjects; and the civil war which followed it led, after the departure of Sulla for the East, to the temporary triumph of the populares, led by Marius and Cinna, and the indiscriminate massacre of their political opponents, including both of Caesar's uncles. Caesar was at once marked out for high distinction, being created flamen Dialis or priest of Jupiter. In the following year (which saw the death of Marius) Caesar, rejecting a proposed marriage with a wealthy capitalist's heiress, sought and obtained the hand of Cornelia, the daughter of Cinna, and thus became further identified with the ruling party. His career was soon after interrupted by the triumphant return of Sulla (82 BC), who ordered him to divorce his wife, and on his refusal deprived him of his property and priesthood and was induced to spare his life only by the intercession of his aristocratic relatives and the college of vestal virgins.

Released from his religious obligations, Caesar now (81 BC) left Rome for the East and served his first campaign under Minucius Thermus, who was engaged in stamping out the embers of resistance to Roman rule in the province of Asia, and received from him the "civic crown" for saving a fellow soldier's life at the storm of Mytilene. In 78 BC he was serving under Servilius Isauricus against the Cilician pirates when the news of Sulla's death reached him and he at once returned to Rome. Refusing to entangle himself in the abortive and equivocal schemes of Lepidus to subvert the Sullan constitution, Caesar took up the only instrument of political warfare left to the opposition by prosecuting two senatorial governors, Cn. Cornelius Dolabella (in 77 BC) and C. Antonius (in 76 BC) for extortion in the provinces of Macedonia and Greece, and though he lost both cases, probably convinced the world at large of the corruption of the senatorial tribunals. After these failures Caesar determined to take no active part in politics for a time, and retraced his steps to the East in order to study rhetoric under Molon, at Rhodes. On the journey there he was caught by pirates, whom he treated with consummate nonchalance while awaiting his ransom, threatening to return and crucify them; when released he lost no time in carrying out his threat. While he was studying at Rhodes the third Mithradatic War broke out, and Caesar at once raised a corps of volunteers and helped to secure the wavering loyalty of the provincials of Asia. When Lucullus assumed the command of the Roman troops in Asia, Caesar returned to Rome, to find that he had been elected to a seat on the college of pontifices left vacant by the death of his uncle, C. Aurelius Cotta. He was likewise elected first of the six tribuni militum a populo, but we hear nothing of his service in this capacity. Suetonius tells us that he threw himself into the agitation for the restoration of the ancient powers of the tribunate curtailed by Sulla, and that he secured the passing of a law of amnesty in favor of the partisans of Sertorius. He was not, however, destined to compass the downfall of the Sullan regime; the crisis of the Slave War placed the Senate at the mercy of Pompey and Crassus, who in 70 BC swept away the safeguards of senatorial ascendancy, restored the initiative in legislation to the tribunes, and replaced the Equestrian order, i.e. the capitalists, in partial possession of the jury courts. This judicial reform (or rather compromise) was the work of Caesar's uncle, L. Aurelius Cotta. Caesar himself, however, gained no accession of influence. In 69 BC he served as quaestor under Antistius Vetus, governor of Hither Spain, and on his way back to Rome (according to Suetonius) promoted a revolutionary agitation amongst the Transpadanes for the acquisition of full political rights, which had been denied them by Sulla's settlement.

Caesar was now best known as a man of pleasure, celebrated for his debts and his intrigues; in politics he had no force behind him save that of the discredited party of the populares. Opposition reduced to lending a passive support to Pompey and Crassus. But as soon as the proved incompetence of the senatorial government had brought about the mission of Pompey to the East with the almost unlimited powers conferred on him by the Gabinian and Manilian laws of 67 and 66 BC, Caesar plunged into a network of political intrigues which it is no longer possible to unravel. In his public acts he lost no opportunity of upholding the democratic tradition. Already in 68 BC he had paraded the bust of Marius at his aunt's funeral; in 65 BC, as curule aedile, he restored the trophies of Marius to their place on the Capitol; in 64 BC, as president of the murder commission, he brought three of Sulla's executioners to trial, and in 63 BC he caused the ancient procedure of trial by popular assembly to be revived against the murderer of Saturninus. By these means, and by the lavishness of his expenditure on public entertainments as aedile, he acquired such popularity with the plebs that he was elected pontifex maximus in 63 BC against such distinguished rivals as Q. Lutatius Catulus and P. Servilius Isauricus. But all this was on the surface. There can be no doubt that Caesar was cognizant of some at least of the threads of conspiracy which were woven during Pompey's absence in the East. According to one story, the enfants perdus of the revolutionary party -- Catiline, Autronius and others -- designed to assassinate the consuls on the 1st of January 65, and make Crassus dictator, with Caesar as master of the horse. We are also told that a public proposal was made to confer upon him an extraordinary military command in Egypt, not without a legitimate king and nominally under the protection of Rome. An equally abortive attempt to create a counterpoise to Pompey's power was made by the tribune Rullus at the close of 64 BC. He proposed to create a land commission with very wide powers, which would in effect have been wielded by Caesar and Crassus. The bill was defeated by Cicero, consul in 63 BC. In the same year the conspiracy associated with the name of Catiline came to a head. The charge of complicity was freely levelled at Caesar, and indeed was hinted at by Cato in the great debate in the senate. But Caesar, for party reasons, was bound to oppose the execution of the conspirators; while Crassus, who shared in the accusation, was the richest man in Rome and the least likely to further anarchist plots. Both, however, doubtless knew as much and as little as suited their convenience of the doings of the left wing of their party, which served to aggravate the embarrassments of the government.

