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Julius Caesar
First Man of Rome

100 BCE to 44 BCE.

Men are nearly always willing to believe what they wish.

                                                                                       —Julius Caesar

Gaius Julius Caesar was born on July 13, 100 BC to a patrician family who claimed descendance from the kings of Alba Longa (the original home of many of Rome's oldest patrician families) and through them to Aeneas of Troy and his mother, the goddess Venus.

Caesar's parents, Gaius Julius Caesar Sr. and Aurelia were both from patrician families. Unlike many Roman nobles who lived in lavish homes on the Palatine, Rome's most fashionable neighborhood, Caesar grew up in his family's insula (apartment house) in the Subura, the city's poorest and most densely populated district. Living in the Subura exposed Young Caesar to people from the far flung corners of the Roman world. As was the custom among young Roman nobleman, Caesar studied rhetoric, history and law and trained in the martial arts.

Caesar began his career in the Roman courts, where he became a successful advocate and a highly respected orator. In 62 BC, he was elected to Rome's second ranking political office, the praetorship. He was elected in suo anno, meaning literally "in his year." In suo anno was a term used to describe men who attained office at the exact age law and custom prescribed. To be elected in suo anno was also a great distinction because it meant a man gained an office on his first attempt.

A group of conservative Roman senators felt Caesar was too ambitious and posed a danger to the republic. They blocked his triumph (official celebration) after his highly successful praetorian military command in Spain. They also conspired to keep him from Rome's highest political office, the consulship. Despite their opposition, Caesar was voted consul in 59 BC in suo anno.

During his consulship, Caesar pushed through a special law giving him a five-year command in Cispine Gaul and Illyricum, the Roman provinces of northern Italy and the lands along the Adriatic coast. Caesar saw this as a great opportunity to expand Rome's empire. At the end of the first five-years, Caesar secured an additional five-year command from the senate to complete the work of pacifying Gaul

In addition to his political skills, Caesar was a brilliant military commander. His campaigns in Gaul during his governorship brought enormous wealth to Rome. His reports to the senate and people of Rome about the campaigns (Caesar's Commentaries) were read widely and gained Caesar considerable public acclaim.

As is often the case, people considered great by contemporaries or historians are also great killers. Reportedly, one million people were killed and another million enslaved in pursuit of Caesar's aims in Gaul.

After a 10 year governorship in Gaul, Caesar planned to return to Rome to stand for his second consulship. The imperium (official authority) he held as Governor of a Roman provence would need to be relinquished before he could enter Rome and present himself as a candidate for the consulship. The same group of senators who opposed Caesar throughout his career were threatening him again. The moment he relinquished his imperium, Caesar would be subject to arrest. His other option was to remain outside Rome's borders and run for the consulship in absentia (an election held in the absence of the candidate himself). This was also blocked by Caesar's enemies in the senate.

Caesar faced two alternatives: he could lay down his imperium and face arrest, conviction and banishment from Rome, or he could drop his demand to be allowed stand for election in absentia, forfeiting his candidacy for consul. For the first time in his life Caesar would not obtain a political office he sought in suo anno, and his honor was sorely offended. On the 10th day of January, 49 BC, facing alternatives he deemed untenable, Caesar made the fateful decision to march on Rome. He and his troops crossed the Rubicon River, and in doing so declared civil war. His enemies in the senate fled the city to marshal their forces in the east, leaving Caesar to enter Rome unopposed. Caesar's legions defeated a large republican army at Pharsalus (in Greece) in 48 BC, republican forces in northern Africa in 46 BC, and his final opposition in Hispania (Spain) in 45 BC.

After Pharsalus, Caesar adopted a policy of clemency. There would be no proscriptions (stripping a man of all his property and often his life) as in previous civil disputes in Rome. Many of his most obdurate opponents were asked to become part of Caesar's reformed Roman government. However, his enemies continued to plot his downfall. Finding they could not defeat the great man in politics or war, they decided to use other means to remove Caesar Dictator from power. On the Ides of March (15th), 44 BC., a group of Senators calling themselves the "liberators" assassinated Caesar in the Senate House. They justified the assassination by saying they were saving the republic from a tyrant and would-be king.

Caesar chose his grand nephew Gaius Octavius as his heir. Octavius ultimately avenged his uncle's death and rose to the pinnacle of Roman power, becoming Augustus Caesar, Rome's first emperor.

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•  Other Leaders in the Lucidcafé Library
•  Non-fiction About Gaius Julius Caesar
•  Historical Fiction About Gaius Julius Caesar
•  Videos About Caesar/Rome
•  Caesar Images
•  Related Websites


  Other Leaders in the Lucidcafé Library

  Non-Fiction About/By Caesar

  • Caesar: Life of a Colossus - Author: Adrian Goldsworthy

    A comprehensive account of Caesar's conquests in Gaul and his victories in the civil war that made him master of Rome. This book is #10 on Editors' Pick as one of the Top 50 Books of 2006.

