Gaius Julius Caesar

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2016

In the terms of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Gaius Julius Caesar was undoubtedly a 'world historical figure'.
Although his  grand-nephew, Octavius - later called Augustus - is usually credited with bringing the Roman Republic to an end, it was undoubtedly Caesar who made such and event inevitable, even if it was caused primarily by his untimely death.

Gaius Julius Caesar
Gaius Julius Caesar (13 July 100 BC  – 15 March 44 BC) was a Roman statesman, general and notable author of Latin prose.
He played a critical role in the events that led to the demise of the Roman Republic and the rise of the Roman Empire.
In 60 BC, Caesar, Crassus, and Pompey formed a political alliance that was to dominate Roman politics for several years.
Their attempts to amass power through populist tactics were opposed by the conservative ruling class within the Roman Senate, among them Cato the Younger, with the frequent support of Cicero. Caesar's victories in the Gallic Wars, completed by 51 BC, extended Rome's territory to the English Channel and the Rhine.


The early career of Julius Caesar was characterized by military adventurism and political persecution.
Julius Caesar was born on July 12, 100 BC, into a patrician family, the gens Julia, which claimed descent from Iulus, son of the legendary Trojan prince Aeneas, 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, caedere, caes-).
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 favored 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. 
His father died early, 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 plebeian girl of wealthy equestrian family he had been betrothed to since boyhood, and married Cinna's daughter Cornelia.
His family status put him at odds with the Dictator Lucius Cornelius Sulla, who almost had him executed.
Feeling it much safer to be far away from Sulla should the Dictator change his mind, Caesar quit Rome and 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 rumors of an affair with the king Nicomedes arose.
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 81 BC, Sulla resigned his dictatorship, re-established consular government and, after serving as consul in 80 BC, retired to private life.
In a manner that the historian Suetonius thought arrogant, Julius Caesar would later mock Sulla for resigning the Dictatorship - "Sulla did not know his political ABC's".
He died later in 78 BC and was accorded a state funeral.

Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix (c. 138 BC – 78 BC), known commonly as Sulla, was a Roman general and statesman. He had the distinction of holding the office of consul twice, as well as reviving the dictatorship. Sulla was awarded a grass crown, the most prestigious and rarest Roman military honor, during the Social War. His life was habitually included in the ancient biographical collections of leading generals and politicians, originating in the biographical compendium of famous Romans, published by Marcus Terentius Varro. In Plutarch's Parallel Lives Sulla is paired with the Spartan general and strategist Lysander. Sulla's dictatorship came during a high point in the struggle between optimates and populares, the former seeking to maintain the power of the oligarchy in the form of the Senate while the latter resorted in many cases to naked populism, culminating in Caesar's dictatorship. Sulla was a highly original, gifted and skillful general, never losing a battle; he remains the only man in history to have attacked and occupied both Athens and Rome. His rival, Gnaeus Papirius Carbo, described Sulla as having the cunning of a fox and the courage of a lion - but that it was the former attribute that was by far the most dangerous.
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 neighbourhood 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.
Marcus Aemilius Lepidus (c. 89 or 88 BC, died late 13 or early 12 BC) was a Roman patrician who was 'triumvir' with Octavian (the future Augustus) and Mark Antony, and the last Pontifex Maximus of the Roman Republic. Lepidus had previously been a close ally of Julius Caesar. Though he was an able military commander and proved a useful partisan of Caesar, Lepidus has always been portrayed as the weakest member of the triumvirate. He typically appears as a marginalised figure in depictions of the events of the era. While some scholars have endorsed this view, others argue that the evidence is insufficient to discount the distorting effects of propaganda by his opponents, principally Cicero and, later, Augustus

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 traveled to Rhodes in 75 BC to study under Apollonius Molon, who had previously taught Cicero.At about that time, Caesar found himself captured by pirates, only to crucify his former captors after he was ransomed.
Before long he began his military career, and he served in Hispania (Roman Spain), 
Shortly after this, he was suspected, though not convicted, of involvement in the Catiline Conspiracy. 
Before long he was leaving for a governorship in Hispania, and positioning himself to be one of the most important figures in history.
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, in the spring or early summer of 69 BC, 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 realized 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 in 67 BC, he married Pompeia, a granddaughter of Sulla.
He was curator of the Appian Way in 66 BC and after taking out massive loans began a reconstruction project of the ancient road.
This was a gamble as it placed him in early debt, but allowed voters traveling to the city to see the work he had done.
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.


