Caesar Essay, Research Paper
Julius Caesar is one of the famous personalities in world history. It was Caesar who ended the Roman republic and paved the way for the later Roman emperors. Although there is a lot written about him, there was always debate if he was a hero or a villain. But for many people, including myself, Caesar is an interesting person. I will give the facts of his remarkable life and leave you to decide if he was a hero or tyrant.
When Caesar was a young boy he had to escape the wrath of the dictator Sulla. This man had taken all power to defend the Republic and tried to cleanse the state from its enemies. Caesar was eventually pardoned, but Sulla did have an astonishing foresight. He predicted that the stubborn boy would become dangerous.
Caesar was the last descendant of the ancient clan of the Julii, but although they were patricians and intermarried with other senatorial families, they were totally poor. He was educated in rhetoric, philosophy and law, like other patricians. But after his near brush with death, the eighteen-year old youth decided to enter the army.
This was the beginning of an astonishing military career. He became second in command of the province Asia. In two years he established himself by his bravery, strength, skill and courage in battle. After these years he went back to Rome. He served as officer in Crassus’s army against Spartacus and climbed steadily up in the government by serving as official in the provinces. He remarried a wealthy wife and allied with Crassus, then the richest man in Rome. Their contestant was Pompeius Magnus. Caesar coveted and gained the lifetime function of Pontifex maximus, high priest of the people of Rome. In 61BC he received a military post as governor of Spain. He ruthlessly suppressed all resistance and returned as war hero in Rome (Meier 156-157).
The consulate was his next goal. The two consuls held the power of state and were nominated each year. But the senate refused to consider his efforts and tried to play Crassus, Pompeius and Caesar against each other. Caesar noticed this and did something believed impossible. He created an alliance between him and the other two to share all power. The senate was effectively bypassed, and the First Triumvirate was born. This agreement dictated the Roman policy for the next decade. They shared all offices between them and their followers and that’s the way Caesar became Governor of Gaul Transalpinia. He had three legions under his command, but when the Helvetii invaded Gaul and Italy, he accidentally got command of an additional army. After he crushed the Helvetii, he turned his attention on the Celts. When this part of the drama had been enacted, the real struggle began.
With Gallia conquered, Caesar turned his mind fully to the political arena. In 51BC, he proposed to the Senate to extend his governership another two years, which allowed him to run for consul in the year 48BC. He said that he earned it based on his presentations in Gaul and referred to Pompeius whose governership in Spain had been extended the year before. But the senate hesitated. In the year 50BC Caesar still tried to extend his governership, but to ensure the loyalty of his army he doubled their pay. The two consuls of 50BC were hostile to him, but he managed to bribe one of them. This caused a stalemate in the senate.
Then, late in the fall, the senate decided that Caesar and Pompeius were to give up control of their armies and provinces. Caesar’s followers tried to veto it, but the hostile consul ordered Pompeius to defend the Republic with two Legions at Capua and the authority to raise more.
Caesar thereupon gathered his own armies and went south. Both commanders were still on speaking terms and Caesar made another proposal. He would relinquish control of all but two of his legions and the province of Cisalpine Gaul. Pompeius agreed, but the senate ordered him to hold his ground. Caesar then made an ultimatum. He summed up his services to the state and demanded that he could keep his legions and provinces till he was elected consul.
In January 49BC Mark Anthony, Caesar’s trusted lieutenant, demanded that the ultimatum was read aloud in the senate. But although the majority would have sued for peace, the opponents of Caesar blocked all compromises and bullied all the frightened senators that Caesar should disband his armies or be declared, an enemy of the state. Caesar was stripped of all his offices. The Republic declared war on Caesar. Caesar heard of the senates response and did what he did best. He acted.
On January 11th, he led his single legion which he had assembled across the bridge over a small stream that marked the boundary between his province and the Roman homeland. Pompeius tried to stop Caesar, but all was in vain. No one dared to stand up against Caesar’s veteran soldiers. The senate panicked and left Italy, leaving the treasury intact behind them. The senate and Pompeius fled to Albania (Meier298).
Once in Rome, Caesar wasted no time. Against no effective opposition, he assembled a makeshift senate, took control of the government and broke open the treasury. Mark Antony was put in charge of the Italian legions and Caesar himself went to the independent city of Massilia. He could not capture the city, but he went to Spain and crushed Pompeius followers. When Caesar returned to Massilia, he was lenient and did not sack the city, but it was no longer independent.
He returned to Rome as a victor, but there was still Pompeius and the old senate. Pompeius himself had raised a massive army in Macedonia. Caesar lacked a navy and was forced to land in Yugoslavia with only 20,000 men. Caesar was lucky again. Although Caesar was badly outnumbered, Pompeius did nothing. Caesar was joined by Mark Antony and the remainder of his armies. Strangely Pompeius withdrew, Caesar remarked “Today the enemy would have won, if they had a commander who was a winner.” Caesar certainly was a winner and doggedly followed Pompeius towards Pharsalus (Meier344).
Here Caesar’s 32,000 faced Pompeius 43,000. It was going to be the largest encounter of the civil war. On a morning in early August both armies collided. Caesar’s left and center held, while his right withdrew. Pompeius, seeing this, hurled his cavalry in the gap, but Caesar pulled an ace out of his sleeve. He sent in his last reserve and Pompeius lines simply collapsed (Meier360).
Nineteen months after the crossing of the Rubico, Caesar was master of Rome and its empire. Pompeius fled to Egypt but was killed on arrival by his own men. Caesar, hot on his heels, is said to have wept for his former son in law. Caesar himself got caught in the strings of the infamous Egyptian queen Cleopatra. He conquered Egypt and took her with him back to Rome. In 46BC he finally could stage his four Triumph parades. Caesar was now omnipotent and the senate declared him dictator for life.
But on the 15th of March 44BC, the so called Ides of March, Caesar was murdered by Marcus Brutus, Gaius Cassius, Decimus Brutus and Gaius Trebonius, the last two being old commanders of his legions. The daggers came from every side, and after one shout of indignation, Caesar, struck twenty-three times, silently pulled his toga over his head and fell at the foot of a statue of Pompeius.
In war Caesar was brutal, and heartless. He was even quite willing to plunge the Roman world into civil war for no higher reason than his own ambition. Some consider him as one of the most horrifying military and political monsters of all time. Some see him as a brilliant, affable, renaissance, man. I recognize him as a man of great qualities and abilities, who showed characteristics of both a villain and hero.