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Home : Biography : Historical Figures : Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar

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Julius Caesar

Julius Caesar was a strong leader for the Romans who changed the course of the history of the Greco - Roman world decisively and irreversibly. With his courage and strength he created a strong empire . What happened during his early political career? How did he become such a strong dictator of the Roman Empire? What events led up to the making of the first triumvirate? How did he rise over the other two in the triumvirate and why did he choose to take over? What happened during his reign as dictator of Rome? What events led up to the assassination of Caesar? What happened after he was killed? Caesar was a major part of the Roman Empire because of his strength and his strong war strategies.

Julius Caesar was a Roman general and statesman whose dictatorship was pivotal in Rome's transition from republic to empire. When he was young Caesar lived through one of the most horrifying decades in the history of the city of Rome. The city was assaulted twice and captured by Roman armies, first in 87 BC by the leaders of the populares, his uncle Marius and Cinna. Cinna was killed the year that Caesar had married Cinna's daughter Cornelia. The second attack upon the city was carried our by Marius' enemy Sulla, leader of the optimates, in 82 BC on the latter's return from the East. On each occasion the massacre of political opponents was followed by the confiscation of their property. The proscriptions of Sulla, which preceded the reactionary political legislation enacted during his dictatorship left a particularly bitter memory that long survived.

Caesar left Rome for the province of Asia on the condition that he divorce his wife because Sulla would only allow him to leave on that condition. When he heard the news that Sulla had been killed he returned to Rome. He studied rhetoric under the distinguished teacher Molon.

In the winter of 75-74 BC Caesar was captured by pirated and, while in their custody awaiting the arrival of the ransom money which they demanded, threatened them with crucifixion , a threat which he fulfilled immediately after his release. He then returned to Rome to engage in a normal political career, starting with the quaetorship which he served in 69-68 BC in the province of Further Spain.

In the Roman political world of the sixties the dominance of the optimates was challenged by Pompey and Crassus. The optimates, led by Quintus Lutatius Catulus and Lucius Licinius Lucullus , were chiefly men whose careers had been made by Sulla. Pompey and Crassus were consuls in 70 BC and had rescinded the most offensively reactionary measures of Sulla's legislation. During Pompey's absence from 67 to 62 BC during his campaigns against the Mediterranean pirates, Mithridates, and Crassus, his jealous rival. Caesar married Ponpeia after Cornelia's death and was appointed aedile in 65 BC As aedile , Caesar returned to Marius' trophies to their former place of honor in the Capitol, thus laying claim to leadership of the populares.

When Caesar was a praetor, he supported a tribune who wanted Pompey recalled to restore order in Rome. As a result, Caesar was suspended from office for a period and antagonized Catulus. Before leaving Rome to govern Further Spain for a year, Caesar divorced his wife Pompeia because of the allegation that she had been implicated in the offense of Publius Clodius. The latter was then awaiting trial for breaking into Caesar's house the previous December disguised as a woman at the festival of the Bona Dea, which no man is allowed to attend.

After his return from a successful year administrating Spain Caesar was elected consul for 59 BC through political alliance with Pompey and Crassus . This alliance was called the first triumvirate. Caesar's purpose was to gain a big military command. Pompey for his part sought the ratification of his Eastern settlement and land allotments for his discharged troops. Crassus sought a revision of the contract for collecting taxes in the province of Asia. An agrarian bill authorizing the purchase of land for Pompey's veterans was passed in January of 59 BC at a disorderly public assembly which Caesar's fellow consul Calpurnius Bibulus, was thrown from the platform and his consular insignia were broken. Bibulus tried to stop Caesar and his supporters from passing any further law but was only able to postpone the creation of the new laws by saying that the skies would not permit it because there was stormy weather and they were very superstitious. Caesar disregarded Bibulus' behavior and the remainder of the legislative program of the triumvirate was carried through. As a result of this action Caesar and his friends incurred bitter attacks. Their political opponents continued to claim that the whole of the legislation was unconstitutional and invalid.

Caesar had secured for five years the governorship of three provinces. The provinces were Cisalpine Gaul , Transalpine Gaul , and Illyricum . He left Rome and remained in Gaul until his invasion of Italy. He continued north of the Alps each summer and he would leave his army there in garrison each winter while he came south to conduct the civil administration of Cisalpine Gaul and Illyricum and to keep in contact with Rome.

Caesar became determined to conquer and make a province of the whole 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 that the task had all but been accomplished. Caesar decided to make two short reconnaissance expeditions, one across the Rhine. and the other across the Straits of Dover to Britain. In a longer and more serious invasion of Britain he crossed the Thames and received the submission of the supreme commander of the southeastern Britons, Cassivellaunus.