In 63 BC, 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.
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.

The conspiracy of Catiline

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.
Marcus Tullius Cicero (3 January 106 BC – 7 December 43 BC) was a Roman philosopher, politician, lawyer, orator, political theorist, consul, and constitutionalist. He came from a wealthy municipal family of the Roman equestrian order, and is widely considered one of Rome's greatest orators and prose stylists. During the chaotic latter half of the 1st century BC marked by civil wars and the dictatorship of Gaius Julius Caesar, Cicero championed a return to the traditional republican government. Following Julius Caesar's death Cicero became an enemy of Mark Antony in the ensuing power struggle, attacking him in a series of speeches. He was proscribed as an enemy of the state by the Second Triumvirate and consequently executed by soldiers operating on their behalf in 43 BC after having been intercepted during attempted flight from the Italian peninsula. His severed hands and head were then, as a final revenge of Mark Antony, displayed in the Roman Forum.
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.

Marcus Porcius Cato
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.
Marcus Porcius Cato Uticensis (95 BC, Rome – April 46 BC, Utica), commonly known as Cato the Younger (Cato Minor) to distinguish him from his great-grandfather (Cato the Elder), was a politician and statesman in the late Roman Republic, and a follower of the Stoic philosophy. A noted orator, he is remembered for his stubbornness and tenacity (especially in his lengthy conflict with Julius Caesar), as well as his immunity to bribes, his moral integrity, and his famous distaste for the ubiquitous corruption of the period. On Caesar's victory, unwilling to live in a world led by Caesar and refusing even implicitly to grant Caesar the power to pardon him, he committed suicide in April 46 BC. 
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.

The Praetorship

While praetor in 62 BC, Caesar supported Metellus Nepos, now tribune, in proposing controversial legislation that would recall Pompey, and his army, in order to quell the rising disorder in Italy, however, the pair were so obstinate in their proposals that they were suspended from office by the Senate.
Praetor was a title granted by the government of Ancient Rome to men acting in one of two official capacities: the commander of an army (in the field or, less often, before the army had been mustered); or, an elected magistratus (magistrate), assigned various duties (which varied at different periods in Rome's history). The functions of the magistracy, the praetura (praetorship), are described by the adjective: the praetoria potestas (praetorian power), the praetorium imperium (praetorian authority), and the praetorium ius (praetorian law), the legal precedents established by the praetores (praetors). 
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 favor.
The Bona Dea Scandal

That year (62 BC) the festival of the Bona Dea ("good goddess") was held at the domus publicus, Caesar's residence as pontifex maximus.
Bona Dea
Bona Dea was a divinity in ancient Roman religion. She was associated with chastity and fertility in women, healing, and the protection of the Roman state and people. According to Roman literary sources, she was brought from Magna Graecia at some time during the early or middle Republic, and was given her own state cult on the Aventine Hill. Her rites allowed women the use of strong wine and blood-sacrifice, things otherwise forbidden them by Roman tradition. Men were barred from her mysteries and the possession of her true name. The goddess had two annual festivals. One was held at her Aventine temple; the other was hosted by the wife of Rome's senior annual magistrate, for an invited group of elite matrons and female attendants.
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, with the famous words -  "the wife of Caesar must be above suspicion."

