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A bust of Julius Caesar.
A bust of Julius Caesar.
Gaius Julius Caesar ( Classical Latin: IMP•C•IVLIVS•CAESAR•DIVVS1) ( July 12, 100 BC – March 15, 44 BC) was a Roman military and political leader. He played an important part 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, with the first Roman invasion of Britannia in 55 BC. He is widely considered to be one of the greatest military geniuses of all time, as well as a brilliant politician and one of the ancient world's strongest leaders. In 42 BC, two years after his death, the Roman Senate officially proclaimed him as one of the Roman gods.Caesar fought in a civil war which left him undisputed master of the Roman world, and began extensive reforms of Roman society and government. He was proclaimed dictator for life, and he heavily centralized the government of the Republic. Caesar's friend Marcus Brutus conspired with others to assassinate Caesar, because they were afraid that Julius might try to make himself a king, not a dictator. They planned to assassinate him also in hopes of restoring the Republic. The dramatic assassination on the Ides of March in 44 BC sparked a new civil war between the Caesarians, including Octavian, Mark Antony, and Lepidus, and the Republicans, including Brutus, Cassius, Cicero and the sons of many men who were killed by Caesar in the civil war. This conflict ended with a Caesarian victory at the Battle of Philippi, and the formal establishment of the Second Triumvirate in which Octavian, Antony, and Lepidus shared control of Rome. Tensions between Octavian and Antony soon plunged Rome into further civil war, culminating in Antony's defeat at the Battle of Actium, and leaving Octavian as the undisputed leader of the Roman world. This period of civil wars transformed the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire with Caesar's great nephew and adopted son Octavian (later known as Caesar Augustus) installed as the first emperor.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 Suetonius, Plutarch, and Cassius Dio.

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Early life
Caesar's cursus honorum
The First Triumvirate and the Gallic War
The civil war
After the war
Caesar's literary works
Military career
Caesar's name
Caesar's family

Early life - Contents

An 18th century bronze bust of Caesar.
An 18th century bronze bust of Caesar.
Caesar was born in Rome into a well-known patrician family ( gens Julia), which supposedly traced its ancestry to Julus, the son of the Trojan prince Aeneas (who according to myth was the son of Venus). According to legend, Caesar was born by Caesarian section and is its namesake, though this is unlikely because at the time it was only performed on dead women, and his mother lived long after he was born. This legend is more likely a modern invention, as the origin of the Caesarian section is in the Latin word for to cut, caedo, -ere, caesus sum. Caesar was raised in a modest apartment building (insula) in the Subura, a lower-class neighborhood of Rome.Although of impeccable aristocratic patrician stock, the Julii Caesares were not rich by the standards of the Roman nobility. Thus, no member of his family had achieved any outstanding prominence in recent times, though in his father's generation there was a renaissance of their fortunes. He was the namesake of his father (a praetor, who died in 85 