As praetor (62 BC) Caesar supported proposals in Pompey's favor which brought him into violent collision with the senate. This was a master stroke of tactics, as Pompey's return was imminent. Thus when Pompey landed in Italy and disbanded his army he found in Caesar a natural ally. After some delay, said to have been caused by the exigencies of his creditors, which were met by a massive loan from Crassus, Caesar left Rome for his province of Further Spain, where he was able to retrieve his financial position, and to lay the foundations of a military reputation. He returned to Rome in 60 BC to find that the senate had sacrificed the support of the capitalists (which Cicero had worked so hard to secure), and had finally alienated Pompey by refusing to ratify his acts and grant lands to his soldiers. Caesar at once approached both Pompey and Crassus, who alike detested the existing system of government but were personally at variance, and succeeded in persuading them to forget their quarrel and join him in a coalition which should put an end to the rule of the oligarchy. He even made a generous, though unsuccessful, endeavor to enlist the support of Cicero. The so-called First Triumvirate was formed, and constitutional government ceased to exist save in name.

Caesar's bustThe first prize which fell to Caesar was the consulship, to secure which he forewent the triumph which he had earned in Spain. His colleague was M. Bibulus, who belonged to the straightest sect of the senatorial oligarchy and, together with his party, placed every form of constitutional obstruction in the path of Caesar's legislation. Caesar, however, overrode all opposition, mustering Pompey's veterans to drive his colleague from the forum. Bibulus became a virtual prisoner in his own house, and Caesar placed himself outside the pale of the free republic. Thus the program of the coalition was carried through. Pompey was satisfied by the ratification of his acts in Asia, and by the assignment of the Campanian state domains to his veterans, the capitalists (with whose interests Crassus was identified) had their bargain for the farming of the Asiatic revenues cancelled, Ptolemy Auletes received the confirmation of his title to the throne of Egypt (for a great consideration), and a fresh act was passed for preventing extortion by provincial governors.

It was now all-important for Caesar to secure practical irresponsibility by obtaining a military command. The senate, in virtue of its constitutional prerogative, had assigned as the provincia of the consuls of 59 BC the supervision of roads and forests in Italy. Caesar secured the passing of a legislative enactment conferring upon himself the government of Cisalpine Gaul and Illyria for five years, and exacted from the terrorized senate the addition of Transalpine Gaul, where, as he well knew, a storm was brewing which threatened to sweep away Roman civilization beyond the Alps. The mutual jealousies of the Gallic tribes had enabled German invaders first to gain a foothold on the left bank of the Rhine, and then to obtain a predominant position in Central Gaul. In 60 BC the German king Ariovistus had defeated the Aedui, who were allies of Rome, and had wrested from the Sequani a large portion of their territory. Caesar must have seen that the Germans were preparing to dispute with Rome the mastery of Gaul; but it was necessary to gain time, and in 59 BC Ariovistus was inscribed on the roll of the friends of the Roman people. In 58 BC the Helvetii, a Celtic people inhabiting Switzerland, determined to migrate for the shores of the Atlantic and demanded a passage through Roman territory. According to Caesar's statement they numbered 368,000, and it was necessary at all hazards to save the Roman province from the invasion. Caesar had but one legion beyond the Alps. With this he marched to Geneva, destroyed the bridge over the Rhone, fortified the left hank of the river, and forced the Helvetii to follow the right bank. Hastening back to Italy he withdrew his three remaining legions from Aquileia, raised two more, and, crossing the Alps by forced marches, arrived in the neighborhood of Lyons to find that three-fourths of the Helvetii had already crossed the Sane, marching westward. He destroyed their rearguard, the Tigurini, as it was about to cross, transported his army across the river in twenty-four hours, pursued the Helvetii in a northerly direction, and utterly defeated them at Bibiacte (Mont Beuvray). Of the survivors a few were settled amongst the Aedui; the rest were sent back to Switzerland lest it should fall into German hands.

The Gallic chiefs now appealed to Caesar to deliver them from the actual or threatened tyranny of Ariovistus. He at once demanded a conference, which Ariovistus refused, and on hearing that fresh swarms were crossing the Rhine, marched with all haste to Vesontio (Besançon) and then by way of Belfort into the plain of Alsace, where he gained a decisive victory over the Germans, of whom only a few (including Ariovistus) reached the right bank of the Rhine in safety. These successes roused natural alarm in the minds of the Belgae -- a confederacy of tribes in the northwest of Gaul, whose civilization was less advanced than that of the Celtae of the center -- and in the spring of 57 BC Caesar determined to anticipate the offensive movement which they were understood to be preparing and marched northwards into the territory of the Remi (about Reims), who alone amongst their neighbors were friendly to Rome. He successfully checked the advance of the enemy at the passage of the Aisne (between Laon and Reims) and their ill-organized force melted away as he advanced. But the Nervii, and their neighbors further to the northwest, remained to be dealt with, and were crushed only after a desperate struggle on the banks of the Sambre, in which Caesar was forced to expose his person in the melée. Finally, the Aduatuci (near Namur) were compelled to submit, and were punished for their subsequent treachery by being sold wholesale into slavery. In the meantime Caesar's lieutenant, P. Crassus, received the submission of the tribes of the northeast, so that by the close of the campaign almost the whole of Gaul -- except the Aquitani in the southwest -- acknowledged Roman suzerainty.

