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Julius Caesar

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Gaius Iulius Caesar or Gaius Julius Caesar in modern English spelling (in Classical Latin, and later ; conventionally in English), July 13, 100 BC – March 15, 44 BC,) was a Roman military and political leader. He played a critical role in the transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire.

A politician of the populares tradition, he formed an unofficial triumvirate with Marcus Licinius Crassus and Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus which dominated Roman politics for several years, opposed in the Roman Senate by optimates like Marcus Porcius Cato and Marcus Calpurnius Bibulus. His conquest of Gaul extended the Roman world to the Atlantic Ocean, and he also conducted the first Roman invasion of Britain in 55 BC. The collapse of the triumvirate, however, led to a stand-off with Pompey and the Senate. Leading his legions across the Rubicon, Caesar began a civil war in 49 BC from which he became the undisputed master of the Roman world.

After assuming control of government, he began extensive reforms of Roman society and government. He was proclaimed "dictator in perpetuity" (dictator perpetuo), and heavily centralised the bureaucracy of the Republic. A group of senators, led by Caesar's former friend Marcus Junius Brutus, assassinated the dictator on the Ides of March (March 15) in 44 BC, hoping to restore the normal running of the Republic. However, the result was another Roman civil war, which ultimately led to the establishment of a permanent autocracy by Caesar's adopted heir, Gaius Octavianus. In 42 BC, two years after his assassination, the Senate officially sanctified Caesar as one of the Roman deities.

Much of Caesar's life is known from his own Commentaries (Commentarii) on his military campaigns, and other contemporary sources such as the letters and speeches of his political rival Cicero, the historical writings of Sallust, and the poetry of Catullus. Many more details of his life are recorded by later historians, such as Appian, Suetonius, Plutarch, Cassius Dio and Strabo.

Early life

Caesar was born into a patrician family, the gens Julia, which claimed descent from Iulus, son of the legendary Trojan prince Aeneas, supposedly the son of the goddess Venus. The cognomen "Caesar" originated, according to Pliny the Elder, with an ancestor who was born by caesarean section (from the Latin verb to cut, caedo, caedere, cecidi, caesum). The Historia Augusta suggests three alternative explanations: that the first Caesar had a thick head of hair (Latin caesaries); that he had bright grey eyes (Latin oculis caesiis); or that he killed an elephant (caesai in Moorish) in battle. Caesar issued coins featuring images of elephants, suggesting that he favoured this interpretation of his name.

Despite their ancient pedigree, the Julii Caesares were not especially politically influential, having produced only three consuls. Caesar's father, also called Gaius Julius Caesar, reached the rank of praetor, the second highest of the Republic's elected magistracies, and governed the province of Asia, perhaps through the influence of his prominent brother-in-law Gaius Marius. His mother, Aurelia Cotta, came from an influential family which had produced several consuls. Marcus Antonius Gnipho, an orator and grammarian of Gaulish origin, was employed as Caesar's tutor. 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.

Caesar's formative years were a time 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 politicians known as optimates and populares, neither of which had a common agenda and so cannot be considered a political party or even a faction. The optimates were those politicians who pursued their agendas through traditional, constitutional routes in the Senate; the populares those who preferred to bypass traditional procedure and pursue their agendas by appealing directly to the electorate. Caesar's uncle Marius was a popularis, Marius' protégé Lucius Cornelius Sulla was an optimas, and in Caesar's youth their rivalry led to civil war.

Both Marius and Sulla 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, reclaiming his command and forcing Marius into exile, but when he left on campaign Marius returned at the head of a makeshift army. He and his ally Lucius Cornelius Cinna seized the city and declared Sulla a public enemy, and Marius's troops took violent revenge on Sulla's supporters. Marius died early in 86 BC, but his followers remained in power.

In 85 BC Caesar's father died suddenly while putting on his shoes one morning, without any apparent cause, and at sixteen, Caesar was the head of the family. The following year he was nominated to be the new Flamen Dialis, high priest of Jupiter, as Merula, the previous incumbent, had died in Marius's purges. 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.

