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This was a difficult task for even the ablest and most gifted noble unless he was backed by substantial family wealth and influence.

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One of the perquisites of the praetorship and the consulship was the government of a province , which gave ample opportunity for plunder. Military manpower was supplied by the Roman peasantry.

This class had been partly dispossessed by an economic revolution following on the devastation caused by the Second Punic War. The Roman governing class had consequently come to be hated and discredited at home and abroad. From bce onward there had been a series of alternate revolutionary and counter-revolutionary paroxysms. It was evident that the misgovernment of the Roman state and the Greco-Roman world by the Roman nobility could not continue indefinitely and it was fairly clear that the most probable alternative was some form of military dictatorship backed by dispossessed Italian peasants who had turned to long-term military service.

The traditional competition among members of the Roman nobility for office and the spoils of office was thus threatening to turn into a desperate race for seizing autocratic power. The Julii Caesares did not seem to be in the running.

The first triumvirate and the conquest of Gaul

Gaius Julius Caesar known by his nomen and cognomen Julius Caesar, was a Roman dictator, politician, military general, and historian who played a critical. Caesar is a title of imperial character. It derives from the cognomen of Julius Caesar, the Roman dictator. The change from being a familial name to a title.

Whoever had been consul in this critical year would have had to initiate such legislation, whatever his personal political predilections. There is evidence, however, that the Julii Caesares, though patricians, had already committed themselves to the antinobility party. An aunt of the future dictator had married Gaius Marius , a self-made man novus homo who had forced his way up to the summit by his military ability and had made the momentous innovation of recruiting his armies from the dispossessed peasants.

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The day was July 12 or 13; the traditional and perhaps most probable year is bce ; but if this date is correct, Caesar must have held each of his offices two years in advance of the legal minimum age. His father, Gaius Caesar, died when Caesar was but 16; his mother, Aurelia, was a notable woman, and it seems certain that he owed much to her.

In spite of the inadequacy of his resources, Caesar seems to have chosen a political career as a matter of course. From the beginning, he probably privately aimed at winning office, not just for the sake of the honours but in order to achieve the power to put the misgoverned Roman state and Greco-Roman world into better order in accordance with ideas of his own.

It is improbable that Caesar deliberately sought monarchical power until after he had crossed the Rubicon in 49 bce , though sufficient power to impose his will, as he was determined to do, proved to mean monarchical power. In 83 bce Lucius Cornelius Sulla returned to Italy from the East and led the successful counter-revolution of 83—82 bce ; Sulla then ordered Caesar to divorce Cornelia. Caesar refused and came close to losing not only his property such as it was but his life as well.

He found it advisable to remove himself from Italy and to do military service, first in the province of Asia and then in Cilicia. His first target, Gnaeus Cornelius Dolabella, was defended by Quintus Hortensius , the leading advocate of the day, and was acquitted by the extortion-court jury, composed exclusively of senators. Caesar then went to Rhodes to study oratory under a famous professor, Molon. En route he was captured by pirates one of the symptoms of the anarchy into which the Roman nobility had allowed the Mediterranean world to fall.

Caesar raised his ransom, raised a naval force , captured his captors, and had them crucified—all this as a private individual holding no public office. In his absence from Rome, Caesar was made a member of the politico-ecclesiastical college of pontifices ; and on his return he gained one of the elective military tribuneships. In 69 or 68 bce Caesar was elected quaestor the first rung on the Roman political ladder.

In public funeral orations in their honour, Caesar found opportunities for praising Cinna and Marius. Caesar afterward married Pompeia, a distant relative of Pompey. Caesar served his quaestorship in the province of Farther Spain modern Andalusia and Portugal. Caesar was elected one of the curule aediles for 65 bce , and he celebrated his tenure of this office by unusually lavish expenditure with borrowed money. He was elected pontifex maximus in 63 bce by a political dodge. By now he had become a controversial political figure.

It seems unlikely that either of them had committed himself to Catiline; but Caesar proposed in the Senate a more merciful alternative to the death penalty , which the consul Cicero was asking for the arrested conspirators. Caesar was elected a praetor for 62 bce.

Caesar consequently divorced Pompeia. He obtained the governorship of Farther Spain for 61—60 bce. His creditors did not let him leave Rome until Crassus had gone bail for a quarter of his debts; but a military expedition beyond the northwest frontier of his province enabled Caesar to win loot for himself as well as for his soldiers, with a balance left over for the treasury.

This partial financial recovery enabled him, after his return to Rome in 60 bce , to stand for the consulship for 59 bce. The value of the consulship lay in the lucrative provincial governorship to which it would normally lead. On the eve of the consular elections for 59 bce , the Senate sought to allot to the two future consuls for 59 bce , as their proconsular provinces, the unprofitable supervision of forests and cattle trails in Italy.