In 56 BC, however, the Veneti of Brittany threw off the yoke and detained two of Crassus's officers as hostages. Caesar, who had been hastily summoned from Illyricum, crossed the Loire and invaded Brittany, but found that he could make no headway without destroying the powerful fleet of high, flat-bottomed boats like floating castles possessed by the Veneti. A fleet was hastily constructed in the estuary of the Loire, and placed under the command of Decimus Brutus. The decisive engagement was fought (probably) in the Gulf of Morbihan and the Romans gained the victory by cutting down the enemy's rigging with sickles attached to poles. As a punishment for their treachery, Caesar put to death the senate of the Veneti and sold their people into slavery. Meanwhile Sabinus was victorious on the northern coasts, and Crassus subdued the Aquitani. At the close of the season Caesar raided the territories of the Morini and Menapii in the extreme northwest.

Caesar's statueIn 55 BC certain German tribes, the Usipetes and Tencteri, crossed the lower Rhine, and invaded the modern Flanders. Caesar at once marched to meet them, and, on the pretext that they had violated a truce, seized their leaders who had come to parley with him, and then surprised and practically destroyed their host. His enemies in Rome accused him of treachery, and Cato even proposed that he should be handed over to the Germans. Caesar meanwhile constructed his famous bridge over the Rhine in ten days, and made a demonstration of force on the right bank. In the remaining weeks of the summer he made his first expedition to Britain, and this was followed by a second crossing in 54 BC. On the first occasion Caesar took with him only two legions, and effected little beyond a landing on the coast of Kent. The second expedition consisted of five legions and 2000 cavalry, and set out from the Portus Itius (Boulogne or Wissant). Caesar now penetrated into Middlesex and crossed the Thames, but the British prince Cassivellaunus with his war chariots harassed the Roman columns, and Caesar was compelled to return to Gaul after imposing a tribute which was never paid.

The next two years witnessed the final struggle of the Gauls for freedom. Just before the second crossing to Britain, Dumnorix, an Aeduan chief, had been detected in treasonable intrigues, and killed in an attempt to escape from Caesar's camp. At the close of the campaign Caesar distributed his legions over a somewhat wide extent of territory. Two of their camps were treacherously attacked. At Aduatuca (near Aix-la-Chapelle) a newly-raised legion was cut to pieces by the Eburones under Ambiorix, while Quintus Cicero was besieged in the neighborhood of Namur and only just relieved in time by Caesar, who was obliged to winter in Gaul in order to check the spread of the rebellion. Indutiomarus, indeed, chief of the Treveri (about Trèves), revolted and attacked Labienus, but was defeated and killed. The campaign of 53 BC was marked by a second crossing of the Rhine and by the destruction of the Eburones, whose leader Ambiorix, however, escaped. In the autumn Caesar held a conference at Durocortorum (Reims), and Acco, a chief of the Senones, was convicted of treason and flogged to death.

Early in 52 BC some Roman traders were massacred at Cenabum (Orleans), and, on hearing the news, the Arverni revolted under Vercingetorix and were quickly joined by other tribes, especially the Bituriges, whose capital was Avaricum (Bourges). Caesar hastened back from Italy, slipped past Vercingetorix and reached Agedincum (Sens), the headquarters of his legions. Vercingetorix saw that Caesar could not be met in open battle, and determined to concentrate his forces in a few strong positions. Caesar first besieged and took Avaricum, whose occupants were massacred, and then invested Gergovia (near the Puy-de-Dôme), the capital of the Arverni, but suffered a severe repulse and was forced to raise the siege. Hearing that the Roman province was threatened, he marched westward, defeated Vercingetorix near Dijon. and shut him up in Alesia (Mont-Auxois), which he surrounded with lines of circumvallation. An attempt at relief by Vercassivellaunus was defeated after a desperate struggle and Vercingetorix surrendered. The struggle was over except for some isolated operations in 51 BC, ending with the siege and capture of Uxellodunum (Puy d'Issolu), whose defenders had their hands cut off. Caesar now reduced Gaul to the form of a province, fixing the tribute at 40,000,000 sesterces, and dealing liberally with the conquered tribes, whose cantons were not broken up.

In the meantime his own position was becoming critical. In 56 BC, at the conference of Luca (Lucca), Caesar, Pompey and Crassus had renewed their agreement, and Caesar's command in Gaul, which would have expired on the 1st of March 54 BC, was renewed, probably for five years, i.e. to the 1st of March 49 BC, and it was enacted that the question of his successor should not be discussed until the 1st of March 50 BC, by which time the provincial commands for 49 BC would have been assigned, so that Caesar would retain imperium, and thus immunity from persecution, until the end of 49 BC. He was to be elected consul for 48 BC, and, as the law prescribed a personal canvass, he was by special enactment dispensed from its provisions. But in 54 BC Julia, the daughter of Caesar and wife of Pompey, died, and in 53 BC Crassus was killed at Carrhae. Pompey now drifted apart from Caesar and became the champion of the senate. In 52 BC he passed a fresh law de jure magistratuum which cut away the ground beneath Caesar's feet by making it possible to provide a successor to the Gallic provinces before the close of 49 BC, which meant that Caesar would become for some months a private person, and thus liable to be called to account for his unconstitutional acts. Caesar had no resource left but uncompromising obstruction, which he sustained by enormous bribes. His representative in 50 BC, the tribune C. Scribonius Curio, served him well, and induced the lukewarm majority of the senate to refrain from extreme measures, insisting that Pompey, as well as Caesar, should resign the imperium. But all attempts at negotiation failed, and in January 49 BC, martial law having been proclaimed on the proposal of the consuls, the tribunes Antony and Cassius fled to Caesar, who crossed the Rubicon (the frontier of Italy) with a single legion, exclaiming "Alea jacta est."

