Caesar, Gaius Julius
100? B.C.- 44 B.C.
Political Leader, Roman General, Lover of the Peopleby Rit Nosotro First Published:: 2003
All three titles could be used to describe Julius Caesar. He was a “great
man” by worldly standards. He made many reforms and helped to end the
Gaius Julius Caesar (100? -44 B.C.) was born to a patrician family in Rome. At age 17, he married Cornelia, the daughter of Lucius Cornelius Cinna. Caesar and Cornelia had a daughter, Julia. Sadly, however, in 68 B.C. Cornelia died. In 65 B.C., Caesar became increasingly interested in public affairs and tried to gain favor with the people. When he was elected to the office of aedile, he went deeply into debt trying to provide recreational activities for the people. In 62 B.C. he was elected to praetor, which is second to consul, the highest position in Rome.
In 60 B.C. Caesar allied himself with Marcus Licinius Crassus and Gnaeus Pompey
in the First Triumvirate, a very powerful alliance in Rome. Through violent
and under-handed means the alliance succeeded in having Caesar elected to consul
in 59 B.C. Caesar also tried to pass laws to give more power to the Triumvirate.
Later that year Caesar married Calpumia, daughter of Lucius Piso and Pompey
married Caesar's daughter Julia.
Hungry for more power, Caesar raised an army of 50,000 men and began conquering Gaul (France). Throughout the entire nine-year campaign he was defeated only twice, which showed his military genius. He also conquered land east of the Rhine River and marched into the Rhine to drive out the Germans. He successfully invaded Britain twice, in 55 and 54 B.C. as well.
Although, many were ecstatic at Caesar's grand accomplishments there were some who were suspicious of Caesar, for they thought Caesar would try to make himself king. In 49 B.C. the Senate ordered Caesar to disband his army and return to Rome. But Caesar did not want to give up his army rendering himself defenseless. So he marched his army across the Rubicon River, which separated his territories with Rome's territories, in defiance to the Senate, forcing supporters of Pompey to flee the city. This hostile act enacted the Roman civil war. Within 60 days Caesar was the ruler of Italy. He had himself appointed dictator and consul. In 48 B.C. He defeated the forces of Pompey in Greece and pursued him to Egypt when he learned that his enemy was murdered. Caesar then met and fell in love with Cleopatra. However, he later found out, that even though Pompey was dead his forces were reorganizing. Both armies fought on several occasions and finally in Munda, Spain he defeated the sons of Pompey in 45 B.C. This was his last battle. The people honored Caesar by making him dictator for 10 years. Eventually, he was made dictator for life. Then, at a public festivity, Mark Antony offered him kingship, but, because Romans hated kings he refused.
Even though Caesar refused kingship many still believed that he would try to make himself king. So Marcus, Junius, Brutus, and Gaius Cassius led a group of aristocrats and assassinated Caesar as he entered the Senate. He died on the Ides of March (March 15, 44 B.C.)
Caesar’s death marked the end of the republic and the beginning of one of the largest civil wars the Roman Empire had to endure. After his death, Caesar’s heir, Octavius and Mark Antony combined forces and defeated Brutus’s and Cassius’s forces. That was the end of Caesar’s enemies. Mark Antony, however, betrayed Octavius and started a war with him. In 31 B.C. Octavius defeated him in the final encounter in the Battle of Actium. Octavius was now fully established and he proceeded to Rome where the Senate made him emperor in 27 B.C. That was the end of the republic and the beginning of the “Imperators”.
Julius Caesar wisely used the power he won. He tried to eliminate the dishonest practices in the government. He restarted the calendar, which was inaccurate, and improved it. He established a plan for reorganizing the government. He gave the poor an option to start fresh by establishing colonies. He formed libraries and diluted the power of the corrupt Senate. Gaius Julius Caesar was an honorable man but he hurt Roman pride by treating the Senate as an adviser rather than a powerful body. He was a talented man and ranked 2nd to Cicero in oratory.
Although, Caesar gave the citizens much money and land, he was also very shrewd and did not hesitate to use violence to attain more power. He was not faithful to his wife and power seemed to be his god. Caesar was a brilliant man but not a brilliant example of a God fearing gentile.
Sources:Gruen, S. Erich "Julius Caesar" World Book 2001 ed.
Rogora, Bernardo. The Romans Barrons .Educational Series Inc. 1999