BC, see Gaius Julius Caesar) and his mother was Aurelia Cotta. His elder sister, Julia Caesaris, was grandmother to Caesar Augustus. His paternal aunt, also known as Julia Caesaris, married Gaius Marius, a talented general and reformer of the Roman army. Marius became one of the richest men in Rome at the time. As he gained political influence, the Caesar family gained wealth.Towards the end of Marius' life in 86 BC, internal politics reached a breaking point. During this period Roman politicians were generally divided into two factions: the Populares, which included Marius; and the Optimates, which included Lucius Cornelius Sulla. A string of disputes between these two factions led to civil war and eventually opened the way to Sulla's dictatorship. Caesar was tied to the Populares through family connections. Not only was he Marius's nephew, he was also married to Cornelia, the youngest daughter of Lucius Cornelius Cinna, Marius's greatest supporter and Sulla's enemy. To make matters worse, in the year 85 BC, just after Caesar turned 15, his father became ill and died. Both Marius and his father had left Caesar much of their property and wealth in their wills.When Sulla emerged as the winner of this civil war and began his program of proscriptions, Caesar, not yet 20 years old, was in a bad position. Sulla ordered Caesar to divorce Cornelia in 82 BC, but Caesar refused and prudently left Rome to hide. Sulla pardoned Caesar and his family and allowed him to return to Rome. In a prophetic moment, Sulla was said to comment on the dangers of letting Caesar live. According to Suetonius, the dictator in relenting on Caesar's proscription said, "He whose life you so much desire will one day be the overthrow of the part of nobles, whose cause you have sustained with me; for in this one Caesar, you will find many a Marius."Despite Sulla's pardon, Caesar did not remain in Rome and left for military service in Asia and Cilicia. While still in Asia Minor, Caesar was involved in several military operations. In 80 BC, while still serving under Marcus Minucius Thermus, he played a pivotal role in the siege of Miletus. During the course of the battle, Caesar showed such personal bravery in saving the lives of legionaries that he was later awarded the corona civica (oak crown). The award was of the highest honor given to a non-commander, and when worn in public, even in the presence of the Roman Senate, all were forced to stand and applaud his presence.Back in Rome in 78 BC, when Sulla died, Caesar began his political career in the Forum at Rome as an advocate, known for his oratory 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?" Aiming at rhetorical perfection, Caesar traveled to Rhodes in 75 BC for philosophical and oratorical studies with the famous teacher Apollonius Molo.On the way, Caesar was kidnapped by Cilician pirates. According to Plutarch's retelling of this incident, when the pirates told Caesar they would ransom him for 20 talents of gold, Caesar laughed and told them he was worth at least 50. After the ransom was paid, Caesar gathered a fleet, and captured the pirates. When the governor of Asia Minor province did not mete out justice to his satisfaction, Plutarch reports, "Caesar left him to his own devices, went to Pergamum, took the robbers out of prison, and crucified them all, just as he had often warned them on the island that he would do, when they thought he was joking."