Pompey's available force consisted in two legions stationed in Campania, and eight, commanded by his lieutenants, Afranius and Petreius, in Spain; both sides levied troops in Italy. Caesar was soon joined by two legions from Gaul and marched rapidly down the Adriatic coast, overtaking Pompey at Brundisium (Brindisi), but failing to prevent him from embarking with his troops for the East, where the prestige of his name was greatest. Hereupon. Caesar (it is said) exclaimed "I am going to Spain to fight an army without a general, and thence to the East to fight a general without an army." He carried out the first part of this program with marvellous rapidity. He reached Ilerda (Lerida) on the 23rd of June and, after extricating his army from a perilous situation, outmanoeuvred Pompey's lieutenants and received their submission on the 2nd of August. Returning to Rome, he held the dictatorship for eleven days, was elected consul for 48 BC, and set sail for Epirus at Brundisium on the 4th of January. He attempted to invest Pompey's lines at Dyrrhachium (Durazzo), though his opponent's force was double that of his own, and was defeated with considerable loss. He now marched eastwards, in order if possible to intercept the reinforcements which Pompey's father-in-law, Scipio, was bringing up; but Pompey was able to effect a junction with this force and descended into the plain of Thessaly, where at the battle of Pharsalus he was decisively defeated and fled to Egypt, pursued by Caesar, who learned of his rival's murder on landing at Alexandria. Here he remained for nine months, fascinated (if the story be true) by Cleopatra, and almost lost his life in an émeute. In June 47 BC he proceeded to the East and Asia Minor, where he "came, saw and conquered" Pharnaces, son of Mithradates the Great, at Zela. Returning to Italy, he quelled a mutiny of the legions (including the faithful Tenth) in Campania, and crossed to Africa, where a republican army of fourteen legions under Scipio was cut to pieces at Thapsus (6th of April 46 BC). Here most of the republican leaders were killed and Cato committed suicide. On the 26th to 29th July Caesar celebrated a fourfold triumph and received the dictatorship for ten years. In November, however, he was obliged to sail for Spain, where the sons of Pompey still held out. On the 17th of March 45 BC they were crushed at Munda. Caesar returned to Rome in September, and six months later (15th of March 44 BC) was murdered in the senate house at the foot of Pompey's statue.

It was remarked by Seneca that amongst the murderers of Caesar were to be found more of his friends than of his enemies. We can account for this only by emphasizing the fact that the form of Caesar's government became as time went on more undisguised in its absolutism, while the honors conferred upon him seemed designed to raise him above the rest of humanity. Caesars power was exercised under the form of the dictatorship. In the first instance (autumn of 49 BC) this was conferred upon him as the only solution of the constitutional deadlock created by the flight of the magistrates and senate, in order that elections (including that of Caesar himself to the consulship) might be held in due course. For this there were republican precedents. In 48 BC he was created dictator for the second time, probably with constituent powers and for an undefined period, according to the dangerous and unpopular precedent of Sulla. In May 46 BC a third dictatorship was conferred on Caesar, this time for ten years and apparently as a yearly office, so that he became Dictator IV in May 45 BC. Finally, before the 15th of February 44 BC, this was exchanged for a lifetime dictatorship. Not only was this a contradiction in terms, since the dictatorship was by tradition a makeshift justified only when the state had to be carried through a serious crisis, but it involved military rule in Italy and the permanent suspension of the constitutional guarantees, such as intercessio and provocatio, by which the liberties of Romans were protected. That Caesar held the imperium which he enjoyed as dictator to be distinct in kind from that of the republican magistrates he indicated by placing the term imperator at the head of his titles. Besides the dictatorship, Caesar held the consulship in each year of his reign except 47 BC (when no curule magistrates were elected save for the last three months of the year); and he was moreover invested by special enactments with a number of other privileges and powers; of these the most important was the tribunicia potestas, which we may believe to have been free from the limits of place (i.e. Rome) and collegiality. Thus, too, he was granted the sole right of making peace and war, and of disposing of the funds in the treasury of the state. Save for the title of dictator, which undoubtedly carried unpopular associations and was formally abolished on the proposal of Antony after Caesar's death, this cumulation of powers has little to distinguish it from the Principate of Augustus; and the assumption of the perpetual dictatorship would hardly by itself suffice to account for the murder of Caesar. But there are signs that in the last six months of his life he aspired not only to a monarchy in name as well as in fact, but also to a divinity which Romans should acknowledge as well as Greeks, Orientals and barbarians. His statue was set up beside those of the seven kings of Rome, and he adopted the throne of gold, the sceptre of ivory and the embroidered robe which tradition ascribed to them. He allowed his supporters to suggest the offer of the regal title by putting in circulation an oracle according to which it was destined for a king of Rome to subdue the Parthians, and when at the Lupercalia (15th February 44 BC) Antony set the diadem on his head he rejected the offer half-heartedly on account of the groans of the people. His image was carried in the pompa circensis amongst those of the immortal gods, and his statue set up in the temple of Quirinus with the inscription "To the Unconquerable God." A college of Luperci, with the surname Juliani, was instituted in his honor and flamines were created as priests of his godhead. This was intolerable to the aristocratic republicans, to whom it seemed becoming that victorious commanders should accept divine honors at the hands of Greeks and Asiatics, but unpardonable that Romans should offer the same worship to a Roman.