Then, having brought Mithridates to terms, Sulla returned to finish the civil war against Marius' followers. After a campaign throughout Italy he seized Rome at the Battle of the Colline Gate in November 82 BC and 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 term limit. 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. Sulla's proscriptions saw hundreds of his political enemies killed or exiled. 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 he 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, which included supporters of Sulla, and the Vestal Virgins. Sulla gave in reluctantly, and is said to have declared that he saw many a Marius in Caesar.

Early career

Rather than returning to Rome, Caesar joined the army, serving under Marcus Minucius Thermus in Asia and Servilius Isauricus in Cilicia. He served with distinction, winning the Civic Crown for his part in the siege of Mytilene. 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. Ironically, the loss of his priesthood had allowed him to pursue a military career: the Flamen Dialis was not permitted to touch a horse, sleep three nights outside his own bed or one night outside Rome, or look upon an army.

In 80 BC, after two years in office, Sulla resigned his dictatorship, re-established consular government and, after serving as consul, retired to private life. Caesar later ridiculed Sulla's relinquishing of the dictatorship—"Sulla did not know his political ABC's". He died two years later in 78 BC and was accorded a state funeral. Hearing of Sulla's death, Caesar felt safe enough to return to Rome. Lacking means since his inheritance was confiscated, he acquired a modest house in the Subura, a lower class neighborhood of 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. Instead he turned to legal advocacy. 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. Even Cicero praised him: "Come now, what orator would you rank above him...? Aiming at rhetorical perfection, Caesar travelled to Rhodes in 75 BC to study under Apollonius Molon, who had previously taught Cicero.

On the way across the Aegean Sea, Caesar was kidnapped by Cilician pirates and held prisoner in the Dodecanese islet of Pharmacusa. 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. The war against Spartacus took place around this time (73 - 71 BC), but it is not recorded what role, if any, Caesar played in it. 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. He was elected aedile and restored the trophies of Marius's victories; a controversial move given the Sullan regime was still in place. He also brought prosecutions against men who had benefited from Sulla's proscriptions, and spent a great deal of borrowed money on public works and games, outshining his colleague Marcus Calpurnius Bibulus. He was also suspected of involvement in two abortive coup attempts.

Coming to prominence

63 BC was an eventful year for Caesar. He persuaded a tribune, Titus Labienus, to prosecute the optimate senator Gaius Rabirius for the political murder, 37 years previously, of the tribune Lucius Appuleius Saturninus, and had himself appointed as one of the two judges to try the case. Rabirius was defended by both Cicero and Quintus Hortensius, but was convicted of perduellio (treason). While he was exercising his right of appeal to the people, the praetor Quintus Caecilius Metellus Celer adjourned the assembly by taking down the military flag from the Janiculum hill. Labienus could have resumed the prosecution at a later session, but did not do so: Caesar's point had been made, and the matter was allowed to drop. Labienus would remain an important ally of Caesar over the next decade.

The same year, Caesar ran for election to the post of Pontifex Maximus, chief priest of the Roman state religion, after the death of Quintus Caecilius Metellus Pius, who had been appointed to the post by Sulla. He ran against two powerful optimates, the former consuls Quintus Lutatius Catulus and Publius Servilius Vatia Isauricus. There were accusations of bribery by all sides. Caesar is said to have told his mother on the morning of the election that he would return as Pontifex Maximus or not at all, expecting to be forced into exile by the enormous debts he had run up to fund his campaign. In any event he won comfortably, despite his opponents' greater experience and standing, possibly because the two older men split their votes. The post came with an official residence on the Via Sacra.

When Cicero, who was consul that year, exposed Catiline's conspiracy to seize control of the republic, Catulus and others accused Caesar of involvement in the plot. Caesar, who had been elected praetor for the following year, took part in the debate in the Senate on how to deal with the conspirators. During the debate, Caesar was passed a note. Marcus Porcius Cato, who would become his most implacable political opponent, accused him of corresponding with the conspirators, and demanded that the message be read aloud. Caesar passed him the note, which, embarrassingly, turned out to be a love letter from Cato's half-sister Servilia. Caesar argued persuasively against the death penalty for the conspirators, proposing life imprisonment instead, but a speech by Cato proved decisive, and the conspirators were executed. The following year a commission was set up to investigate the conspiracy, and Caesar was again accused of complicity. On Cicero's evidence that he had reported what he knew of the plot voluntarily, however, he was cleared, and one of his accusers, and also one of the commissioners, were sent to prison.

