Julius Caesar was born on the thirteenth day of the month Quintilis in the year of 100 BC. His full name was Gaius Julius Caesar, the same as his father’s. Gaius was his given name and Julius was his surname. He was a strong political and military leader who changed the history of the Greco-Roman world. This paper will answer the following questions: What happened during his early political career? How did he become a strong dictator of the Roman Empire? What events led up to the making of the first triumvirate? What happened during his reign as dictator of Rome? What events led up to his assassination? Julius Caesar is probably the most famous leader in history. (Grant, table of dates p.1, and foreword p.xxi)
When he was young, Caesar lived through one of the worst decades in the history of Rome. The city was assaulted and captured by Roman armies twice. First, in eighty-seven BC by the leaders of the populares. (Caesar’s aunt and uncle, Marius and Cinna.) Cinna was killed the year that Caesar married Cornelia. The second attack against the city happened in eighty-two BC. Marius’ enemy Sulla, leader of the optimates, carried out the attack. On each occasion the massacre of political opponents was followed by the confiscation of their property. (Fowler, p.24)
Caesar knew that his public speaking needed improvement, he therefore announced that he was leaving to study on the island of Rhodes. His professor was the famous Greek rhetorician, Apollonius Molon. When he was off the coast of Anatolia pirates kidnapped him. They demanded a large ransom for his return. Caesar broke free from the pirates and captured a large number of them. He then returned to Rome to engage in a normal political career. (Grant, p.9-11)
In the Roman political world Pompey and Crassus challenged the dominance of the optimates. Quintus Latatius Catulus and Lucius Licinius Lucullus led the optimates. Sulla was responsible for creating their careers. Caesar married Pompeia after Cornelia’s death. Then, in sixty-five BC he was appointed aedile. The aedile was in charge of the programs of the city such as games, spectacles, and shows. As aedile, Caesar gained claim to the leadership of the populares. (Grant, p.12)
Before leaving Rome to govern Spain for a year, Caesar divorced his wife because of an allegation that she had been involved in the offense of Publis Clodius. Clodius was awaiting trial for breaking into Caesar’s home the previous December. While on his trip to Spain, Caesar was very successful. He returned in a short time with considerable military glory and enough money to pay off all his debts. (Abbott, p.64)
A short while after his trip, Caesar was elected for consul in fifty-nine BC. He joined a political alliance with Pompey and Crassus. This alliance was named the first triumvirate. Pompey possessed a great influence through his splendid abilities and military renown. Crassus was powerful through his wealth. Caesar developed a plan to reconcile them, and then of favoring himself with their united aid in accomplishing his own deeds. (Abbott, p.71)
Caesar’s purpose in the triumvirate was to gain a large military command. Pompey wanted a part of the eastern settlement and land allotments for his discharged troops. An agrarian bill authorizing the purchase of land for Pompey’s soldiers was passed in fifty-nine BC. This law did not go over well with the senators because they were selfish with the lands they had annexed to their estates.