Caesar had avoided recall to Rome at the end of the five years of command voted to him by coming to a fresh agreement with Pompey and Crassus at Luca. The optimates in control of the senate, now awake to the immense increase in Caesar's personal power, wealth, and prestige, kept Pompey in Italy, allowing him to govern his Spanish provinces by deputies. Pompey's own attachment to Caesar was broken when Caesar's daughter Julia to whom Pompey had been happily married since 59 BC died in 54 BC Crassus was killed by the Parthians at Carrhae in Mesopotamia. In planning Caesar's return to civil life in Rome he could assume that as soon as he lost the immunity from prosecution which his military command conferred, his political enemies would endeavor to secure his exile by prosecuting him in the courts either for bribery or for the use of force in politics. In Rome there was support in the senate for a negotiated compromise when Curio put forth the proposal by which Caesar would give up his military command and stand in person at the consular election on condition that Pompey abandon his military command at the same time. On January 7, 49 BC Antony and one of his fellow tribunes were warned that their lives would be in danger if they sustained their veto and the proclamation of military law was passed. Caesar was told to leave his troops behind and cross the Rubicon into Rome alone. Caesar knew that this was a death sentence for him so he did not leave his troops but marched into the city and caused a civil war. He defeated Pompey's troops in many battles and became the dictator of Rome.

From the time that he had first faced battle in Gaul and discovered his own military genius, Caesar was evidently fascinated and obsessed by military and imperial problems. He gave them an absolute priority over the more delicate by no less fundamental task of revising the Roman constitution. The need in the latter sphere was a solution which would introduce such elements of authoritarianism as were necessary to check corruption and administrative weakness.

Caesar's first dictatorship was simply a commission to enable him to hold elections in the absence of the consuls of the year who were with Pompey, but after the news of Pharsalus, Caesar was created dictator again; after Tapsus he was made dictator for ten years and in the winter of 45 BC he was appointed perpetual dictator.

When Caesar was out of Italy after 49 BC real power lay in the hands of his representatives. When he was dictator the most important of these representatives was his "master of the horse". This representative was Mark Antony. Much resentment was felt by prominent senators like Cicero on account of the great power and influence of such against of Caesar. Caesar's military dominance was established beyond the possibility of successful challenge, the senate gave him a profusion of personal honors which were out of keeping with Roman tradition, reflecting as they did the extravagant distinctions accorded earlier to the Hellenistic kings. The month of July was named after Caesar and his statue was placed in the temple of Quirinus.

Caesar was considered to be a dictator for life. According to the traditional Republican constitution this office was only to be held for six months during a dire emergency. Caesar also obtained honors to increase his prestige. He wore the robe, crown, and scepter of a triumphant general and used the title imperator. He was also in command of the armies. Caesar used his dictatorship and used it to increase his power. With all of his powers he was pretty much the king of Rome. Mark Antony was his major supporter and he helped convince the others to allow Caesar to have these abilities, but it led to some problems.

A group of conspirators had been formed against Caesar because they felt that he had too much power and that if he became the king of Rome he would become corrupt and use his powers to create a bad society. The senate resented his actual position that was shown in the sixty member conspiracy which Marcus Brutus had organized to kill him. On the Ides of March , two days before he was due to leave Rome on his great eastern expedition, he was stabbed to death at a meeting of the senate in Pompey's new theater. He fell dead at the foot of Pompey's statue. Pompey was avenged, as well as Bibulus and Cato. After a provocative funeral oration by Mark Antony, Caesar's body was burned by the mob in the forum. When at the games in his honor the following July a comet appeared and it was regarded as evidence of his godhead and he was formally consecrated and "divus Julius," or divine Julius. Octavius, whose name became Caesar Octavianus after his adoption by Caesar's will, solved, by his creation of the Roman principate, the constitutional problem that Caesar failed to solve.

Caesar had started as a consul and had formed the first triumvirate with Crassus and Pompey. They had taken over the Roman civilization and had controlled for a while. When Crassus was killed and agreement was made. Pompey and Caesar were supposed to give up their military and enter the city of Rome to find a real ruler. Pompey was in on the deal and he was supposed to take over. Caesar knew that if he entered the city of Rome without his troops he would be killed by Pompey and so he crossed the Rubicon with his troops and attacked Rome. He took over as a dictator for life and gained a lot of power. He was able to run a strong military and even though he was considered only a dictator he wrote laws that actually made him have the same powers as a king. The conspirators saw the problem that had arisen and so they planned the murder of Caesar on the Ides of March. Caesar was killed and there was another triumvirate formed. Caesar was a strong military leader that had showed strength and courage to take over the town and he was able to form a civilization that was strong militarily and politically.



 

 



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