Caesar's cursus honorum - Contents

Julius Caesar, depicted from the bust in the British Museum, in Cassell's History of England (1902).
Julius Caesar, depicted from the bust in the British Museum, in Cassell's History of England (1902).
Caesar was elected quaestor, who supervised the treasury and financial affairs of the state, its armies and its officers, by the Assembly of the People in 70 BC, at the age of 30, as stipulated in the Roman cursus honorum. This office brought with it membership in the senate. He drew the lots and was assigned with a quaestorship in Hispania Ulterior, a Roman province roughly situated in modern Portugal and southern Spain. As an administrative and financial officer, the trip was largely uneventful, but while in Hispania he had the now famous encounter with a statue of Alexander the Great. Perhaps because of his weakened emotional state coupled with a growing and now obvious personal ambition, he had a definitive and prophetic reaction to the sight of the statue. At the temple of Hercules in Gades, it was said that he either broke down and cried or at the very least was deeply saddened in reaction to it. When asked why he would react so, he responded: "Do you think I have not just cause to weep, when I consider that Alexander at my age had conquered so many nations, and I have all this time done nothing that is memorable."Caesar was released early from his office as quaestor, and allowed to return to Rome. Despite any personal grief over the loss of his wife, whom all accounts suggest he loved dearly, Caesar was set to remarry in 67 BC for political gain. This time, however, he chose an odd alliance. The granddaughter of Sulla, and daughter of Quintus Pompey, Pompeia became his next wife. Although seeming to align himself with the Senatorial optimates, Caesar's other actions had little to do with conservative policy and he continued his course of support for a populares policy. Caesar supported the Lex Gabinia which granted Pompey the Great unlimited powers in dealing with Cilician Pirates. Later, and once again in the face of bitter Optimate resistance, Caesar supported the Lex Manilia which granted Pompey the unique and comprehensive command of the entire east against Mithridates. Obviously building a relationship with Rome’s great general would play into his hands later. The rivalry between Pompey and Caesar’s benefactor, Crassus, seemed to have little effect on Caesar. Crassus continued to support Caesar’s enormous debts over the next few years.Between the support of the two laws regarding Pompey’s command, Caesar served as the curator (person who cares for the institution's collections) of the Appian Way. The maintenance of this road, which stretched from Rome through Cumae to the heel of Italy’s boot, was an important and high profile position. While it was enormously expensive to him personally, it gave a great deal of prestige to the young Senator, and Crassus’ support made it an achievable task for Caesar. All the while, Caesar continued pursuing his judicial career until his election as curule aedile in 65 BC, along with Bibulus, a young rival and member of the optimate faction.This magisterial position was the next step in the Roman cursus honorum and provided a grand opportunity for the master of the public spectacle. The curule aediles were responsible for the construction and care of temples, maintenance of public buildings, traffic, and other aspects of Rome's daily life. Perhaps most importantly, the aediles staged public games on state holidays and managed the Circus Maximus. Caesar indebted himself to the point of near financial ruin during this time, but enhanced his image irreversibly with the common people. His games were spectacular affairs, and building projects during his term were ambitious. In a spectacle to honor his father, Caesar displayed 320 pairs of gladiators clad in silver armor at an enormous expense.Caesar pushed his agenda further by erecting statues of Marius for public display. The senate was outraged, but Caesar’s popularity made him nearly untouchable. They could, however, attempt to block his political path through other means. Caesar may have been nominated to take charge of quelling a disturbance in Egypt but was unable to win enough support to take the position. Caesar ended his year as aedile in both glory and bankruptcy. His debts reached several hundred gold talents (millions of Pounds in today's currency) and threatened to hinder his future political career. His co-aedile Bibulus was so unspectacular in comparison that he later commented in frustration that the entire year’s aedile ship was credited to Caesar alone, instead of both.His success as aedile, however, enormously helped his election as Pontifex Maximus (high priest) in 63 BC, following the death of the previous pontifex Quintus Caecilius Metellus Pius. This office came with the Domus Publica (public house) in the Forum, the responsibility of all Roman religious affairs and the custody of the Vestal virgins under his roof. For Caesar, it also meant a relief of his debts. This election bestowed considerable power on Caesar, with the opportunity for income. The Pontifex was elected to a lifetime term. While technically not a political office, the pontificate provided considerable advantages in dealing with the Senate and legislation.Scandal marred Caesar's debut as Pontifex. Following Cornelia's death, Caesar had married Pompeia, a granddaughter of Sulla, in 67 BC. As the wife of the Pontifex and an important matrona, Pompeia was responsible for the organization of the Bona Dea festival in December. These sacred rites were exclusive to women. However, Publius