The Senators tried to block legislation with the help of Marcus Bibulus. He postponed the voting by declaring that the heavens were unfavorable to legislation. Caesar disregarded Bibulus’ behavior, and the remainder of the legislative program was carried out. (Thaddeus, p.116)
Caesar had control of three provinces for five years. They were Cisalpine Gaul, Transalpine Gaul, and Illyria. Caesar became determined to conquer and rule the entirety of Gaul. After his defeat of the Belgic tribes in the north, and the submission of the maritime tribes on the Atlantic seaboard, he believed he had conquered the entire area of Gaul. Caesar then decided to make two expeditions, one across the Rhine and the second across the Straits of Dover to Britain. While in Britain, he received the submission of the supreme commander of the southeast Britons, Cassivellaunus. (Grant, p.55)
In my opinion, by fifty-three BC the first triumvirate had totally broken apart. Caesar now had an extreme amount of personal power, wealth, and prestige. His relations with Pompey had ended when Caesar’s daughter Julia died. (Pompey was married to Julia.) Then, Crassus left for his province of Syria with the intention of at last overcoming the military glory of Caesar and Pompey. While in Mesopotamia, the Parthians murdered Crassus and three-quarters of his forty-four thousand man army. (Grant, p.75)
In Rome, the senate proposed a negotiated compromise between Caesar and Pompey. It stated that Caesar would give up his military command and attend the consular election, under the condition that Pompey would abandon his military command at the same time. The two were supposed to go into Rome to find a new ruler. The law passed, Caesar was ordered to leave his army behind and cross the Rubicon into Rome alone. Caesar knew that if he left his army behind he would be killed. So, he brought his soldiers along and marched across the Rubicon. This was an expression of his power directed towards the senate and Pompey. His armies quickly defeated those of the senate in Italy, and soon controlled the entire Italian peninsula. He defeated Pompey’s troops in many battles and became the dictator of Rome. Caesar then shaped the senate to his liking, and adding three hundred members. (Abbott, p.128)
From the information I have gathered from the book written by Fowler, it is hard to say whether or not Caesar and Cleopatra had an affair. A passage from Julius Caesar; some writers, like Mr. Froude, believe that a relation between Caesar and the Egyptian princess Cleopatra, is merely a story made up at a later date. He finds the story to be a foolish tale that we should just reject. If the story held true it would have happened like so. In October of forty-eight BC Caesar arrived in Egypt and stayed until the following June. He fell in love with Cleopatra and her son Caesarion. (Fowler, p.311)
A group of conspirators believed that Julius Caesar had become too powerful. They felt that if he became the king of Rome he would turn corrupt and use his power to create a bad society. Marcus Brutus, Caesar’s “best friend” and Cassius, led a group of members in a conspiracy to kill Caesar. On the Ides of March he was stabbed to death at a meeting of the senate. He fell at the feet of Pompey’s statue, as if his death were a sacrifice offered to satisfy his enemy’s revenge. Three of Caesar’s slaves circled his dead body. They counted twenty-seven stab wounds on Caesar’s body, and only one wound was found to be fatal. Mark Antony prepared a notable funeral ceremony and gave a memorable speech. After the ceremony, Caesar’s body was burned. A few months later a second triumvirate was formed. It consisted of Mark Antony, Octavian, and Marcus Lepidus. First the group was empowered to rule Rome, then they pursued Caesar’s murderers. (Abbott, p.311)
Caesar was a major part of the Roman Empire because of his strength and his strong war strategies. His dictatorship was the key part in Rome’s transition from republic to empire. It was a strong empire because of his courage and intelligence. I see Caesar as a military genius. I think he saw himself as having a talent in war ever since his first battle in Gaul. He definitely was good at fighting to get himself out of sticky situations, either by fighting or talking. He led his troops through many battles, and escaped from pirates alone. I find the story about the pirates hilarious, not only did he escape, but he captured a large number of them as well. My last paper I presented for you was on George Washington. I think that they were a lot alike. They both knew how to dictate, lead troops in war, and run a country. Both men built a country out of nothing. Not only were they strong militarily but politically as well. When they talked people listened. When I said that Caesar built a country out of nothing he really did. He had to reconstruct everything, the army, navy, treasury, laws, trade, and the system of government. He also was behind the smaller tasks, like the calendar, weights and measures, and language. It takes a powerful person to complete such things.
I think that Julius Caesar resembled a king. Although he was not, he acted upon certain things as a one. When he controlled the empire he wrote laws to benefit himself and the good of the country. I do not think Caesar’s story ended properly though. The world might be a little different today had he not been murdered. Caesar’s family might have built a kingdom, and God only knows what else. In one of my sources there is a coin celebrating the death of Caesar. I do not see how they could celebrate the death of someone who gave them so much. Julius Caesar is probably the most famous person in history. I think that I have shown why.