Governorship in Hispania

After his praetorship, Caesar was appointed to govern Hispania Ulterior (Outer Iberia) in 61 BC (remember, the dates go backwards at this period !), 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.
The Latin word imperator was originally a title roughly equivalent to 'commander' under the Roman Republic. Later it became a part of the titulature of the Roman Emperors as part of their cognomen. The English word emperor derives from imperator via Old French Empereür. The Roman emperors themselves generally based their authority on multiple titles and positions, rather than preferring any single title. Nevertheless, imperator was used relatively consistently as an element of a Roman ruler's title throughout the principate (derived from princeps, from which prince in English is derived).
By the time Caesar returned to Rome mid-year in 60 BC, the senate had granted him the title of imperator (see above), a title which entitled him 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 wisely chose the consulship.


Caesar was still deeply in debt, but there was money to be made as a governor, whether by extortion or by military adventurism.
Caesar had four legions under his command, two of his provinces bordered on unconquered territory, and parts of Gaul were known to be unstable.
Some of Rome's Gallic allies had been defeated by their rivals at the Battle of Magetobriga, with the help of a contingent of Germanic tribes.
The Romans feared these tribes were preparing to migrate south, closer to Italy, and that they had warlike intent. Caesar raised two new legions and defeated these tribes.
In response to Caesar's earlier activities, the tribes in the north-east began to arm themselves.
Caesar treated this as an aggressive move and, after an inconclusive engagement against the united tribes, he conquered the tribes piecemeal.
Meanwhile, one of his legions began the conquest of the tribes in the far north, directly opposite Britain.
During the spring of 56 BC, the Triumvirs held a conference, as Rome was in turmoil and Caesar's political alliance was coming undone.
The Lucca Conference renewed the First Triumvirate and extended Caesar's governorship for another five years.
The conquest of the north was soon completed, while a few pockets of resistance remained.
Caesar now had a secure base from which to launch an invasion of Britain.
In 55 BC, Caesar repelled an incursion into Gaul by two Germanic tribes, 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 two other tribes, he crossed into Britain, claiming that the Britons had aided one of his enemies the previous year, possibly the Veneti of Brittany.
His intelligence information was poor, and although he gained a beachhead on the coast, he could not 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, and established a few alliances, however, poor harvests led to widespread revolt in Gaul, which forced Caesar to leave Britain for the last time.
While Caesar was in Britain his daughter Julia, Pompey's wife, had died in childbirth.
Caesar tried to re-secure Pompey's support by offering him his great-niece in marriage, but Pompey declined.
In 53 BC Crassus was killed leading a failed invasion of the east.
Rome was on the brink of civil war.
Pompey was appointed sole consul as an emergency measure, and married the daughter of a political opponent of Caesar.
The Triumvirate was dead.
While militarily just as strong as the Romans, the internal division between the Gallic tribes guaranteed an easy victory for Caesar, and Vercingetorix's attempt in 52 BC to unite the Gauls against Roman invasion came too late.
Vercingetorix managed to unite the Gallic tribes and proved an astute commander, defeating Caesar in several engagements, 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.
Plutarch claimed that the army had fought against three million men during the Gallic Wars, of whom one million died, and another million were enslaved.
The Romans subjugated 300 tribes and destroyed 800 cities, however, in view of the difficulty in finding accurate counts in the first place, Caesar's propagandistic purposes, and the common exaggeration of numbers in ancient texts, the stated totals of enemy combatants are likely to be too high.


In 50 BC, the Senate, led by Pompey, ordered Caesar to disband his army and return to Rome because his term as governor had finished.
Caesar thought he would be prosecuted if he entered Rome without the immunity enjoyed by a magistrate.
Pompey accused Caesar of insubordination and treason.
In January 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, according to Plutarch and Suetonius, is supposed to have quoted the Athenian playwright Menander, in Greek, "the die (dice) is cast".
Erasmus, however, notes that the more accurate Latin translation of the Greek imperative mood would be "alea iacta esto", let the die be cast. Pompey and many of the Senate fled to the south, having little confidence in his newly raised troops.
Despite greatly outnumbering Caesar, who only had his Thirteenth Legion with him, Pompey did not intend to fight.
Caesar pursued Pompey, hoping to capture him before his legions could escape.
Pompey managed to escape before Caesar could capture him. Heading for Spain, Caesar left Italy under the control of Mark Antony.
After an astonishing 27-day route-march, Caesar defeated Pompey's lieutenants, then returned east, to challenge Pompey in Illyria, where, in July 48 BC in the battle of Dyrrhachium, Caesar barely avoided a catastrophic defeat.
In an exceedingly short engagement later that year, he decisively defeated Pompey at Pharsalus, in Greece.
In Rome, Caesar was appointed dictator, with Mark Antony as his Master of the Horse (second in command); Caesar presided over his own election to a second consulship and then, after 11 days, resigned this dictatorship.
Caesar then pursued Pompey to Egypt, arriving soon after the murder of the general.