While praetor in 62 BC, Caesar supported Metellus Celer, now tribune, in proposing controversial legislation, and the pair were so obstinate they were suspended from office by the Senate. Caesar attempted to continue to perform his duties, only giving way when violence was threatened. The Senate was persuaded to reinstate him after he quelled public demonstrations in his favour.

That year the festival of the Bona Dea ("good goddess") was held at Caesar's house. No men were permitted to attend, but a young patrician named Publius Clodius Pulcher managed to gain admittance disguised as a woman, apparently for the purpose of seducing Caesar's wife Pompeia. He was caught and prosecuted for sacrilege. Caesar gave no evidence against Clodius at his trial, careful not to offend one of the most powerful patrician families of Rome, and Clodius was acquitted after rampant bribery and intimidation. Nevertheless, Caesar divorced Pompeia, saying that "my wife ought not even to be under suspicion.

After his praetorship, Caesar was appointed to govern Hispania Ulterior (Outer Iberia), but he was still in considerable debt and needed to satisfy his creditors before he could leave. He turned to Marcus Licinius Crassus, one of Rome's richest men. In return for political support in his opposition to the interests of Pompey, Crassus paid some of Caesar's debts and acted as guarantor for others. Even so, to avoid becoming a private citizen and open to prosecution for his debts, Caesar left for his province before his praetorship had ended. In Hispania he conquered the Callaici and Lusitani, being hailed as imperator by his troops, reformed the law regarding debts, and completed his governorship in high esteem.

Being hailed as imperator entitled Caesar to a triumph. However, he also wanted to stand for consul, the most senior magistracy in the republic. If he were to celebrate a triumph, he would have to remain a soldier and stay outside the city until the ceremony, but to stand for election he would need to lay down his command and enter Rome as a private citizen. He could not do both in the time available. He asked the senate for permission to stand in absentia, but Cato blocked the proposal. Faced with the choice between a triumph and the consulship, Caesar chose the consulship.

First consulship and triumvirate

Three candidates stood for the consulship: Caesar, Marcus Calpurnius Bibulus, who had been aedile with Caesar several years earlier, and Lucius Lucceius. The election was dirty. Caesar canvassed Cicero for support, and made an alliance with the wealthy Lucceius, but the establishment threw its financial weight behind the conservative Bibulus, and even Cato, with his reputation for incorruptibility, is said to have resorted to bribery in his favour. Caesar and Bibulus were elected as consuls for 59 BC.

Caesar was already in Crassus's political debt, but he also made overtures to Pompey, who was unsuccessfully fighting the Senate for ratification of his eastern settlements and farmland for his veterans. Pompey and Crassus had been at odds since they were consuls together in 70 BC, and Caesar knew if he allied himself with one he would lose the support of the other, so he endeavoured to reconcile them. Between the three of them, they had enough money and political influence to control public business. This informal alliance, known as the First Triumvirate (rule of three men), was cemented by the marriage of Pompey to Caesar's daughter Julia. Caesar also married again, this time Calpurnia, daughter of Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus, who was elected to the consulship for the following year.

Caesar proposed a law for the redistribution of public lands to the poor, a proposal supported by Pompey, by force of arms if need be, and by Crassus, making the triumvirate public. Pompey filled the city with soldiers, and the triumvirate's opponents were intimidated. Bibulus attempted to declare the omens unfavourable and thus void the new law, but was driven from the forum by Caesar's armed supporters. His lictors had their fasces broken, two tribunes accompanying him were wounded, and Bibulus himself had a bucket of excrement thrown over him. In fear of his life, he retired to his house for the rest of the year, issuing occasional proclamations of bad omens. These attempts to obstruct Caesar's legislation proved ineffective. Roman satirists ever after referred to the year as "the consulship of Julius and Caesar".

When Caesar and Bibulus were first elected, the aristocracy tried to limit Caesar's future power by allotting the woods and pastures of Italy, rather than governorship of a province, as their proconsular duties after their year of office was over. With the help of Piso and Pompey, Caesar later had this overturned, and was instead appointed to govern Cisalpine Gaul (northern Italy) and Illyricum (the western Balkans), with Transalpine Gaul (southern France) later added, giving him command of four legions. His term of office, and thus his immunity from prosecution, was set at five years, rather than the usual one. When his consulship ended, Caesar narrowly avoided prosecution for the irregularities of his year in office, and quickly left for his province.