Julius CaesarThus Caesar's work remained unfinished, and this must be borne in mind in considering his record of legislative and administrative reform. It may be well to single out from the list of his measures (some of which, such as the restoration of exiles and the children of proscribed persons, were dictated by political expediency, while others, such as his financial proposals for the relief of debtors, and the steps which he took to restore Italian agriculture, were of the nature of palliatives) those which have a permanent significance as indicating his grasp of imperial problems. The Social War had brought to the inhabitants of Italy as far as the Po the privileges of Roman citizenship; it remained to extend this gift to the Transpadane Italians, to establish a uniform system of local administration and to devise representative institutions by which at least some voice in the government of Rome might be permitted to her new citizens. This last conception lay beyond the horizon of Caesar, as of all ancient statesmen, but his first act on gaining control of Italy was to enfranchise the Transpadanes, whose claims he had consistently advocated, and in 45 BC he passed the Lex Julia Municipalis, an act of which considerable fragments are inscribed on two bronze tables found at Heraclea near Tarentum. This law deals inter alia with the police and the sanitary arrangements of the city of Rome, and hence it has been argued by Theodor Mommsen that it was Caesar's intention to reduce Rome to the level of a municipal town. But it is not likely that such is the case. Caesar made no far-reaching modifications in the government of the city, such as were afterwards carried out by Augustus, and the presence in the Lex Julia Municipalis of the clauses referred to is an example of the common process of "tacking" (legislation per saturam, as it was called by the Romans). The law deals with the constitution of the local senates, for whose members qualifications of age (30 years) and military service are laid down, while persons who have suffered conviction for various specified offences, or who are insolvent, or who carry on discreditable or immoral trades are excluded. It a]so provides that the local magistrates shall take a census of the citizens at the same time as the census takes place in Rome, and send the registers to Rome within sixty days. The existing fragments tell us little as to the decentralization of the functions of government, but from the Lex Rubria, which applies to the Transpadane districts enfranchised by Caesar (it must be remembered that Cisalpine Gaul remained nominally a province until 42 BC) we gather that considerable powers of independent jurisdiction were reserved to the municipal magistrates. But Caesar was not content with framing a uniform system of local government for Italy. He was the first to carry out on a large scale those plans of transmarine colonization whose inception was due to the Gracchi. As consul in 59 BC Caesar had established colonies of veterans in Campania under the Lex Julia Agraria, and had even then laid down rules for the foundation of such communities. As dictator he planted numerous colonies both in the eastern and western provinces, notably at Corinth and Carthage. Mommsen interprets this policy as signifying that "the rule of the urban community of Rome over the shores of the Mediterranean was at an end", and says that the first act of the "new Mediterranean state" was "to atone for the two greatest outrages which that urban community had perpetrated on civilization." This, however, cannot be admitted. The sites of Caesar's colonies were selected for their commercial value, and that the citizens of Rome should cease to be rulers of the Mediterranean basin could never have entered into Caesar's mind. The colonists were in many cases veterans who had served under Caesar, in others members of the city proletariat. We possess the charter of the colony planted at Urso in southern Spain under the name of Colonia Julia Genetiva Urbanorum. Of the two latter titles, the first is derived from the name of Venus Genetrix, the ancestress of the Julian house, the second indicates that the colonists were drawn from the plebs urbana. Accordingly, we find that free birth is not, as in Italy, a necessary qualification for municipal office. By such foundations Caesar began the extension to the provinces of that Roman civilization which the republic had carried to the bounds of the Italian peninsula. Lack of time alone prevented him from carrying into effect such projects as the piercing of the Isthmus of Corinth, whose object was to promote trade and intercourse throughout the Roman dominions, and we are told that at the time of his death he was contemplating the extension of the empire to its natural frontiers, and was about to engage in a war with Parthia with the object of carrying Roman arms to the Euphrates. Above all, he was determined that the empire should be governed in the true sense of the word and no longer exploited by its rulers, and he kept a strict control over the legati, who, under the form of military subordination, were responsible to him for the administration of their provinces.

With regards to Caesar's writings, it is sufficient here to say that of those preserved to us the seven books Commentarii de bello Gallico appear to have been written in 51 BC and carry the narrative of the Gallic campaigns down to the close of the previous year (the eighth book, written by A. Hirtius, is a supplement relating the events of 51-50 BC), while the three books De bello civili record the struggle between Caesar and Pompey (49-48 BC). Their veracity was impeached in ancient times by Asinius Pollio and has often been called in question by modern critics. The Gallic War, though its publication was doubtless timed to impress on the mind of the Roman people the great services rendered by Caesar to Rome, stands the test of criticism as far as it is possible to apply it, and the accuracy of its narrative has never been seriously shaken. The Civil War, especially in its opening chapters is, however, not altogether free from traces of misrepresentation. With respect to the first moves made in the struggle, and the negotiations for peace at the outset of hostilities, Caesar's account sometimes conflicts with the testimony of Cicero's correspondence or implies movements which cannot be reconciled with geographical facts. We have but few fragments of Caesar's other works, whether political pamphlets such as the Anticato, grammatical treatises (De Analogia) or poems. All authorities agree in describing him as a consummate orator. Cicero wrote: "de Caesare ita judico, ilium omnium fere oratorum Latine loqui elegantissime", while Quintilian says that had he practiced at the bar he would have been the only serious rival of Cicero.