for more information and images about Caesar in Egypt go to:

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2016

There, Caesar was presented with Pompey's severed head and seal-ring, receiving these with tears.
He then had Pompey's assassins put to death.
Although he was Caesar's political enemy, Pompey was a Roman consul, and the widower of Caesar's only legitimate daughter, Julia, who died in childbirth. 
Caesar seized the Egyptian capital and imposed himself as arbiter between the rival claims of Ptolemy and Cleopatra. Caesar then became involved with an Egyptian civil war between the child pharaoh and his sister, wife, and co-regent queen, Cleopatra. Perhaps as a result of the pharaoh's role in Pompey's murder, Caesar sided with Cleopatra.
He withstood the Siege of Alexandria and later he defeated the pharaoh's forces at the Battle of the Nile in 47 BC, and installed Cleopatra as ruler.
Caesar and Cleopatra celebrated their victory with a triumphal procession on the Nile in the spring of 47 BC.
The royal barge was accompanied by 400 additional ships, and Caesar was introduced to the luxurious lifestyle of the Egyptian pharaohs.
Caesar and Cleopatra were not married.
Caesar continued his relationship with Cleopatra throughout his last marriage - in Roman eyes, this did not constitute adultery - and probably fathered a son called Caesarion.
Cleopatra visited Rome on more than one occasion, residing in Caesar's villa just outside Rome across the Tiber.
Late in 48 BC, Caesar was again appointed dictator, with a term of one year.
After spending the first months of 47 BC in Egypt, Caesar went to the Middle East, where he annihilated the king of Pontus; his victory was so swift and complete that he mocked Pompey's previous victories over such poor enemies.
On his way to Pontus, Caesar visited from 27 to 29 May 47 BC, (25–27 Maygreg.) Tarsus, where he met enthusiastic support, but where, according to Cicero, Cassius was planning to kill him at this point.
Thence, he proceeded to Africa to deal with the remnants of Pompey's senatorial supporters.
He quickly gained a significant victory in 46 BC over Cato, who then committed suicide.
After this victory, he was appointed dictator for 10 years.
Pompey's sons escaped to Spain; 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 and 45 BC (this last time without a colleague).


When Caesar returned to Rome, the Senate granted him triumphs for his victories, ostensibly those over Gaul, Egypt, Pharnaces, and Juba, rather than over his Roman opponents.
Triumphal games were held, with beast-hunts involving 400 lions, and gladiator contests.

Naumachia - Julius Caesar Triumphal Games

A naval battle (Naumachia) was held on a flooded basin at the Field of Mars.
At the Circus Maximus, two armies of war captives, each of 2,000 people, 200 horses, and 20 elephants, fought to the death.
Again, some bystanders complained, this time at Caesar's wasteful extravagance. A riot broke out, and only stopped when Caesar had two rioters sacrificed by the priests on the Field of Mars (?).
After the triumph, Caesar set out to pass an ambitious legislative agenda.