Clodius Pulcher managed to sneak in the house disguised as a woman. This was absolute sacrilege and Pompeia received a letter of divorce. Caesar himself admitted that she might be innocent of wrongdoing, but that: "Caesar's wife, like the rest of Caesar's family, must be above suspicion."Year 63 BC proved especially difficult, not only for Caesar, but for the Roman Republic itself. Caesar won the office of urban Praetor, but before he could take office, the Catiline Conspiracy erupted, putting Caesar in direct conflict with the optimates once again. Lucius Sergius Catilina, twice a candidate for consul, faced charges of plotting to overthrow the Republic through armed rebellion. Catiline's guilt is disputed. In the elections held in late 63 BC, Marcus Tullius Cicero defeated Catilina in the consular election.Soon afterwards, Crassus received anonymous letters informing various Senators to leave Rome in order to avoid a coming massacre of government leaders. Crassus took the letters to Cicero, who presented the conspiracy concept to the Senate. Many in the Senate disbelieved him, thinking that Cicero fabricated the affair for political gain. Cicero’s oratorical eloquence, however, convinced the Senate that plot warranted extreme steps. Senatus consultum ultimum followed granting Cicero the authority to deal with the conspirators. Catiline, among others, became the prime target. In response he decided to flee Rome, but not before being implicated in a plot to assassinate Cicero. The plot failed, and Catiline left to join the rebellion in Etruria.Five notable Romans, allies of Catiline, were sentenced to death without trial. Imprisonment before trial was unheard of and if banished the men might have joined Catiline's armies in Etruria. During the Senate's deliberation, Caesar was one of the few men to argue against a death sentence. Caesar's opposition prompted accusations—never proved—of his involvement with the conspiracy. His position was defeated, due to Cato the Younger's insistence, and the men were executed on the same day. This was also the day on which Caesar's affair with Servilia Caepionis was exposed to the public eye. Servilia had sent Caesar a note, and Cato accused him yet again of being a conspirator. Caesar handed Cato, Servilia's own half-brother, the note. Once he had read the contents, Cato tossed the note aside in disgust.If Caesar was implicated in the Catiline affair, it did him no lasting damage. In the following year, Caesar began a term as urban praetor. From this elite position, he once again pushed his populares policies. He asked for an account of the cost of restoring the capital, in which he was opposed by the optimates. Unsuccessful in that attempt, he strengthened his standing with Pompey, who was soon to return to Rome from his eastern campaigns. Pompey’s return troubled the optimates, who feared a Sullan-style march to Rome and dictatorship. They needed to present the city, and the surrounding countryside, as a stable environment not in need of Pompey to “restore order”. Pompey’s ally, Caecilius Metellus Nepos, however, took the matter to the Senate demanding that Pompey be allowed to land in Italy and do just that. Caesar supported Nepos and Pompey, but Cato defeated the motion. Nepos fled Rome to join Pompey, and Caesar was eventually stripped of the Praetorship. When a mob in support of Caesar threatened violence his position was restored. Caesar quelled the mob before any violence ensued.Towards the end of his Praetorship, Caesar again faced the serious jeopardy of prosecution for his debts. Crassus, rescuing his friend and ally, paid off a quarter of his 20 million denarii balance. By 61 BC, Caesar was assigned the Propraetorian governorship of further Hispania, the province in which he had served as quaestor. With this appointment to a potentially profitable position, his creditors relaxed their demands. Not taking chances, Caesar left Rome earlier than this new responsibility required.Caesar and his staff rode hard, reaching the Rhône in only eight days, and presaging his future ability to move armies at remarkable speeds. On the way, several members of his entourage noted the barbaric, and, in their view, wretched standard of living in the local villages. Caesar, demonstrating his ambition replied, "For my part, I’d rather be the first man among these fellows than the second man in Rome." During his term as governor, Caesar strengthened his relationship with these Gallic peoples, which proved to be an important factor in his later plans.Arriving in Hispania, Caesar earned a remarkable reputation for military command. Between 61 BC and 60 BC, he won considerable victories over the Gallaecians and Lusitanians. He advanced to the Atlantic Ocean and subdued tribes in the northwest part of the country that had never before bowed to the Romans. He secured sufficient spoils of war to pay off all of his debts, provide his men a considerable share of booty, and added to the Roman treasury. During one of his victories, his men hailed him as Imperator in the field, which was a vital consideration in being eligible for a triumph back in Rome. But a terrible dilemma faced Caesar. He wanted to run for Consul for 59 BC, which required his presence in Rome, but he also wanted the honor of a triumph. The optimates used this against him, forcing him to wait outside the city, as was the custom, until they confirmed his triumph. This delay could force Caesar to miss his chance to run for Consul. In the summer of 60 BC, Caesar entered Rome to run for the highest political office in the Roman Republic, forfeiting his triumph, much to the astonishment of the optimates.