The verdict of historians on Caesar has always been colored by their political sympathies. All have recognised his commanding genius, and few have failed to do justice to his personal charm and magnanimity, which almost won the heart of Cicero, who rarely appealed in vain to his clemency. Indeed, he was singularly tolerant of all but intellectual opposition. His private life was not free from scandal, especially in his youth, but it is difficult to believe the worst of the tales which were circulated by his opponents, e.g. as to his relations with Nicomedes of Bithynia. As to his public character, however, no agreement is possible between those who regard Caesarism as a great political creation, and those who hold that Caesar by destroying liberty lost a great opportunity and crushed the sense of dignity in mankind. The latter view is unfortunately confirmed by the undoubted fact that Caesar treated with scant respect the historical institutions of Rome, which with their magnificent traditions might still have been the organs of true political life. He increased the number of senators to 900 and introduced provincials into that body; but instead of making it into a grand council of the empire, representative of its various races and nationalities, he treated it with studied contempt, and Cicero writes that his own name had been set down as the proposer of decrees of which he knew nothing, conferring the title of king on potentates of whom he had never heard. A similar treatment was meted out to the ancient magistracies of the republic; and thus began the process by which the emperors undermined the self-respect of their subjects and eventually came to rule over a nation of slaves. Few men, indeed, have partaken as freely of the inspiration of genius as Julius Caesar; few have suffered more disastrously from its illusions.

Father: Gaius Caesar (d. 85 BC)
Mother: Aurelia
Wife: Cornelia Cinnilla (m. 84 BC, d. 68 BC, childbirth)
Wife: Pompeia Sulla (m. 63 BC, div. Dec-63 BC)
Wife: Calpurnia Pisonis (m. 59 BC)
Mistress: Cleopatra
Daughter: Julia Caesaris (d. 54 BC)
Son: Ptolemy XV Caesar
Son (adopted): Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus



As a rule, men worry more about what they can't see than about what they can.

Caesar's wife must be above suspicion.

I came, I saw, I conquered.

I had rather be first in a village than second at Rome.

I love the name of honour, more than I fear death.

If you must break the law, do it to seize power: in all other cases observe it.

In war, events of importance are the result of trivial causes.

It is better to create than to learn! Creating is the essence of life.

It is easier to find men who will volunteer to die, than to find those who are willing to endure pain with patience.

Men freely believe that which they desire.

Men in general are quick to believe that which they wish to be true.

Men willingly believe what they wish.

The die is cast.

What we wish, we readily believe, and what we ourselves think, we imagine others think also.

Which death is preferably to every other? "The unexpected".

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Julius & Caesar Inc.

Caesar left behind him in the minds of certain friends a suspicion that he neither desired nor cared to live any longer, on account of his fading health, and for that reason alone slighted all the omens of religion, and the warnings of his friends...Others again suppose that he chose rather to face at once the dangers which threatened him on all sides than to be forever on his watch against them, protesting the while that the safety of his person concerned the commonwealth more than himself, for he had been satiated with power and glory, whereas the commonwealth, if anything should befall him, would have no rest and, being involved in another civil war, would be in a worse state than before.
~ Suetonius, Caius Julius Caesar 86

Here I digress freely about Julius Gaius, discussing his figure and influence on history, his character, his accomplishments, his idiosyncrasies. Yeah, folks: I'm having great fun! Won't you join me...?

Caesar and the res publica

Caesar was at the pinnacle of his power when he returned from Spain in 45, yet within a year, he was once again facing problems with the optimates, and had seemingly lost the support of the ever fickle populace of Rome. What had happened?

The problems lay with Caesar himself, and the nature of his absolute power. In his impatience with fossilized custom, he often denigrated the Republic:

The res publica is an image not a reality

--- The majority of the conservative aristocracy failed to understand this, just as Caesar failed to truly understand the resentment the aristocracy felt for him on account of this. In Caesar they only saw the threat of a King, a word which was inextricably linked with the word "tyrant" in Roman history.

It seems likely that elements within the Senate set out to make this likeness even more distinct:

Cicero made the first proposals to the Senate for conferring honours upon him, which might in some sort be said not to exceed the limits of ordinary human moderation. But others, striving which should deserve most, carried them so excessively high, that they made Caesar odious to the most indifferent and moderate sort of men, by the pretensions and extravagance of the titles which they decreed him. His enemies, too, are thought to have had some share in this, as well as his flatterers. It gave them advantage against him, and would be their justification for any attempt they should make upon him; for since the civil wars were ended, he had nothing else that he could be charged with.
~ Plutarch, Life of Caesar

No matter what Caesar did, the optimates could twist and turn it to make it appear tyrannical. After Caesar's reform of the calendar Cicero, when told that a new moon would rise next day said,

Yes, in accordance with the edict,

as if to imply that even this depended on the pleasure of Caesar.

And one day, as Caesar was coming down from Alba to Rome, some were so bold as to salute him by the name of king; but he, finding the people disrelish it, seemed to resent it himself, and said his name was Caesar, not king. Upon this there was a general silence, and he passed on looking not very well pleased or contented. Another time, when the senate had conferred on him some extravagant honours, he chanced to receive the message as he was sitting on the rostra, where, though the Consuls and Praetors themselves waited on him, attended by the whole body of the Senate, he did not rise, but behaved himself to them as if they had been private men, and told them his honours wanted rather to be retrenched than increased.
~ Plutarch, Life of Caesar

The concept of making Caesar King had been put in circulation, whether by Caesar himself or his enemies, and it would not leave. The Roman constitution allowed only one way for a man to exercise absolute rule, and that was through being Dictator. However, Sulla's abuse of this title indicated that this was not the appropriate solution to the problem.

Caesar posing as generalRepublican tradition allowed noble men to compete for offices and honor by climbing the cursus honorum, but Caesar's position as head of state made this impossible. It was amongst this group of disgruntled patricians that his most implacable enemies appeared. For both people and Senate libertas, "freedom", meant the preservation of the mos maiorum; tradition. Thus, the aristocracy felt that Caesar had robbed them of their freedom, and this became their rallying cry.