  • He ordered a census be taken, which forced a reduction in the grain dole, and that jurors could only come from the Senate or the equestrian ranks.
  • He passed a sumptuary law that restricted the purchase of certain luxuries.
  • After this, he passed a law that rewarded families for having many children, to speed up the re-population of Italy. 
  • He outlawed professional guilds, except those of ancient foundation, since many of these were subversive political clubs.
  • He passed a term-limit law applicable to governors.
  • He passed a debt-restructuring law, which ultimately eliminated about a fourth of all debts owed.
The Forum of Caesar, with its Temple of Venus Genetrix, was then built, among many other public works.
Caesar also tightly regulated the purchase of state-subsidized grain and reduced the number of recipients to a fixed number, all of whom were entered into a special register.
From 47 to 44 BC, he made plans for the distribution of land to about 15,000 of his veterans.
The most important change, however, was his reform of the calendar.
Caesar replaced the old, outmoded calendar with the Egyptian calendar, which was regulated by the sun.
He set the length of the year to 365.25 days by adding an intercalary/leap day at the end of February every fourth year.
To bring the calendar into alignment with the seasons, he decreed that three extra months be inserted into 46 BC (the ordinary intercalary month at the end of February, and two extra months after November).
Thus, the Julian calendar opened on 1 January 45 BC.
This calendar is almost identical to the current Western calendar.
Shortly before his assassination, he passed a few more reforms.
  • He established a police force.
  • Appointed officials to carry out his land reforms.
  • Ordered the rebuilding of Carthage and Corinth.
  • He extended Latin rights throughout the Roman world, and then abolished the tax system and reverted to the earlier version that allowed cities to collect tribute however they wanted, rather than needing Roman intermediaries.
His assassination prevented further and larger schemes, which included the construction of an unprecedented temple to Mars, a huge theater, and a library on the scale of the Library of Alexandria.
He also wanted to convert Ostia to a major port, and cut a canal through the Isthmus of Corinth.
Militarily, he wanted to conquer the Dacians and Parthians, and avenge the loss at Carrhae.
Thus, he instituted a massive mobilization.
Shortly before his assassination, the Senate named him 'Censor' for life and 'Father of the Fatherland', and the month of Quintilis was renamed 'July' in his honor.
He was granted further honors, which were later used to justify his assassination as a would-be divine monarch: coins were issued bearing his image and his statue was placed next to those of the kings.
He was granted a golden chair in the Senate, was allowed to wear triumphal dress whenever he chose, and was offered a form of semiofficial or popular cult, with Mark Antony as his high priest.
When Caesar returned to Rome in 47 BC, the ranks of the Senate had been severely depleted, so he used his censorial powers to appoint many new senators, which eventually raised the Senate's membership to 900.
All the appointments were of his own partisans, which robbed the senatorial aristocracy of its prestige, and made the Senate increasingly subservient to him.
In 46 BC, Caesar gave himself the title of "Prefect of the Morals", which was an office that was new only in name, as its powers were identical to those of the Censors.
Thus, he could hold Censorial powers, while technically not subjecting himself to the same checks to which the ordinary Censors were subject, and he used these powers to fill the Senate with his own partisans. He also set the precedent, which his imperial successors followed, of requiring the Senate to bestow various titles and honors upon him. He was, for example, given the title "imperator" - from which the title 'emperor' is derived.
In February 44 BC, one month before his assassination, he was appointed dictator for life.

Guide to Ancient Rome
1] Temple of Vesta: 2] Regia, residence of pontifex maximus, formerly home of the kings: 3] Rostra (speakers' platform): 4] Curia (senate house): 5] Temple of Julius Caesar: 6] Temple of Castor and Pollux (rebuilt by Augustus): 7] Basilica Julia (built by Julius Caesar as an exchange and for judicial tribunals): 8] Temple of Jupiter on the Capitoline Hill: 9] Temple of Juno Moneta: 10] Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus: 11] Forum.