The First Triumvirate and the Gallic War - Contents

In 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 Optimate and personal friend of Marcus Porcius Cato. 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". 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 Caesaris, Caesar's only daughter. Despite their differences in age and upbringing, this political marriage proved to be a love match.Following a difficult year as Consul, Caesar was 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) and parts of Germania 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 political opponent, 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 BC he attempted an invasion of 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, 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 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.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, Julia Caesaris 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.

The civil war - Contents

An engraving depicting Gaius Julius Caesar.
An engraving depicting Gaius Julius Caesar.
In 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. Historians differ as to what Caesar said upon crossing the Rubicon; the two major competing lines are "Alea iacta est" ("The die is cast"), and "Let the dice fly high!" (a line from the New Comedy poet Menander). This minor controversy is occasionally seen in modern literature when an author attributes the less popular Menander line to Caesar.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 eluded him, however, and 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.Pompey fled to Egypt, where he was murdered by an officer of King Ptolemy XIII. 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 Isauricus as his colleague. He pursued Pompey to Alexandria, where he camped his army and 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". Caesar and Cleopatra never married.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).

After the war - Contents

Caesar returned to Italy in September 45 BC. Among his first tasks he filed his will, naming Octavian as the heir to everything he had including his title. Caesar also wrote that if Octavian died before Caesar did, Brutus would inherit everything. That also applied to a situation where, if Octavian died after inheriting everything, Brutus would inherit it from Octavian. The Senate had already begun bestowing honors 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 honor Caesar’s great victory. Along with the games, Caesar was honored 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 Imperator 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 not only on equal terms with the gods, but with the ancient kings as well. A third statue was erected on the capitol alongside those of the seven Roman Kings and with that of Lucius Junius Brutus, the man who led the revolt to expel the Kings originally. 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 honor his victory in Hispania. The Senate continued to encourage more honors. A temple to Libertas was to be built in his honor, 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 honors 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 draw of lots or through the approval of the Senate. The month of his birth, Quintilis, was renamed Julius (hence the English July) in his honor and his birthday, July 13, 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 honor 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. This theoretically 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 to endear him even further to the common population.Caesar tightly regulated the purchase of state-subsidized grain, prostitutes, 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. One of his most wide-ranging reforms came after his election to Pontifex Maximus for life. Caesar ordered a complete overhaul of the Roman calendar, establishing 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 calendar). As a result of this reform, the year 46 BC was in fact 445 days long to bring the calendar into line.Additionally great public works were undertaken. Rome was a city of great urban sprawl and unimpressive brick architecture and Rome desperately needed a renewal. A new Rostra of marble, along with court houses and marketplaces were built. A public library under the great scholar 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.
Caesar was the first living man to appear on a Roman Republican coin.
Caesar was the first living man to appear on a Roman Republican coin.
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 honors 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’ (Latin king), but Caesar refused to accept the title. At Caesar’s new temple of Venus, a senatorial delegation went to consult with him and Caesar refused to stand to honor them upon their arrival. Though the event is clouded by several different versions of the story, it’s quite clear that 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.

Assassination - Contents

Vincenzo Camuccini, Mort de César, 1798.
Vincenzo Camuccini, Mort de César, 1798.
The fear of Caesar becoming king continued 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.The Roman Senate traditionally met in the Curia Hostilia, which had been recently repaired from the fires that destroyed it years before, but the Senate had abandoned it for the new house under construction. Thus Caesar summoned the Senate to meet in the Theatrum Pompeium (built by Pompey) on the Ides of March ( March 15), 44 BC. A few days before, a soothsayer had said to Caesar, "Beware the Ides of March." As the Senate convened, Caesar was attacked and stabbed to death by a group of senators who called themselves the Liberatores ("Liberators"); they justified their action on the grounds that they committed tyrannicide, not murder, and were preserving the Republic from Caesar's alleged monarchical ambitions. Among the assassins who locked themselves in the Temple of Jupiter were Gaius Trebonius, Decimus Junius Brutus, Marcus Junius Brutus, and Gaius Cassius Longinus; Caesar had personally pardoned most of his murderers or personally advanced their careers. Marcus Brutus was a distant cousin of Caesar and named as one of his testamentary heirs. There is also speculation that Marcus Brutus was an illegitimate child of Caesar's, since he had an affair with Servilia Caepionis, Brutus' mother; however, Caesar was 15 years old at the time Brutus was born. Caesar sustained 23 (as much as 35 by some accounts) stab wounds, which ranged from superficial to mortal, and ironically fell at the feet of a statue of his friend turned rival, Pompey the Great. Pompey had recently been deified by the Senate. Some accounts report that Caesar prayed to Pompey as he lay dying. His last words have been variously reported as:
  • και συ τεκνον; (Kai su, teknon?) (Gr., "Even you, my child?" – from Suetonius)
  • Tu quoque, Brute, fili mi! (Lat., "You too, Brutus, my son!" – a modern Latin translation of the Greek quotation from Suetonius)
  • Et tu, Brute? (Lat., "And (even) you, Brutus?" – from Shakespeare's play, Julius Caesar)
It has been speculated that Caesar knew of the plot against his life, and allowed it to proceed, going so far as to dismiss his guard contingent in order to allow the conspirators to kill him. This theory hinges on Caesar's epilepsy, a condition attributed to him by several sources including Plutarch. Proponents of the theory suggest that Caesar deliberately arranged to be murdered by the Senate, to spare himself the indignity of increasing seizures as he aged, and to insure his own legacy. While the public outrage over Caesar's murder did provide a favorable climate for Caesar's heir Octavian to take power, this theory is not currently backed by any evidence to give it credence and fails to account for his Parthian Campaign planning.