Caesar experimented with various forms of rule. His last was to accept the powers of the magistracies without actually occupying them; in this way he could control the government without obstructing the careers of the aristocrats -- 17 years later, Augustus was to demonstrate that this could have been the correct solution to the problem.

Caesar spent the last months of his life preparing a huge military campaign against Parthia to avenge the defeat of Crassus. The reasons for this have been widely discussed both by pro and anti-Caesareans. One can suppose that Caesar was avoiding the issue by once again setting off for war - his close friend Gaius Matius was to write a few days after the assassination:

...if Caesar with all his genius could not find a way out, who will do so now?

Perhaps Caesar realized that only war against external enemies could unite the Roman people, after all the hatred of half a century of civil war. Or in the words of Livy:

externus timor maximum concordiae vinculum - nothing causes unity like fear of the external.

Moreover, it provided employment for the remainder of the thirty five legions who had fought in the civil war. Would Caesar have succeeded in recapturing the lost dominions of the Alexander's empire for the hellenestic world? The fate of Crassus had shown that the plains of Mesopotamia favoured Parthian cavalry -- could Caesar' military genius have offset this disadvantage? One can only guess, for his assassination condemned Rome to yet another destructive round of civil wars, and she would never again possess sufficient manpower to conquer and hold the plains of Babylonia.


The soul of the plot seems to have been Gaius Cassius Longinus, whom Caesar had pardoned after Pharsalus and honoured. He now felt himself disregarded because he was not to receive a command in the forthcoming campaign against Parthia. He persuaded his brother-in-law Marcus Junius Brutus, whose great claim to fame was his descent from the Junius Brutus who had murdered Rome's last King, to join the plot.

Brutus was a doctrinal fanatic, married to the equally fanatic Porcia, daughter of Cato the Younger. He was a merciless man, notorious for usury and not above demanding interests of up to 48% on loans. Like Cassius, he had fought on Pompeius's side at Pharsalus, but had later accepted Caesar's clemency. Caesar acted as father to Brutus, having once had an affair with Servilia, the mother of Brutus (though there is no truth in the claim that Caesar was the father of Brutus), and had secured the election of Cassius and Brutus to the position of Praetors. But once Brutus had got the idea into his head, he became obsessed with the thought of showing himself the equal of his ancestor and father-in-law. Together, he and Cassius plotted the death of Caesar.

Did Caesar know of the plot? It seems certain that news of it had leaked out, to judge by the veritable flood of omens and warnings which preceded the days before his death. But Caesar disregarded all these, as he for years had disregarded all threats to his life. His words, quoted by William Shakespeare in his famous play, give a vivid picture of Caesar's philosophy toward death:

Cowards die many times before their deaths;
The valiant never taste of death but once.

By this principle Caesar lived, and died.

Casca gave him the first cut in the neck, which was not mortal nor dangerous, as coming from one who at the beginning of such a bold action was probably very much disturbed; Caesar immediately turned about, and laid his hand upon the dagger and kept hold of it. And both of them at the same time cried out, he that received the blow, in Latin, "Vile Casca, what does this mean?" and he that gave it, in Greek to his brother, "Brother, help!" Upon this first onset, those who were not privy to the design were astonished, and their horror and amazement at what they saw were so great that they durst not fly nor assist Caesar, nor so much as speak a word. But those who came prepared for the business enclosed him on every side, with their naked daggers in their hands. Which way soever he turned he met with blows, and saw their swords levelled at his face and eyes, and was encompassed like a wild beast in the toils on every side.
For it had been agreed they should each of them make a thrust at him, and flesh themselves with his blood; for which reason Brutus also gave him one stab in the groin. Some say that he fought and resisted all the rest, shifting his body to avoid the blows, and calling out for help, but that when he saw Brutus's sword drawn, he covered his face with his robe and submitted, letting himself fall, whether it were by chance or that he was pushed in that direction by his murderers, at the foot of the pedestal on which Pompeius's statue stood, and which was thus wetted with his blood.
~ Plutarch, Life of Caesar

There were more than sixty conspirators. Some were merely old enemies, turncoats who had accepted Caesar's pardon and turned again at the first chance to do so. Others were men who had been disappointed in their expectations, who had not profited as much from Caesar's victory as they had expected. Brutus's ancestry and the so-called freedom of the Roman Republic were the pretexts for the murder of Caesar. But even those who acted on principle (if any did) were blind to the fact that the reign of the Roman nobility was broken beyond recall. Even Caesar would have been unable to overthrow the system, if its destruction had not been long overdue. By making him a martyr, they merely condemned the world to thirteen more bloody years of civil war.

The Character of Caesar

Caesar had won his way to power with an army, but unlike Sulla, he had no intention of building his empire on it. He had disbanded most of his legions, and he soon sent home his bodyguards, though he must have been well-aware of the risk of assassination. When plots against his life were revealed, he took no other action than to publish the names of offenders in public.

Characteristically, Cicero once wrote to Caesar:

You usually never forget anything other than insults.

As Bernard Shaw says in his evaluation of Caesar: a man too magnanimous to be insulted, has nothing to forgive. However, no matter how much clemency and forgiveness he displayed, the old Roman aristocracy could not fail to hate him. At the same time, his own supporters were beginning to become increasingly hostile. Many of these men, destitute when they joined Caesar, had hoped to attain riches and glory in the fruits of his victory, but Caesar could not, and probably would not, satisfy their lusts.