The Senate also secured by massive bribery the election of an anti-Caesarean, Marcus Calpurnius Bibulus. Caesar now succeeded in organizing an irresistible coalition of political bosses. Pompey had carried out his mission to put the East in order with notable success, but after his return to Italy and his disbandment of his army in 62 bce , the Senate had thwarted him—particularly by preventing him from securing land allotments for his veterans.

Only Caesar, on good terms with both, was in a position to reconcile them. Caesar married Calpurnia, daughter of Lucius Piso, who became consul in 58 bce. Caesar himself initiated a noncontroversial and much-needed act for punishing misconduct by governors of provinces. His tenure was to last until February 28, 54 bce. Between 58 and 50 bce , Caesar conquered the rest of Gaul up to the left bank of the Rhine and subjugated it so effectively that it remained passive under Roman rule throughout the Roman civil wars between 49 and 31 bce.

This achievement was all the more amazing in light of the fact that the Romans did not possess any great superiority in military equipment over the north European barbarians. Indeed, the Gallic cavalry was probably superior to the Roman, horseman for horseman. In Gaul, Rome also had the advantage of being able to deal separately with dozens of relatively small, independent, and uncooperative states. Caesar conquered these piecemeal, and the concerted attempt made by a number of them in 52 bce to shake off the Roman yoke came too late.

He was acquiring the military manpower, the plunder, and the prestige that he needed to secure a free hand for the prosecution of the task of reorganizing the Roman state and the rest of the Greco-Roman world. In 58 bce Caesar intervened beyond this line, first to drive back the Helvetii , who had been migrating westward from their home in what is now central Switzerland.

He then crushed Ariovistus, a German soldier of fortune from beyond the Rhine. In 57 bce Caesar subdued the distant and warlike Belgic group of Gallic peoples in the north, while his lieutenant Publius Licinius Crassus subdued what are now the regions of Normandy and Brittany. In 56 bce the Veneti , in what is now southern Brittany, started a revolt in the northwest that was supported by the still unconquered Morini on the Gallic coast of the Strait of Dover and the Menapii along the south bank of the lower Rhine.

Caesar reconquered the Veneti with some difficulty and treated them barbarously. He could not finish off the conquest of the Morini and Menapii before the end of the campaigning season of 56 bce ; and in the winter of 56—55 bce the Menapii were temporarily expelled from their home by two immigrant German peoples, the Usipetes and Tencteri.

These peoples were exterminated by Caesar in 55 bce. In the same year he bridged the Rhine just below Koblenz to raid Germany on the other side of the river, and then crossed the Channel to raid Britain. In 54 bce he raided Britain again and subdued a serious revolt in northeastern Gaul. In 53 bce he subdued further revolts in Gaul and bridged the Rhine again for a second raid. The peoples of central Gaul found a national leader in the Arvernian Vercingetorix.

They planned to cut off the Roman forces from Caesar, who had been wintering on the other side of the Alps. They even attempted to invade the western end of the old Roman province of Gallia Transalpina. The Bituriges insisted on standing siege in their town Avaricum Bourges , and Vercingetorix was unable to save it from being taken by storm within one month.

Ancient Rome

Caesar then besieged Vercingetorix in Gergovia near modern Clermont-Ferrand. A Roman attempt to storm Gergovia was repulsed and resulted in heavy Roman losses—the first outright defeat that Caesar had suffered in Gaul. Caesar then defeated an attack on the Roman army on the march and was thus able to besiege Vercingetorix in Alesia , to the northwest of Dijon.

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Alesia, like Gergovia, was a position of great natural strength, and a large Gallic army came to relieve it; but this army was repulsed and dispersed by Caesar, and Vercingetorix then capitulated. During the winter of 52—51 bce and the campaigning season of 51 bce , Caesar crushed a number of sporadic further revolts. The most determined of these rebels were the Bellovaci , between the Rivers Seine and Somme , around Beauvais. He spent the year 50 bce in organizing the newly conquered territory.

After that, he was ready to settle his accounts with his opponents at home. During his conquest of Gaul, Caesar had been equally busy in preserving and improving his position at home. He used part of his growing wealth from Gallic loot to hire political agents in Rome. Meanwhile the cohesion of the triumvirate had been placed under strain.

Pompey had soon become restive toward his alarmingly successful ally Caesar, as had Crassus toward his old enemy Pompey. These laws were duly passed. The issue was whether there should or should not be an interval between the date at which Caesar was to resign his provincial governorships and, therewith, the command over his armies and the date at which he would enter his proposed second consulship. If there were to be an interval, Caesar would be a private person during that time, vulnerable to attack by his enemies; if prosecuted and convicted, he would be ruined politically and might possibly lose his life.