Conquest of Gaul

Caesar was still deeply in debt, and there was money to be made as a provincial governor, whether by extortion or by military adventurism. Caesar had four legions under his command, two of his provinces, Illyricum and Gallia Narbonensis, bordered on unconquered territory, and independent Gaul was known to be unstable. Rome's allies the Aedui had been defeated by their Gallic rivals, with the help of a contingent of Germanic Suebi under Ariovistus, who had settled in conquered Aeduan land, and the Helvetii were mobilising for a mass migration, which the Romans feared had warlike intent. Caesar raised two new legions and defeated first the Helvetii, then Ariovistus, and left his army in winter quarters in the territory of the Sequani, signaling that his interest in the lands outside Gallia Narbonensis would not be temporary.

He began his second year with double the military strength he had begun with, having raised another two legions in Cisalpine Gaul during the winter. The legality of this was dubious, as the Cisalpine Gauls were not Roman citizens. In response to Caesar's activities the previous year, the Belgic tribes of north-eastern Gaul had begun to arm themselves. Caesar treated this as an aggressive move, and, after an inconclusive engagement against a united Belgic army, conquered the tribes piecemeal. Meanwhile, one legion, commanded by Crassus' son Publius, began the conquest of the tribes of the Armorican peninsula.

During the spring of 56 BC the Triumvirate held a conference at Luca (modern Lucca) in Cisalpine Gaul. Rome was in turmoil, and Clodius' populist campaigns had been undermining relations between Crassus and Pompey. The meeting renewed the Triumvirate and extended Caesar's proconsulship for another five years. Crassus and Pompey would be consuls again, with similarly long-term proconsulships to follow: Syria for Crassus, the Hispanian provinces for Pompey. The conquest of Armorica was completed when Caesar defeated the Veneti in a naval battle, while young Crassus conquered the Aquitani of the south-west. By the end of campaigning in 56 BC only the Morini and Menapii of the coastal Low Countries still held out.

In 55 BC Caesar repelled an incursion into Gaul by the Germanic Usipetes and Tencteri, and followed it up by building a bridge across the Rhine and making a show of force in Germanic territory, before returning and dismantling the bridge. Late that summer, having subdued the Morini and Menapii, he crossed to Britain, claiming that the Britons had aided the Veneti against him the previous year. His intelligence was poor, and although he gained a beachhead on the Kent coast he was unable to advance further, and returned to Gaul for the winter. He returned the following year, better prepared and with a larger force, and achieved more. He advanced inland, establishing Mandubracius of the Trinovantes as a friendly king and bringing his rival, Cassivellaunus, to terms. But poor harvests led to widespread revolt in Gaul, led by Ambiorix of the Eburones, forcing Caesar to campaign through the winter and into the following year. With the defeat of Ambiorix, Caesar believed Gaul was now pacified.

While Caesar was in Britain his daughter Julia, Pompey's wife, had died in childbirth. Caesar tried to resecure Pompey's support by offering him his great-niece Octavia in marriage, alienating Octavia's husband Gaius Marcellus, but Pompey declined. In 53 BC Crassus was killed leading a failed invasion of Parthia. Rome was on the edge of violence. Pompey was appointed sole consul as an emergency measure, and married Cornelia, daughter of Caesar's political opponent Quintus Metellus Scipio, whom he invited to become his consular colleague once order was restored. The Triumvirate was dead.

In 52 BC another, larger revolt erupted in Gaul, led by Vercingetorix of the Arverni. Vercingetorix managed to unite the Gallic tribes and proved an astute commander, defeating Caesar in several engagements including the Battle of Gergovia, but Caesar's elaborate siege-works at the Battle of Alesia finally forced his surrender. Despite scattered outbreaks of warfare the following year, Gaul was effectively conquered.

Titus Labienus was Caesar's most senior legate during his Gallic campaigns, having the status of propraetor. Other prominent men who served under him included his relative Lucius Julius Caesar, Crassus' sons Marcus and Publius, Cicero's brother Quintus, Decimus Brutus, and Mark Antony.