    CLICK HERE to purchase this Paperback edition of "Caesar: Life of a Colossus"

  • Caesar: Politician and Statesman - Author: Matthias Gelzer

    First published in German in 1921, Gelzer's book was translated into English in the 1960's. Unlike some biographers of Caesar, Gelzer never strays from the facts. His thoughtful and precise narrative takes you as close to the man as you are likely to get.

    CLICK HERE to purchase this Paperback edition of "Caesar: Politician and Statesman"

  • Caesar's War Commentaries - Author: Julius Caesar

    Caesar's commentaries on his Gallic Wars provide us with the most detailed surviving eye-witness account of a campaign from antiquity. These reports to the senate and people of Rome about the campaigns in Gaul were read widely, and gained Caesar considerable public acclaim. This volume also includes Caesar's "The Civil War", Book 1 through Book 3.

    CLICK HERE to purchase this Paperback edition of "Caesar's War Commentaries"

  • The Civil War - Author: Julius Caesar

    The Civil War is Caesar's account of the war between himself and Pompey, from the crossing of the Rubicon in January 49 B.C. to Pompey's death and the start of the Alexandrian War in the autumn of the following year. His unfinished account of the continuing struggle with Pompey's heirs and followers is completed by the three anonymous accounts of the Alexandrian, African, and Spanish Wars, which bring the story down to within a year of Caesar's assassination in March 44 B.C.

    CLICK HERE to purchase this Paperback edition of "The Civil War"

  Historical Fiction About Caesar

  • The First Man in Rome (Masters of Rome I) - Author: Colleen McCullough

    This is the first in a series of six books in McCullough's Masters of Rome. These well researched and detailed historical novels put the story of the downfall of the Roman Republic in an accessable, entertaining format. Seeing the story in a broad historical framework helps the reader see Caesar's actions in the light of the forces that influenced them.

    Take these books with a "grain of salt." The author takes some creative license and has a mostly pro-Caesar point of view. The books are generally accurate though, and tell a fun and interesting story. You should probably read one of the biographies to round out your reading on Caesar.

    The First Man in Rome: Two generations before Julius Caesar two extraordinary men dream of personal glory. This is the story of the partnership and rise to power of military man and wealthy rural "upstart" Gaius Marius and Lucius Cornelius Sulla, a penniless aristocrat.

    CLICK HERE to purchase this Paperback edition of "The First Man in Rome"

  • The Grass Crown (Masters of Rome II) - Author: Colleen McCullough

    Gaius Marius longs for an unprecedented seventh consulship of Rome, pitting Marius against a new generation of assassins, powerseekers and Senate intriguers and setting him at odds with Sulla, once Marius's most trusted right-hand man, now his most dangerous rival.

    CLICK HERE to purchase this Paperback edition of "The Grass Crown"

  • Fortune's Favorites (Masters of Rome III) - Author: Colleen McCullough

    The novel's events are dominated by Sulla's return from exile and subsequent installation as Rome's first dictator in almost 200 years; Pompey the Great's machinations as the wealthy provincial, which clears his own path upward through Roman politics; and the maturing of Gaius Julius Caesar, who will ultimately set Rome upon it's imperial course.

    CLICK HERE to purchase this Paperback edition of "Fortune's Favorites"

  • Caesar's Women (Masters of Rome IV) - Author: Colleen McCullough

    The novel details Caesar's rise to power as he repeatedly outmaneuvers his enemies, who devise one scheme after another to bring about his political, economic, and social downfall. Eventually he allies himself with Pompey and Crassus to create the first triumverate. Despite the book's title, women play minor roles in the novel.

    CLICK HERE to purchase this Paperback edition of "Caesar's Women"

  • Caesar (Masters of Rome V) - Author: Colleen McCullough

    The novel opens in 54 B.C., with Caesar attempting to "civilize" the different tribes in Britannia and Gaul. In Rome Caesar's enemies everywhere orchestrating his downfall and disgrace. The book recounts the civil war from Caesar's crossing of the Rubicon through his early battles with Pompey.

    CLICK HERE to purchase this Paperback edition of "Caesar"

  • The October Horse (Masters of Rome VI) - Author: Colleen McCullough

    In the final installment of Masters of Rome, Caesar successfully concludes the civil war. He turns his eye to the future and who will inherit his power. In the shadows his enemies talk of murder. Octavian is introduced as a guarded, talented youth, and is transformed by his uncle's assassination. This is a fabulous conclusion to a ghreat series.

    CLICK HERE to purchase this Paperback edition of "The October Horse"

  • Julius Caesar - Author: William Shakespeare

    A fascinating human drama of a group of Roman senators who want to assassinate Caeser, and the afteremath of the assasination.

    CLICK HERE to purchase this Paperback edition of "Julius Caesar"

  Videos About Caesar/Rome

  Related Websites

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Copyright © 1995-2016 Robin Chew
Article written by Robin Chew - October 2004