Caesar had to make sure that, until his entry on his second consulship, he should continue to hold at least one province with the military force to guarantee his security. This issue had already been the object of a series of political manoeuvres and countermanoeuvres at Rome. The dates on which the issue turned are all in doubt. In 52 bce , a year in which Pompey was elected sole consul and given a five-year provincial command in Spain , Caesar was allowed by a law sponsored by all 10 tribunes to stand for the consulship in absentia. If he were to stand in 49 bce for the consulship for 48 bce , he would be out of office, and therefore in danger, during the last 10 months of 49 bce.

As a safeguard for Caesar against this, there seems to have been an understanding—possibly a private one at Luca in 56 bce between him and Pompey—that the question of a successor to Caesar in his commands should not be raised in the Senate before March 1, 50 bce. This manoeuvre would have ensured that Caesar would retain his commands until the end of 49 bce. However, the question of replacing Caesar was actually raised in the Senate a number of times from 51 bce onward; each time Caesar had the dangerous proposals vetoed by tribunes of the plebs who were his agents—particularly Gaius Scribonius Curio in 50 bce and Mark Antony in 49 bce.

The issue was brought to a head by one of the consuls for 50 bce , Gaius Claudius Marcellus. He obtained resolutions from the Senate that Caesar should lay down his command presumably at its terminal date but that Pompey should not lay down his command simultaneously. Curio then obtained on December 1, 50 bce , a resolution by votes to 22 that both men should lay down their commands simultaneously.

Next day Marcellus without authorization from the Senate offered the command over all troops in Italy to Pompey, together with the power to raise more; and Pompey accepted.

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On January 1, 49 bce , the Senate received from Caesar a proposal that he and Pompey should lay down their commands simultaneously. On January 10—11, 49 bce , Caesar led his troops across the little river Rubicon , the boundary between his province of Cisalpine Gaul and Italy proper. He thus committed the first act of war. This was not, however, the heart of the matter. The actual question of substance was whether the misgovernment of the Greco-Roman world by the Roman nobility should be allowed to continue or whether it should be replaced by an autocratic regime.

Either alternative would result in a disastrous civil war. The subsequent partial recuperation of the Greco-Roman world under the principate suggests, however, that Caesarism was the lesser evil. The civil war was a tragedy, for war was not wanted either by Caesar or by Pompey or even by a considerable part of the nobility, while the bulk of the Roman citizen body ardently hoped for the preservation of peace.

By this time, however, the three parties that counted politically were all entrapped. He found that he could not extricate himself from this dilemma by reducing his demands, as he eventually did, to the absolute minimum required for his security. As for Pompey, his growing jealousy of Caesar had led him so far toward the nobility that he could not come to terms with Caesar again without loss of face.

The first bout of the civil war moved swiftly. In 49 bce Caesar drove his opponents out of Italy to the eastern side of the Straits of Otranto. Toward the end of 49 bce , he followed Pompey across the Adriatic Sea and retrieved a reverse at Dyrrachium by winning a decisive victory at Pharsalus on August 9, 48 bce. Caesar wintered in Alexandria , fighting with the populace and dallying with Queen Cleopatra.

In 47 bce he fought a brief local war in northeastern Anatolia with Pharnaces , king of the Cimmerian Bosporus , who was trying to regain Pontus , the kingdom of his father, Mithradates. Caesar then returned to Rome , but a few months later, now with the title of dictator , he left for Africa , where his opponents had rallied. In 46 he crushed their army at Thapsus and returned to Rome, only to leave in November for Farther Spain to deal with a fresh outbreak of resistance, which he crushed on March 17, 45 bce , at Munda. He then returned to Rome to start putting the Greco-Roman world in order.

Caesar had been warned of various plots on his life, but Brutus persuaded him that the Senate would be disappointed if he did not attend.

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His ally Mark Antony, similarly suspicious, tried to intervene, but he was detained outside the theatre by the plotter Servilius Casca. On his arrival, Caesar was presented with a petition by Lucius Tillius Cimber for the return of his exiled brother. When Caesar refused, Cimber manhandled Caesar, pulling down his toga. Blinded by the torrent of blood that poured from his wounds, Caesar fell on the steps of the Curia. His last words have been subject to centuries of speculation.

The conspirators headed for the Capitol but were met by a bewildered, fearful crowd, who began a destructive fire. Augustus declared his predecessor a god — Divus Iulius — the same year. Skip to main content. Google Tag Manager. The Death of Caesar.