Detailed account
Here follows the most detailed account of Caesar's assassination, written by Nicolaus of Damascus a few years after the event and likely based on eyewitness reportings.2

The Plan

"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 favorite 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 favored 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."

Bad Omens

"Before he entered the chamber, the priests brought up the victims for him to make what was to be his last sacrifice. The omens were clearly unfavorable. After this unsuccessful sacrifice, the priests made repeated other ones, to see if anything more propitious might appear than what had already been revealed to them. In the end they said that they could not clearly see the divine intent, for there was some transparent, malignant spirit hidden in the victims. Caesar was annoyed and abandoned divination till sunset, though the priests continued all the more with their efforts. One other omen was that Caesars wife had a dream, the night before caesar was killed, that he was lying on the ground dead and she begged him to not go to the senate that day and Caesar agreed. But later Caesar decided to go when he informed a member of the senate to inform everyone he couldn't make it and the senator said, "Would you like me to tell them that their Caesar couldn't meet today because his wife had a bad dream?"
"Those of the murderers present were delighted at all this, though Caesar's friends asked him to put off the meeting of the Senate for that day because of what the priests had said, and he agreed to do this. But some attendants came up, calling him and saying that the Senate was full. He glanced at his friends, but Brutus approached him again and said, 'Come, good sir, pay no attention to the babblings of these men, and do not postpone what Caesar and his mighty power has seen fit to arrange. Make your own courage your favorable omen.' He convinced Caesar with these words, took him by the right hand, and led him to the Senate which was quite near. Caesar followed in silence."

The Final Attack

"The Senate rose in respect for his position when they saw him entering. Those who were to have part in the plot stood near him. Right next to him went Tillius Cimber, whose brother had been exiled by Caesar. Under pretext of a humble request on behalf of this brother, Cimber approached and grasped the mantle of his toga, seeming to want to make a more positive move with his hands upon Caesar. Caesar wanted to get up and use his hands, but was prevented by Cimber and became exceedingly annoyed.
"That was the moment for the men to set to work. All quickly unsheathed their daggers and rushed at him. First Servilius Casca struck him with the point of the blade on the left shoulder a little above the collar-bone. He had been aiming for that, but in the excitement he missed. Caesar rose to defend himself, and in the uproar Casca shouted out in Greek to his brother. The latter heard him and drove his sword into the ribs. After a moment, Cassius made a slash at his face, and Decimus Brutus pierced him in the side. While Cassius Longinus was trying to give him another blow he missed and struck Marcus Brutus on the hand. Minucius also hit out at Caesar and hit Rubrius in the thigh. They were just like men doing battle against him.
"Under the mass of wounds, he fell at the foot of Pompey's statue. Everyone wanted to seem to have had some part in the murder, and there was not one of them who failed to strike his body as it lay there, until, wounded twenty-three times, he breathed his last."

Aftermath - Contents

Deification of Julius Caesar.
Deification of Julius Caesar.
Caesar'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 Shakespeare penned for him ("Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears!") but he did give a dramatic eulogy which appealed to the common people, a perfect example of what public thinking was following Caesar's murder. Antony, who had been as of late drifting 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 named his grand nephew Gaius Octavius sole heir of his vast fortune, giving Octavius both the immensely powerful Caesar name and control of one of the largest amounts of money in the Republic. In addition, Gaius Octavius was also, for all intents and purposes, the son of the great Caesar, and consequently the loyalty of the Roman populace shifted from dead Caesar to living Octavius. Octavius, only aged 19 at the time of Caesar's death, proved to be ruthless and lethal, 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 Octavius, 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 God").

Caesar's literary works - Contents

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 (Marius's widow) 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. The most famous of his surviving works are:
  • 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 Civile (Commentaries on the Civil War) [1], 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 Hispaniensis (On the Hispanic War) [2], campaigns in modern Spain;
  • De Bello Africo (On the African War) [3], campaigns in North Africa; and
  • De Bello Alexandrino (On the Alexandrine War) [4], campaign in Alexandria.
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 in fact highly sophisticated advertisements for his political agenda, most particularly for the middle-brow readership of minor aristocrats in Rome, Italy, and the provinces.