Plutarch claimed that the army had fought against three million men in the course of the Gallic Wars, of whom 1 million died, and another million were enslaved. 300 tribes were subjugated and 800 cities were destroyed. Almost the entire population of the city of Avaricum (Bourges) (40,000 in all) was slaughtered. Julius Caesar reports that 368,000 of the Helvetii left home, of whom 92,000 could bear arms, and only 110,000 returned after the campaign. However, in view of the difficulty of finding accurate counts in the first place, Caesar's propagandistic purposes, and the common gross exaggeration of numbers in ancient texts, the totals of enemy combatants in particular are likely to be far too high. Furger-Gunti considers an army of more than 60,000 fighting Helvetii extremely unlikely in the view of the tactics described, and assumes the actual numbers to have been around 40,000 warriors out of a total of 160,000 emigrants. Delbrück suggests an even lower number of 100,000 people, out of which only 16,000 were fighters, which would make the Celtic force about half the size of the Roman body of ca. 30,000 men.

Military career

Historians place the generalship of Caesar as one of the greatest military strategists and tacticians who ever lived, along with Alexander the Great, Sun Tzu, Hannibal, Genghis Khan, and Napoleon Bonaparte. Caesar suffered occasional tactical defeats, such as Battle of Gergovia during the Gallic War and the Battle of Dyrrhachium during the Civil War. However, his 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 and his army's superlative engineering abilities. There was also the legendary speed with which he manoeuvred his troops; Caesar's army sometimes marched as many as a day. His Commentaries on the Gallic Wars describe how, during the siege of one Gallic city built on a very steep and high plateau, his engineers tunnelled through solid rock, found the source of the spring from which the town was drawing its water supply, and diverted it to the use of the army. The town, cut off from their water supply, capitulated at once. Caesar also used a cipher system to communicate with his generals which has now come to be known as the Caesar cipher.

Civil war

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 marginalised 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 river (the frontier boundary of Italy) with only one legion and ignited civil war. Upon crossing the Rubicon, Caesar is reported to have quoted the Athenian playwright Menander, saying alea iacta est, "the die is cast".

The Optimates, including Metellus Scipio and Cato the Younger, fled to the south, having little confidence in the newly raised troops especially since so many cities in northern Italy had voluntarily surrendered. An attempted stand by a consulate legion in Samarium resulted in the consul being handed over by the defenders and the legion surrendering without significant fighting. Despite greatly outnumbering Caesar, who only had his Thirteenth Legion with him, Pompey had no intention of fighting. Caesar pursued Pompey to Brindisium, hoping to capture Pompey before the trapped Senate and their legions could escape. Pompey managed to elude him, sailing out of the harbor before Caesar could break the barricades.

Lacking a naval force since Pompey had already scoured the coasts of all ships for evacuation of his forces, 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 as tribune, Caesar made an astonishing 27-day route-march to Hispania, rejoining two of his Gallic legions, 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 when the line of fortification was broken. 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 11 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 a former Roman officer serving in the court of King Ptolemy XIII. Caesar then became involved with the Alexandrine civil war between Ptolemy and his sister, wife, and co-regent 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 in 47 BC in the Battle of the Nile and installed Cleopatra as ruler, with whom he is suspected of fathering a son, Caesarion. Caesar and Cleopatra celebrated their victory of the Alexandrine civil war with a triumphant procession on the Nile in the spring of 47 B.C. The royal barge was accompanied by 400 additional ships, introducing Caesar to the luxurious lifestyle of the Egyptian pharaohs.

Caesar and Cleopatra never married: they could not do so under Roman Law. The institution of marriage was only recognised 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. Cleopatra visited Rome on more than one occasion, residing in Caesar's villa just outside Rome across the Tiber.

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 mocked Pompey's previous victories over such poor enemies. 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 Battle of 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

While he was still campaigning in Hispania, the Senate began bestowing honours on Caesar in absentia. Caesar had not proscribed his enemies, instead pardoning almost all, and there was no serious public opposition to him.

Great games and celebrations were held on April 21 to honour Caesar’s victory at Munda. Plutarch writes that many Romans found the triumph held following Caesar's victory to be in poor taste, as those defeated in the civil war had not been foreigners, but instead fellow Romans.

