Gaius Julius Caesar, c.100-44 B.C.
Gaius Julius Caesar (the name Caesar means leader), was the son of a Roman praetor. His aunt was the wife of Marius, and in 83 B.C., Caesar married Cornelia, the daughter of Cinna. Elected pontifex in in 74, Caesar became the leader of the party in overthrowing Sulla's constitution (70). After a year in Spain as quaestor, he married Pompeia, a relative of Pompey. In 65, as curule aedile, he spent huge amounts of money on games and public building and subsequently became pontifex maximus and praetor. In 61 he obtained the province of Hispania Ulterior and on his return was elected consul. He then reconciled with Pompey and Crassus and together they formed the First Triumvirate in 60 B.C. Caesar gave Pompey his daughter Julia in marriage while he married Calpurnia. Then he obtained the provinces of Gallia Cisalpina, Gallia Transalpina, Illyricum and ultimately Gaul (58), thus completing the subjugation of the west to Rome. He drove invading Germanic tribes across the Rhine and then, in 55, invaded Britain. In the meantime, Crassus had fallen in Asia (53) and Pompey had gone over to the aristocrats. The Senate called upon Caesar, who was now in Cisalpine Gaul, to resign his command and disband his army. Pompey was thus entrusted with power. Caesar crossed the Rubicon and moved southwards to Rome. Pompey fled first to Brundusium and then to Greece. In 49 B.C., Caesar became master of all Italy. Caesar was appointed dictator. meanwhile, Pompey built a huge army in Egypt, Greece and the East. Caesar and Pompey met at Dyrrhachium. In the second battle at Pharsalia (48 B.C.), Pompey's army was destroyed -- Pompey fled to Egypt, where he was murdered.
Caesar was appointed dictator for another year and consul for five years but instead of returning to Rome, went to Egypt and to Cleopatra, who bore him a son. He overthrew a son of Mithridates in Pontus and after a short stay in Rome, routed Scipio and Cato at Thapsus (46) in Africa. After victories in Gaul, Egypt, Pontus and Africa, he still had to quell an insurrection in Spain by Pompey's sons. He now received the title of pater patriae (father of the country), and also of imperator, was made dictator for life, and consul for ten years. His person was declared sacred and divine. His statue was placed in temples, his portrait was struck on the coinage and the month Quintilis was called Julius in his honor. He proposed to make a digest of all Roman law, to build libraries, drain the Pontine marshes, to dig a canal through the isthmus of Corinth and to terminate the movement of barbarian tribes on the eastern frontier.
In the midst of this ambitious program, he was assassinated on March 15, 44 B.C. (the Ides of March). The motive of the sixty conspirators, headed by Brutus and Cassius, was that Caesar was aiming at the creation of a hereditary monarchy.
As a general and a statesman, Caesar has clearly earned his place in world history. With the exception of Cicero, he was the greatest orator of his time. As a historian, he has rarely been surpassed in simplicity, directness and dignity. A man of many talents, Caesar was a mathematician, philologist, jurist and architect. The main outcome of his illustrious career was the transformation of Rome from a Republic to an Empire.
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copyright © 2000 Steven Kreis