Military career - Contents

Historians place the generalship of Caesar on the level of such geniuses as Alexander the Great, Hannibal, Genghis Khan, and Napoleon Bonaparte. Although he suffered occasional tactical defeats such as Gergovia during the Gallic War and 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's army at 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 was proverbial. Caesar's infantry and cavalry was first rate, and he made heavy use of formidable Roman artillery; additional factors which made him so effective in the field were his army's superlative engineering abilities and the legendary speed with which he maneuvered (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.

Caesar's name - Contents

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 and is interchangeable with 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 is pronounced IPA ['ga:ju:s 'ju:lius 'kaisar]. In Ecclesiastical Latin, the familiar part "Caesar" is ['tʃe:sar].

Caesar's family - Contents

  • First marriage to Cornelia Cinnilla
  • Second marriage to Pompeia Sulla
  • Third marriage to Calpurnia Pisonis
  • Julia Caesaris with Cornelia Cinnilla
  • Ptolemy XV Caesar (Caesarion) with Cleopatra VII, he would become an Egyptian pharaoh
  • his adopted son Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus (his nephew by blood), who became the first Roman Emperor.
  • a grandson from Julia Caesaris and Pompey, dead at several days, unnamed
Female lovers
  • Affair with Cleopatra VII
  • Affair with Servilia Caepionis, mother of Brutus
Male loversIn ancient Rome, male and female homosexuality was common and widespread throughout society, especially amongst the upper classes. However, it was thought to be improper for a freeborn boy or man to be penetrated anally as Caesar was alleged to have been in his youth. For a man or boy to participate in the passive role during anal sex, it generally indicated that they were a slave (the purchase of male slaves for sexual purposes was common in Rome) or one that had earned his freedom. Under Roman law, emancipated slaves may still be required to render certain services, including sexual ones, to their former master.Roman society viewed the passive role during sex, regardless of gender, to be a sign of submission or inferiority. Indeed, it was said some soldiers sang mockingly of Caesar that, "Caesar may have conquered the Gauls, but Nicomedes conquered Caesar". 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 III of Bithynia early in his career. The tales were repeated by some Roman politicians as a way to humiliate and degrade him. Caesar himself, according to Cassius Dio, denied the accusations under oath.3Mark 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 would become the first Roman emperor following Caesar's death.4

Chronology - Contents

Honours - Contents

Caesar was ranked #67 on Michael H. Hart's list of the most influential figures in history.Was voted the title Divus, or "god," after his deathDuring his life, he received many honors, including titles such as Pater Patriae (Father of the Fatherland), Pontifex Maximus (Highest Priest), and Dictator. In fact, the many titles he was voted by the Senate are sometimes considered to be a cause of his assassination, as it seemed inappropriate to many contemporaries for a mortal man to be awarded so many honors.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 (witness the German Kaiser and Russian Tzar/Csar). 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.
Preceded by:
Lucius Afranius and Quintus Caecilius Metellus Celer
Consul of the Roman Republic together with Marcus Calpurnius Bibulus
58 BC
Succeeded by:
Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus and Aulus Gabinius
Preceded by:
Lucius Cornelius Lentulus Crus and Gaius Claudius Marcellus Maior
Consul of the Roman Republic together with Publius Servilius Isauricus
48 BC
Succeeded by:
Quintus Fufius Calenus and Publius Vatinius
Preceded by:
Lucius Cornelius Sulla
Dictator of the Roman Republic
46 BC- 44 BC
Succeeded by:
Plutarch's Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans
Alcibiades and Coriolanus - Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar - Aratus & Artaxerxes and Galba & Otho - Aristides and Cato the Elder
Crassus and Nicias - Demetrius and Antony - Demosthenes and Cicero - Dion and Brutus - Fabius and Pericles - Lucullus and Cimon
Lysander and Sulla - Numa and Lycurgus - Pelopidas and Marcellus - Philopoemen and Flamininus - Phocion and Cato the Younger - Pompey and Agesilaus
Poplicola and Solon - Pyrrhus and Gaius Marius - Romulus and Theseus - Sertorius and Eumenes
Tiberius Gracchus & Gaius Gracchus and Agis & Cleomenes - Timoleon and Aemilius Paullus - Themistocles and Camillus
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