Julius Caesar Essay, Research Paper
Gaius Julius Caesar has been described as one of the most influential political and military leaders in history. He began the Roman transition from a republic to an empire. Caesar united Rome under his ruthless power; he controlled religion, senate, and the military. He almost made himself emperor, and this was the fact that inspired his assassination.
Caesar was born in Rome on July 12 or 13, 100 BC. He started his education early, as a young man he was placed under the tutorship of M. Antonius Gnipho, a freeborn native of Gaul. Antonius was a well-educated man, and well read in Greek and Latin. Caesar was a product of what could be called the Roman Renaissance; he was well educated in the culture of classical Greece. He was a realist, and very astute; he saw the real problem set out to solve it with great vigor. Julius belonged to the prestigious Julli clan; these were patricians and traced their lineage back to the goddess Venus. His uncle by marriage was Gaius Marius, leader of the Populares. This party was opposed by some of the senatorial faction. Caesar later married Cornelia in 84 BC; she was the daughter of one of Gaius’s associates. These two factors identified Caesar as a radical to certain members of the senate. Lucius Cornelius Sulla, Marius enemy was elected dictator in 82 BC, Sulla ordered Caesar to divorce Cornelia. Caesar refused and fled Rome to Samnium. He did not return to his home until Sulla resigned in 78 BC.
Caesar was captured in 78 BC by pirates on his way to Rhodes, he was said to have raised his ransom, raised a naval force, captured his captors, and had them executed, all while holding no public office. At Rhodes he studied rhetoric under Apollonius Molon, a celebrated master. There is no doubt he used his newly learned rhetoric on the unlucky pirates.
From 73 BC to 69 BC practically nothing is known of his life, in 69 BC he was elected questor, and in the following year served as such on the staff of C. Antistius Vetus, praetor of Spain. Shortly before he took his position he lost his aunt and his wife. When he returned to Rome and married Pompeia, this strange marriage has been considered a politically tactical move in order to gain an eventual strategic advantage.
In 67 BC Pompey the Great had supreme command in the east. Licinius Crassus a rich partician, was bitterly jealous of Pompey’s successes. These two men rivaled for the next dictatorship, so in order to keep up with Pompey, Crassus needs the popular support of the people. Who better to help Crassus then the outspoken and popular Julius Caesar, this alliance was considered a marriage de convenance. Caesar was a governor in Spain for a year, he returned in 60 BC. It was at this point that Julius formed a three-way alliance with Crassus and Pompey. This was known as the First Triumvirate. To cement their relationship further, Caesar gave his daughter Julia to Pompey in marriage. Now properly backed Caesar was elected to consul in 59 BC, despite Optimate hostility, the year after he was appointed governor of Roman Gaul.
The Gallic wars started in 58 BC, this is because the Helvetii, a Gallic people, were invading a Roman allied tribe known as the Aedui. Caesar marched to Cisalpinc Gaul with six legions; he defeated the Helvetii and forced them back to their homelands. An example of Caesars brilliance as a military and political commander was at this point. He sent the Helvetii back to their homeland and supplied them with corn for their journey, and for when they rebuilt their villages. He did this so that the fertile farmlands would not fall to the neighboring Germanic tribes.
Next Caesar crushed the Germanic forces under Ariouistus, now Rome was in control of northern Gaul by 57 BC. A last revolt of the Gaul’s, led by Vercingetorix, was suppressed in 52-51 BC. Caesar went off to raid Brittan and put down a revolt in Gaul, Crassus was jealous and eager to gain equal military glory. Crassus then provoked a war with the Parthian empire; he was defeated and killed at Carrhae in 53 BC. The death of Crassus removed any obligations between Pompey and Caesar, since Julia died in 54 BC.
Pompey was made sole consul in 52 BC; his first objective was to rid himself of the younger rival Caesar. Pompey’s way of doing this was relieving Caesar of his command in Gaul. The senate ordered Caesar to resign his army or become a public enemy. Caesar refused and decided to attack Pompey, thus beginning the civil war.