On Caesar's return to Italy in September 45 BC, 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.

Caesar tightly regulated the purchase of state-subsidised 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. The month of July is named after Julius in his honour.

The Forum of Caesar, with its Temple of Venus Genetrix, was built among many other public works.

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.

Health

Caesar may have suffered from epilepsy. He had four documented episodes of what were probably complex partial seizures. He may additionally have had absence seizures in his youth. There is family history of epilepsy amongst his ancestors and descendants. The earliest accounts of these seizures were made by the biographer Suetonius who was born after Caesar died. However, the claim of epilepsy is disputed by some historians and is countered by a claim of hypoglycemia, which sometimes causes epileptic-like seizures.

Assassination

Assassination plot

Ancient biographers describe the tension between Caesar and the Senate, and his possible claims to the title of king. These events would be the principal motive for Caesar's assassination by his political opponents in the Senate.

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 praefectus morum (prefect of morals) for three years.

The Senate named Caesar dictator perpetuo ("dictator in perpetuity"). Roman mints printed a denarius coin with this title and his profile on one side, and with an image of the goddess Ceres and Caesar's title of Augur Pontifex Maximus on the reverse. While printing the title of dictator was significant, Caesar's image was not, as it was customary to print consuls and other public officials on coins during the Republic.

According to Cassius Dio, a senatorial delegation went to inform Caesar of new honours they had bestowed upon him in 44 BC. Caesar received them while sitting in the Temple of Venus Genetrix, rather than rising to meet them. According to Dio, this was a chief excuse for the offended senators to plot his assassination. He wrote that a few of Caesar's supporters blamed his failure to rise on a sudden attack of diarrhoea, but his enemies discounted this in observing that he had walked home unaided.

Suetonius wrote that Caesar failed to rise in the temple either because he was restrained by Cornelius Balbus or that he balked at the suggestion he should rise. Suetonius also gave the account of a crowd assembled to greet Caesar upon his return to Rome. A member of the crowd placed a laurel wreath on the statue of Caesar on the Rostra. The tribunes Gaius Epidius Marcellus and Lucius Caesetius Flavius ordered that the wreath be removed as it was a symbol of Jupiter and royalty. Caesar had the tribunes censored from office through his official powers. According to Suetonius, he was unable to disassociate himself with the title of monarch from this point forward. His biographer also gives the story that a crowd shouted to him "rex", the Latin word for king. Caesar replied, "I am Caesar, not Rex", a pun on the Roman name coming from the title. Also, at the festival of the Lupercalia, while he gave a speech from the Rostra, Mark Antony, who had been elected co-consul with Caesar, attempted to place a crown on his head several times. Caesar put it aside to be used as a sacrifice to Jupiter Opitimus Maximus.

Plutarch and Suetonius are similar in their depiction of these events, but Dio combines the stories writing that the tribunes arrested the citizens who placed diadems or wreaths on statues of Caesar. He then places the crowd shouting "rex" on the Alban Hill with the tribunes arresting a member of this crowd as well. The plebeian protested that he was unable to speak his mind freely. Caesar then brought the tribunes before the senate and put the matter to a vote, thereafter removing them from office and erasing their names from the records.

Suetonius adds that Lucius Cotta proposed to the Senate that Caesar should be granted the title of "king" for it was prophesied that only a king would conquer Parthia. Caesar intended to invade Parthia, a task which would later give considerable trouble to Mark Antony during the second triumvirate. 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 other's 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 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.

Nicolaus also writes that in the days leading up to the assassination, Caesar was told by doctors, friends, and even his wife, Calpurnia, not to attend the Senate on the Ides for various reasons, including medical concerns and troubling dreams had by Calpurnia:

...his friends were alarmed at certain rumors and tried to stop him going to the Senate-house, as did his doctors, for he was suffering from one of his occasional dizzy spells. His wife, Calpurnia, especially, who was frightened by some visions in her dreams, clung to him and said that she would not let him go out that day. But Brutus, one of the conspirators who was then thought of as a firm friend, came up and said, 'What is this, Caesar? Are you a man to pay attention to a woman's dreams and the idle gossip of stupid men, and to insult the Senate by not going out, although it has honored you and has been specially summoned by you? But listen to me, cast aside the forebodings of all these people, and come. The Senate has been in session waiting for you since early this morning.' This swayed Caesar and he left.

