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
Julius Caesar was a Roman general and statesman whose dictatorship was
pivotal in Romes 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 Cinnas
daughter Cornelia. The second attack upon the city was carried our by
Marius enemy Sulla, leader of the optimates, in 82 BC on the latters
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
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
Sullas legislation. During Pompeys absence from 67 to 62 BC during
his campaigns against the Mediterranean pirates, Mithridates, and
Crassus, his jealous rival. Caesar married Ponpeia after Cornelias
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
Caesars 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. Caesars
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 Pompeys veterans was passed in January of 59
BC at a disorderly public assembly which Caesars 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
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 Caesars personal power, wealth, and prestige,
kept Pompey in Italy, allowing him to govern his Spanish provinces by
deputies. Pompeys own attachment to Caesar was broken when Caesars
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 Caesars 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 Pompeys 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.
Caesars 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.
Caesars 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
Pompeys new theater. He fell dead at the foot of Pompeys statue.
Pompey was avenged, as well as Bibulus and Cato. After a provocative
funeral oration by Mark Antony, Caesars 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 Caesars 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 arised 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.