At the beginning of the war Caesar had eight legions in Gaul, while Pompey had ten and most too far away to be of any help. Although in fighting forces actual and potential Caesar was inferior to Pompey, morally he was vastly superior to him. His conquests of Gaul had granted him much prestige; his singleness of command enabled him to come to rapid and unquestioned decisions, and the devotion of his men instilled him with complete confidence in their loyalty. Caesars main strategy to win the war was to convince the people, the property owners, and the capitalists, that his cause was the more desirable one, and he had to convert his enemy’s legions into a profitable recruiting ground.
Pompey fled to Brundisium because his troops in Italy were not prepared for war. They met at the port, where the greater part of the Pompeian army had already sailed. Pompey and twenty cohorts were still in port. Before this point Caesar had many times offered peace talks, but all were denied. This could have been a tactical ploy to gain the peoples backing, or he simply could have wanted the conflict to end. On March 18th 48 BC, Caesar entered Brundisium and Italy was considered his. Caesar then constructed a fleet, he had none to speak of prior to this point, and took Spain and the key port of Massalia. In Rome Caesar became dictator until he was elected consul for 48 BC. It was in the beginning of this year that he landed at Greece and smashed Pompey’s forces at Pharsalus. Pompey fled to Mytilene, where his wife Cornelia and his younger son Sextus had been living during the war, he was later assassinated in Egypt. Caesar later arrived in Egypt and assigned Cleopatra as queen.
In 47 BC he further settled his disputes in Asia Minor and then returned to Rome to become dictator. By the next year all Optimate forces had been defeated and the Mediterranean calmed. Caesars way of continuing his reign in power was by initializing dictatorship for life. Dictatorship is only supposed to be held for six months and only in a dire emergency. Julius then was appointed consul for ten years, and received the sanctity of tribunes, making it illegal to harm him. Furthermore as, pontifex maximus, he was considered the head of the state religion, and above all else head of the military. This was basically the backbone of his or any leaders power. Caesar at this point is basically the emperor of Rome, although he was never actually called this. It was not till his successor Augustus, that the term Emperor was used.
As ruler he instituted many reforms, he eliminated the highly corrupt tax system, sponsored colonies of veterans, and extended Roman citizenship. He reconstituted the courts and increased the number of senators. His reform of the calendar gave Rome a rational means of recording time.
Caesars emperor like policies made many senatorial families uncomfortable. The republicans feared that Caesar would become a rex, or king. Gaius Cassius hatched the assassination plot along with many other scared senators. Included in this group was Marcus Brutus, most of the senators who plotted against Caesar fought under Pompey, but were given pardons. On March 15th 44 BC, Caesar entered the senate house he took his seat and was asked by Tillius Cimber if Tillius’s brother, who had been banished, could return. When Caesar rejected his appeal, Cimber seized hold of his purple robe, and pulled it away to reveal his neck. It was the signal for the attack. One senator, who was close to Caesar, aimed a blow with his dagger at his throat, but missed it. Cimber then ceased Caesars hand; Caesar threw him to the ground and then the other assassins closed in on him. Cassius wounded him in the face, and when Brutus struck him in the thigh, Caesar cried out in Greek “et tu, brute?” or “you to Brutus”, he then cried “you too, my child?” and fell dead. He fell at the foot of Pompey’s statue, somewhat ironic he should die at the foot of his greatest enemy. After Caesars funeral the senate house was burned by an enraged populace the assassin’s houses were also burned, forcing the conspirators to flee. The one true King of Rome killed before his time, by the hands of those who supposedly loved him.
So it seems as if most of Caesars great life was spent climbing up the slow latter to power. But when he achieved his goal his life was literally cut short by scared politicians. Politicians who were scared of someone who could bring true order to a world that thrived on turmoil. Caesar would have probably led Rome into a new golden era, but now the heavens only know what could have been.
IN TRIBUTE TO A GREAT KING- GAIUS JULIUS CAESAR (JULY, 100BC – MARCH, 44BC)
-Fuller, John Fredrick Charles, 1878-1966.
Julius Caesar; man, soldier, and tyrant / J.F.C. Fuller.
p. cm-(A Da Capo paperback)
Reprint. Originally published: New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1865
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New York, New York 10020 copyright 1971
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Includes bibliographical references and index.
1999 McGraw –Hill companies, inc.