Caesar planned to leave Rome for the East in the latter half of March, which forced a timetable onto the conspirators. Two days before the actual assassination, Cassius met with the conspirators and told them that, should anyone discover the plan, they were to turn their knives on themselves.

Assassination

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 Liberator 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, located in the Campus Martius, and directed him to a room adjoining the east portico.

As Caesar began to read the false petition, Tillius Cimber, who had handed him the petition, pulled down Caesar's tunic. While Caesar was crying to Cimber "But that is violence!" ("iste quidem vis#Latin sum#Latin!"), the aforementioned Casca produced his dagger and made a glancing thrust at the dictator's neck. Caesar turned around quickly and caught Casca by the arm, saying in Latin "Casca, you villain, what are you doing? Casca, frightened, shouted "Help, brother" in Greek ("ἀδελφέ, βοήθει!", "adelphe, 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 continued stabbing him as he lay defenseless on the lower steps of the portico. According to Eutropius, around sixty or more men participated in the assassination. He was stabbed 23 times. According to Suetonius, a physician later established that only one wound, the second one to his chest, had been lethal.

The dictator's last words are not known with certainty, and are a contested subject among scholars and historians alike. The version best known in the English-speaking world is the Latin phrase Et tu, Brute? ("even you, Brutus?" or "you too, Brutus?"); this derives from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, where it actually forms the first half of a macaronic line: "Et tu, Brute? Then fall, Caesar." Shakespeare's version evidently follows in the tradition of the Roman historian Suetonius, who reports that Caesar's last words were the Greek phrase "καὶ σύ, τέκνον; (transliterated as "Kai su, teknon?": "You too, child?" in English). Plutarch, on the other hand, reports that Caesar said nothing, pulling his toga over his head when he saw Brutus among the conspirators.

According to Plutarch, after the assassination, Brutus stepped forward as if to say something to his fellow senators; they, however, fled the building. Brutus and his companions then marched to the Capitol while crying out to their beloved city: "People of Rome, we are once again free!". They were met with silence, as the citizens of Rome had locked themselves inside their houses as soon as the rumour of what had taken place had begun to spread.

A wax statue of Caesar was erected in the forum displaying the 23 stab wounds. A crowd who had amassed there started a fire, which badly damaged the forum and neighboring buildings. In the ensuing chaos Mark Antony, Octavian (later Augustus Caesar), and others fought a series of five civil wars, which would end in the formation of the Roman Empire.

Aftermath of the assassination

The result unforeseen by the assassins was that Caesar's death precipitated the end of the Roman Republic. The Roman middle and lower classes, with whom Caesar was immensely popular and had been since before Gaul, became 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, capitalised 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, to his surprise and chagrin, Caesar had named his grandnephew Gaius Octavian his sole heir, bequeathing him the immensely potent Caesar name as well as making him one of the wealthiest citizens in the Republic. Gaius Octavian became, for all intents and purposes, the son of the great Caesar, and consequently also inherited the loyalty of much of the Roman populace. Octavian, aged only 19 at the time of Caesar's death, proved to have considerable political skills, and while Antony dealt with Decimus Brutus in the first round of the new civil wars, Octavian consolidated his tenuous position.

In order to combat Brutus and Cassius, who were massing an enormous army in Greece, Antony needed soldiers, the cash from Caesar's war chests, and the legitimacy that Caesar's name would provide for any action he took against the two. A new Triumvirate was therefore formed (the second and final one), comprising Antony, Octavian, and Caesar's loyal cavalry commander Lepidus. They formally deified Caesar as Divus Iulius in 42 BC, and Caesar Octavian henceforth became Divi filius ("Son of a god"). Seeing that Caesar's clemency had resulted in his murder, the Second Triumvirate brought back the horror of proscription, abandoned since Sulla. It committed legalized murder upon its opponents in large numbers in order to seize even more funds for the second civil war against Brutus and Cassius. Antony and Octavius defeated them at Philippi.

