Ondertexts
Julius Caesar
Search

Julius Caesar

Julius Caesar Julius Caesar[2†]

Julius Caesar, born on July 12 or 13, 100 BC, was a celebrated Roman general and statesman[1†][2†]. He is known for his conquest of Gaul (58–50 BC), victory in the civil war of 49–45 BC, and his role as a dictator from 46–44 BC[1†]. His political and social reforms were cut short when he was assassinated by a group of nobles in the Senate House on the Ides of March[1†].

Caesar’s influence was so profound that he changed the course of Greco-Roman history decisively and irreversibly[1†]. His name, like Alexander’s, is still recognized throughout the Christian and Islamic worlds[1†]. Even those unfamiliar with Caesar as a historical figure may recognize his family name as a title signifying a uniquely supreme or paramount ruler—the meaning of Kaiser in German, tsar in the Slavonic languages, and qayṣar in the languages of the Islamic world[1†].

In addition to his political and military achievements, Caesar also left a significant cultural legacy. The Roman month Quintilis, in which he was born, was renamed “July” in his honor[1†].

Early Years and Education

Julius Caesar was born on July 12 or 13, 100 BC, into a patrician family, his aunt Julia, which claimed descent from Iulus, son of the legendary Trojan prince Aeneas, supposedly the son of the goddess Venus[4†]. His father died when he was just 16, leaving Caesar as the head of the household[4†]. His family status put him at odds with the Dictator Lucius Cornelius Sulla, who almost had him executed[4†].

Much of Caesar’s early career has been embellished by later sources in an attempt to draw comparisons between his childhood and later life[4†]. However, much of his early career operated within standard aristocratic norms: his removal from the proscription lists, co-option into priesthoods, and activities in junior office show the connections he and his family had with the aristocracy and his budding attempts to go beyond its limits[4†].

Caesar was born into an aristocratic family, his aunt Julia, which claimed descent from Iulus, son of the legendary Trojan prince Aeneas, supposedly the son of the goddess Venus[4†]. 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-)[4†].

At around the age of six, Gaius began his education. He was taught by a private tutor named Marcus Antonius Gnipho[4†][5†]. He learned how to read and write. He also learned about Roman law and how to speak in public[4†][5†]. These were important skills he would need as a leader of Rome[4†][5†].

Growing up in the heart of Rome, he displayed early manifestations of intellect and leadership, qualities that would play a pivotal role in shaping his future[4†][6†]. Caesar’s upbringing in the bustling city laid the foundation for his education, a crucial aspect that would later mold his political acumen and military genius[4†][6†].

Career Development and Achievements

Julius Caesar’s career was marked by a series of significant achievements that shaped both his destiny and the future of Rome[8†][1†]. A patrician by birth, he held the prominent posts of quaestor and praetor before becoming governor of Farther Spain in 61–60 BC[8†][1†].

Seizing the opportunity, Caesar advanced in the political system and briefly became governor of Spain, a Roman province[8†][9†]. Returning to Rome, he formed political alliances that helped him become governor of Gaul, an area that included what is now France and Belgium[8†][9†]. His Roman troops conquered Gallic tribes by exploiting tribal rivalries[8†][9†].

He formed the First Triumvirate with Pompey and Marcus Licinius Crassus in 60 BC and was elected consul in 59 BC and proconsul in Gaul and Illyria in 58 BC[8†]. After conducting the Gallic Wars, during which he invaded Britain (55, 54 BC) and crossed the Rhine (55, 53 BC), he was instructed by the Senate to lay down his command[8†].

Senate conservatives had grown wary of his increasing power, as had a suspicious Pompey[8†]. When the Senate would not command Pompey to give up his command simultaneously, Caesar, against regulations, led his forces across the Rubicon River (49 BC) between Gaul and Italy, precipitating the Roman Civil War[8†].

Pompey fled from Italy but was pursued and defeated by Caesar in 48 BC; he then fled to Egypt, where he was murdered[8†]. Having followed Pompey to Egypt, Caesar became lover to Cleopatra and supported her militarily[8†]. He defeated Pompey’s last supporters in 46–45 BC[8†]. He was named dictator for life by the Romans[8†]. He was offered the crown (44 BC) but refused it, knowing the Romans’ dislike for kings[8†].

After assuming control of government, Caesar began a programme of social and governmental reform, including the creation of the Julian calendar[8†][10†]. He gave citizenship to many residents of far regions of the Roman Republic[8†][10†]. He initiated land reforms to support his veterans and initiated an enormous building programme[8†][10†].

First Publication of His Main Works

Julius Caesar was not only a military and political leader but also an author. His most notable works are his accounts of the Gallic Wars (“Commentarii de Bello Gallico”) and the Civil War (“Commentarii de Bello Civili”). These works provide valuable insight into his military strategies and political maneuvers[2†].

Other works attributed to Caesar, like “The Alexandrian Wars” and “The African Wars”, are thought to have been written by Aulus Hirtius, who is also credited with the 8th book of the Gallic Wars[2†][12†].

Caesar’s works are more than historical documents. They offer deep insights into the political and military systems of the time. His clear and direct style has made his commentaries a valuable resource for Latin language students and historians alike[2†][11†].