What drove Caesar on to his own doom? Seneca perhaps puts it best:

Glory, ambition, and the refusal to set bounds to his own pre-eminence.

For the ancient Roman, to achieve fame - personal dignitas - was the overriding desire of existence. Cicero himself seemed dazzled by the thoughts of being immortalized, at least in his earlier years. When Caesar crossed the Rubicon, he invoked the infringement on his personal dignitas as one of the reasons for the war. Such motives may seem strange to modern minds, but such had been the Roman mentality for hundreds of years, and it had driven them from being a small village on the banks of the Tiber to becoming an empire spanning the entire Mediteranean world.

In his ambition and quest for glory, Caesar was no different from the average Roman noble of his time, nor in his willingness to put his own honor above the safety of the state. Though he could be brutal and ruthless at need, he tended by nature toward clemency and generosity. Though not all his appointments to provincial governorship were of high quality, it is known that several appointees where chosen specifically for their incorruptibility and humanity, especially for the much ravaged eastern provinces.

From his acts, it is likely to suppose that he stood above many of the prejudices of his time, he clearly attempted to stand above class, party or race. He certainly stood far above most of his associates and opponents, none of whom seemed to have influenced him (though he was generous to their requests). It is impossible, from the available evidence, to divine Caesar's true intentions (though historians have attempted to for 2,000 years); Caesar himself clearly did not consider his own power to be monarchial in role (he did not, for example, specify any heir to it) - and he knew that his death would be the signal for renewed civil war.

That Caesar was a genius is uncontested; the scope of his achievements, his military conquests, his legislation, and his literary works all bear testimony to the breath and scope of his mind. As a conquoror, reformer, and politician, Caesar, even among those whose acts have changed the world, stands out as one of the great men of all time.

The Roman Forum reconstructed

~ Click here to go to the website of the clickable reconstruction above, where you'll find most of the buildings of the Roman Forum. A few important buildings, places and roads are not visible on this drawing, but you'll find them listed on said webpage and on clicking on them you'll be linked to a description or a recent photograph of their remains. Enjoy a trip back in time...

Epilogue (43 - 31 BCE)

Caesar's death paralyzed Rome. All the assassins were insignificant men, whose lives only had meaning while Caesar lived and used them. Only now, with the deed done, did they experience their own lack of ability. Neither the unpopular Cassius or the fanatic Brutus possessed the talents required to bring about reforms or forge a new leadership in Rome. The murderers had been naive in hoping that the leadership of the Senate would be restored, but both it and the Public Assemblies acted like sheep in the times to come.

There could be no peace while there were ambitious men willing to employ armed force to reach their political goals. Using Caesar's will, Marcus Antonius inflamed the Roman populace against the assassins. The houses of Brutus and Cassius were burnt, and the murderers fled from the city. Antony was supported by another of Caesar's commanders, Marcus Aemilius Lepidus. Pursuing the assassins to Modena, Antony defeated them and looked set to make himself undisputed master of Rome.

There was only one small problem. In his will, Caesar had left three quarters of his estate to the eighteen year old Gaius Octavius, son of his niece Atia. The youth had been sent to Greece to serve with the Legions in the imminent war against Parthia, and now returned at the head of Caesar's veteran legions to claim his inheritance. Suddenly, the Caesarian party found itself divided.

Cicero was quick to utilize the possibilities and began a series of orations against Antony known as the Philippics. Because Antony treated Octavian like a child, relations between the two grew increasingly tense. Eventually, a new civil war began between Octavian and the Senate on the one hand and Marcus Antonius and Lepidus on the other.

Antony and Lepidus were defeated and fled to Gaul and Spain, and the Republicans seemed to be firm in the saddle. Brutus and Cassius had consolidated themselves in the east, and the Senate controlled Italy and Africa. Ignoring Octavian, it then proceeded to dole out commands and titles as it had always done.

But Octavian had no intention of being ignored, and was determined that Caesar's murderers should pay for their crime. Occupying the city with his legions, he forced the senate to elect him sole consul. But Octavian did not become over-confident and to strengthen his position made peace with Antony and Lepidus. This new alliance was the second triumvirate.

The result was a veritable blood bath. Where Caesar's clementia had failed, Octavian and Antony imitated Sulla by proscribing their foes, and 2,500 noble Romans, including Cicero himself, were murdered. They then turned their arms against the assassins, meeting and defeating them in 42 at Philippi. Within 3 years, all who had participated in, or had any connection to the conspiracy, were violently dead.

But Rome was to be racked by eleven more years of civil war. Octavian nosed Lepidus from power, and with the help of his friend Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, defeated Sextius Pompeius at sea. Finally, in 31 BC, he and Agrippa destroyed Antony and Cleopatra's fleet at Actium. Antony and the Queen committed suicide, and her son Ptolemy Caesarion, said to be remarkably like his father in looks, was murdered on Octavians's order. Having rid himself of all rivals, Octavian continued the work begun by his beloved adoptive father, and when Caesar was deified, called himself "Son of God"; Caesar divi filius. He was also wise enough to avoid the mistakes commited by Caesar.

As a statesman and politician, he surpassed Caesar. Whereas Caesar had been decades ahead of his time, Octavian worked within the Constitution to fulfil his adoptive father's task. In his time, Caesar had laid bare the weaknesses of the Roman Republic, and marked out the times to come. Octavian's remedies were so thorough that, at his own death, fifty eight years after Caesar's, the republic was nothing but a memory.

[I'll deal with Octavian - Augustus - in a separate time capsule: he deserves it!]

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