The Senate House
On the Ides of March (15 March; see Roman calendar) of 44 BC, Caesar was due to appear at a session of the Senate.
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.
The plotters, however, had anticipated this and, fearing that Antony would come to Caesar's aid, had arranged for Trebonius to intercept him just as he approached the portico of the Theatre of Pompey, where the session was to be held, and detain him outside.
When he heard the commotion from the Senate chamber, Antony fled.
According to Plutarch, as Caesar arrived at the Senate, Tillius Cimber presented him with a petition to recall his exiled brother.
The other conspirators crowded round to offer support.
Both Plutarch and Suetonius say that Caesar waved him away, but Cimber grabbed his shoulders and pulled down Caesar's tunic.
Caesar then cried to Cimber, "Why, this is violence!" ("Ista quidem vis est!").
At the same time, Casca produced his dagger and made a glancing thrust at the dictator's neck.
Caesar turned around quickly and caught Casca by the arm.
According to Plutarch, he said 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 60 or more men participated in the assassination. He was stabbed 23 times.
Caesar's body was cremated, and on the site of his cremation, the Temple of Caesar was erected a few years later (at the east side of the main square of the Roman Forum).
A crowd who had gathered there started a fire, which badly damaged the forum and neighboring buildings.
In the ensuing chaos, Mark Antony, Octavian (Caesar's heir, and later called Augustus Caesar), and others fought a series of five civil wars, which would end in the formation of the Roman Empire.


So what conclusions can we draw about such a remarkable man, and such a remarkable career.
Perhaps the most famous soliloquy on the nature of Gaius Julius Caesar, and his motives, (although it is presented as a public speech), was given by Shakespeare.

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears; 
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him; 
The evil that men do lives after them, 
The good is oft interred with their bones, 
So let it be with Caesar ... The noble Brutus 
Hath told you Caesar was ambitious: 
If it were so, it was a grievous fault, 
And grievously hath Caesar answered it ...
Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest, 
(For Brutus is an honourable man; 
So are they all; all honourable men) 
Come I to speak in Caesar's funeral ...
He was my friend, faithful and just to me: 
But Brutus says he was ambitious; 
And Brutus is an honourable man…. 
He hath brought many captives home to Rome, 
Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill: 
Did this in Caesar seem ambitious? 
When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept: 
Ambition should be made of sterner stuff: 
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious; 
And Brutus is an honourable man. 
You all did see that on the Lupercal 
I thrice presented him a kingly crown, 
Which he did thrice refuse: was this ambition? 
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious; 
And, sure, he is an honourable man. 
I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke, 
But here I am to speak what I do know. 
You all did love him once, not without cause: 
What cause withholds you then to mourn for him? 
O judgement! thou art fled to brutish beasts, 
And men have lost their reason…. Bear with me; 
My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar, 
And I must pause till it come back to me

― William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar

Shakespeare was fortunate enough to be a sufficient distance, in time, away from the crucial events, unlike classical authors and commentators - and so he was able to leave aside the partisanship of those authors and commentators.
The two fundamental questions that Shakespeare deals with, in the speech that Anthony supposedly makes over the body of Caesar, are those of 'honour' and 'ambition'.
Now ignoring Brutus (and the rest), we should consider whether Caesar was an 'honourable man' and, more significantly, whether he was 'ambitious'.

Within his own society - the powerful and wealthy of the Roman Republic, - we could accept that Caesar was an 'honourable man'.
But ambition ? Ambition for what ?
What the 'defenders' of the Republic feared was that Caesar was ambitious for 'kingship' - and for a Republican Roman that was a heinous crime.
What is difficult for us, at this far distant remove in time, to understand is the obsession of the Roman people (of the educated classes) with the Republic, and their horror of the idea of monarchy, which, of course, goes back to the time of Tarquin.
However, it had been obvious for many years that, as the Empire had expanded, the Republican system, that had been established after Taquin had been driven from Rome, was no longer capable of coping with the demands of Empire.

Gaius Octavius
Julius Caesar understood this, but was not able to understand that a transition from a republic to an autocracy could only be achieved by 'stealth'.
His young nephew,  Gaius Octavius, however, was smart enough to understand that a certain amount of subterfuge was required, and in addition he had the ability to manage the political system sufficiently skillfully to achieve all, and more, than his uncle had hoped for, - without the supporters of the Republic even being aware of the changes he was making.
And so  Gaius Octavius' story follows........

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© Copyright Peter Crawford 2016

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2016