Analysis and Evaluation

Julius Caesar’s life and work have been the subject of extensive analysis and evaluation. His military strategies, political maneuvers, and literary works have left an indelible mark on history[13†][14†].

As a military leader, Caesar demonstrated exceptional strategic acumen. His conquests expanded Rome’s territory and influence, and his firsthand accounts of the Gallic Wars and the Civil War provide valuable insights into his military strategies[13†][14†].

Politically, Caesar’s rise to power signaled the end of the Roman Republic and the dawn of the Roman Empire. His rule as a dictator was seen as a threat to the Republic’s institutions, which divided power among several people rather than concentrating it in one person[13†][14†]. However, his assassination led to a brutal civil war, demonstrating that the Republic was already under serious threat before his rule[13†][14†].

In literature, Caesar’s works are more than just historical documents. His clear and direct style has made his commentaries a valuable resource for Latin language students and historians alike[13†][14†]. His works also offer deep insights into the political and military systems of his time[13†][14†].

However, it’s important to note that Caesar’s actions and decisions were often driven by personal ambition and self-interest. His desire for power and dominance was a significant factor in his political and military strategies[13†][14†].

In conclusion, Julius Caesar was a complex figure whose influence extended beyond his lifetime. His military conquests, political reforms, and literary works have had a profound impact on the course of history[13†][14†].

Personal Life

Julius Caesar was born into a noble family with a long pedigree of serving the Roman Republic[15†]. His father, Gaius Julius Caesar, governed the region of Asia[15†][16†]. His mother, Aurelia, came from a very influential family[15†][16†]. His aunt Julia was married to one of the most important figures in the Republic[15†][16†].

Caesar had several relationships throughout his life. He was married three times. His first wife was Cornelia, the daughter of an influential member of the Popular faction; they had a daughter named Julia. After Cornelia’s death, Caesar married Pompeia, but he later divorced her. His third and final wife was Calpurnia[15†][2†].

In addition to his marriages, Caesar also had a notable relationship with Cleopatra, the queen of Egypt. They had a son together, named Caesarion[15†][2†].

Despite his many accomplishments and the power he held, Caesar’s life was tragically cut short. He was assassinated by a group of nobles in the Senate House on the Ides of March (March 15), 44 BC[15†][1†][2†].

Conclusion and Legacy

Julius Caesar’s legacy is vast and enduring. His contributions to history were varied, but perhaps his most enduring legacy is the Julian calendar. This revolutionary advance influenced civilizations for millennia, standardizing agricultural, religious, and civic activities.

Caesar’s rule helped turn Rome from a republic into an empire[17†]. His own chosen successor, Octavian, his great nephew, was to become Augustus, the first Roman Emperor[17†]. By stabilizing the territories under imperial control and giving rights to new Romans, he set the conditions for later expansion that would make Rome one of history’s great empires[17†].

Caesar was the first Roman to be granted divine status by the state[17†]. This honor was to be granted to many Roman Emperors, who could be proclaimed gods on their death and did what they could to link themselves to their great predecessors in life[17†].

Caesar’s historical influence is greatly increased by his own writings[17†]. To the Romans, Caesar was undoubtedly a figure of great importance. The fact that he wrote so well about his own life, particularly in his Commentarii de Bello Gallico, a history of the Gallic Wars, has meant that his story was easily passed on in his own words[17†].

Even today, Caesar’s example has inspired leaders to try to emulate him[17†]. Even the terms Tzar and Kaiser derive from his name[17†]. His actions transformed not only Rome, but arguably influenced the future of much or all of the world[17†].

Key Information

References and Citations:

  1. Britannica - Julius Caesar: Roman ruler [website] - link
  2. Wikipedia (English) - Julius Caesar [website] - link
  3. Live Science - Julius Caesar biography: Facts & history [website] - link
  4. Wikipedia (English) - Early life and career of Julius Caesar [website] - link
  5. Ducksters - Biography for Kids: Julius Caesar [website] - link
  6. Magnifymind - A Comprehensive Look into the Life of Julius Caesar [website] - link
  7. Britannica Kids - Julius Caesar [website] - link
  8. Britannica - Life and career of Julius Caesar [website] - link
  9. National Geographic Education - Julius Caesar [website] - link
  10. Wikiwand - Julius Caesar - Wikiwand [website] - link
  11. Wikipedia (English) - Category [website] - link
  12. Sacred-Texts - Works of Julius Caesar Index [website] - link
  13. LitCharts - Julius Caesar Study Guide [website] - link
  14. SparkNotes - Julius Caesar: Full Play Analysis [website] - link
  15. Biography Online - Julius Caesar Biography [website] - link
  16. The Famous People - Julius Caesar Biography [website] - link
  17. History Hit - 6 Ways Julius Caesar Changed Rome and the World [website] - link
  18. ThoughtCo - Julius Caesar Summary and Study Guide [website] - link
  19. National Geographic - Julius Caesar—facts and information [website] - link
Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License 4.0; additional terms may apply.
Ondertexts® is a registered trademark of Ondertexts Foundation, a non-profit organization.