Afterward, Mark Antony married Caesar's lover, Cleopatra, intending to use the fabulously wealthy Egypt as a base to dominate Rome. A third civil war broke out between Octavian on one hand and Antony and Cleopatra on the other. This final civil war, culminating in the latter's defeat at Actium, resulted in the permanent ascendancy of Octavian, who became the first Roman emperor, under the name Caesar Augustus.

Julius Caesar had been preparing to invade Parthia, the Caucasus and Scythia, and then swing back onto Germania through Eastern Europe. These plans were thwarted by his assassination. His successors did attempt the conquests of Parthia and Germania, but without lasting results.

Literary works

Caesar was considered during his lifetime to be one of the best 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.

Memoirs

Other works historically attributed to Caesar, but whose authorship is doubted, are:

These narratives were written and published on a yearly basis during or just after the actual campaigns, as a sort of "dispatches from the front". Apparently simple and direct in style—to the point that Caesar's Commentarii are commonly studied by first and second year Latin students—they are in fact highly sophisticated and subtly slanted advertisements for his political agenda, aimed most particularly at the middle-brow readership of minor aristocrats in Rome, Italy, and the provinces.

Name

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 . 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. This German name was phonemically but not phonetically derived from the Middle Ages Ecclesiastical Latin, in which the familiar part "Caesar" is [ˈtʃeːsar], from which the modern English pronunciation is derived, as well as the title of Tsar. His name is also remembered in Norse mythology, where he is manifested as the legendary king Kjárr.

Family

Parents

Sisters

Wives

  • First marriage to Cornelia Cinnilla, from 83 BC until her death in childbirth in 69 or 68 BC
  • Second marriage to Pompeia, from 67 BC until he divorced her around 61 BC
  • Third marriage to Calpurnia Pisonis, from 59 BC until Caesar's death

Children

  • Julia with Cornelia Cinnilla, born in 83 or 82 BC
  • Caesarion, with Cleopatra VII, born 47 BC. He would become Pharaoh with the name Ptolemy Caesar and was killed at age 17 by Caesar's adopted son Octavian
  • Adopted: son, Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus (his great-nephew by blood), who later became Emperor Augustus.
  • Marcus Junius Brutus: The historian Plutarch notes that Caesar believed Brutus to have been his illegitimate son, as his mother Servilia had been Caesar's lover during their youth.

Grandchildren

  • Grandson from Julia and Pompey, dead at several days, unnamed.

Lovers

Notable relatives

Political rivals and rumours of homosexual activity

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." According to Cicero, Bibulus, Gaius Memmius, and others (mainly Caesar's enemies), he had an affair with Nicomedes IV of Bithynia early in his career. The tales were repeated, referring to Caesar as the Queen of Bithynia, 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. This form of slander was popular during this time in the Roman Republic to demean and discredit political opponents. A favorite tactic used by the opposition was to accuse a popular political rival as living a Hellenistic lifestyle based on Greek & Eastern culture, where homosexuality and a lavish lifestyle were more acceptable than the conservative traditions of the Romans.

Catullus wrote two poems suggesting that Caesar and his engineer Mamurra were lovers, but later apologised.

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.

Chronology of his life

Honours

As a young man he was awarded the Corona Civica (civic crown) for valour while fighting in Asia Minor and went on to receive 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 man to be awarded so many honours.

He was voted the title Divus ("god") after his death. He was included as one of the Nine Worthies by Jacques de Longuyon in his Voeux du Paon (1312). These were nine historical, scriptural, mythological or semi-legendary figures who, in the Middle Ages, were believed to personify the ideals of chivalry.

Caesar's cognomen would become a title; it was greatly promulgated by the Bible, by the famous verse "Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s". 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 at least one head of state bearing his name.

Depictions

For the marble bust from Arles discovered in 2007-8 alleged to be Caesar's likeness, and the ensuing controversy, see Arles portrait bust.

References

Primary sources

Own writings

Ancient historians' writings

Secondary sources

External links

Succession table

Note on Imperator "honor" and title. In the Roman Republic, imperator was the title assumed by certain military commanders. After an especially great victory, an army's troops in the field would proclaim their commander imperator, an acclamation necessary for a general to apply to the Senate for a triumph. After being acclaimed imperator, the victorious general had a right to use the title after his name until the time of his triumph, where he would relinquish the title as well as his imperium.

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