Moral Courage Showed By Julius Caesar Essay

, Research Paper

Moral Courage showed by Julius Caesar


Gaius Julius Caesar had moral courage. He was born in a time when the Roman Republic was being shaken by a series of problems.(5 pg. 1) He managed to overcome these problems and became the great leader that everyone has heard of today. His leadership came from the way he was brought up and what he did with his life. Caesar showed much courage in his time as a child and as an adult. Many of his actions were done so that he would succeed in his battles and get support of the people, but there were some instances in which his acts of courage were purely moral and not solely for himself. These moral acts helped his people and made him a better leader than he had been before. This paper will prove this point and make his acts of moral courage more clear to understand.


The Roman Republic was being corrupted and had been in disaray before and during Caesar s lifetime. It had been around for over 400 years and was no longer a good form of government for the vastly expanded Roman civilization. The main reason that it was in crisis is because the Second Punic war had left Rome poor and much of their land and property lost. The Republic consisted of three ruling groups: the Assembly of Centuries, the Assembly of Tribes, and the Senate. Although there were these three groups the Senate was the one that controlled almost everything that went on in Rome. They were the most powerful because they controlled public funds, determined foreign policy and, and even acted as a court. They were headed by two Consuls elected annually for one year terms. The Senate could even elect a dictator; in times of emergency. The Senate was the most powerful force in Rome at the time, but it had many flaws which lead to wars and conflict. Almost all of the senators were from a few aristocratic families and in Caesars time, all that these nobles wanted to do was to gain more power and wealth. This caused them to start little arguments that turned into wars. Then the rest of the nobles and powerful Romans would choose sides and then these small quarrels turned into civil wars or major conflicts. This was one of the reasons that the Republic fell and the Empire rose after Caesar s death.(8 pg. ?)

Other wars arose because the Senate was not fair to the people that they governed in Roman providences and countries under their controll. One such war, the Social War, that occured during Caesar s early life. t was called the Social war. The Social War was in 90 B.C. and it was not a civil war between the Senators, but it was caused because the senators were being unjust to the rest of Italy. Although Italy lay outside of Rome fully supported Rome, the Senate they didn t show them the decency of making them citizens of Rome and more important part of the Republic. Along with wanting to be citizens these tribes were feeling great hardships from Rome. They had high taxes and didn t even have a vote in the Senate. So, because of all these factors, they waged a war upon Rome. Finally, Rome offered these people their citizenship and freedom from persecution. This war was very small compared to others, but it just shows how easily Rome got into quarrels.(10)

Another war was a civil war that was between the two political goups, the Optimates and the Populares. A man named Gaius Marius was the leader of the Populares and Lucius Cornelius Sulla was the leader of the Optimates. Marius was elected to the highest rank in the Roman government of consul, not once but seven times. The Senate and Sulla, a former consul, had raised up an army and were trying to overthrough Marius. Sulla had fought in the Social War and Marius knew that Sulla wasn t the type of person to back down. A great war then arose and Marius was fighting for his life and his consulship. Sulla eventually won the war and instituted many Sullian policies that would later be removed by the Senate and the other high officials. Wars like this one, led to rise of other powers and more civil wars within the Roman civilization. Most of these wars were foolish and could have been avoided with negotiations and common sense.(1 pg 28-30)


Gaius Julius Caesar was born in 100 B.C. to the family of Julii; a great aristocratic family. His father was Gaius Julius Caesar and his mother was Aurelia.(1 pg. 19) His family was not common at all. His uncle was Gaius Marius. The man that was fighting the war with Sulla. That war was taking place when Caesar was aroung seven years old.(1 pg 28-30)

Not only was young Caesar stuck right in the middle of this conflict but other events later arose in his childhood that changed him too. When Caesar was at the age of eight his father became a praetor of Rome. Each day Caesar s father was visited by Senators and other important leaders from the government. This left almost no time at all for Caesaer to get the attention that he wanted from his father. Instead of learning from his parents a tutor was hired to educate him and teach him the ways of life. Marcus Antonius Gnipho was this mans name and he was an excellent tutor for Caesar. Gnipho had studied in Alexandrea and other great institutes of learning. He tought Caesar lititure and math and science and along the way he taught his how to speece Greek. Gnipho is considered to be one of the great influences that made Caesar the man that he would later become in the upcoming years.(7 pg24-26)

Caesar did grow up and soon he felt that it was time to truly become a man. At the age of 16 he got married to Cornelia, the daughter of Gaius Marius s war partner Cinna. This married brought out Caesar s first sigificant act of moral courage. It happened when Sulla defeated Cinna in the civil war and gained power in Rome. Cinna died in the civil war, but Sulla despised him so much that he asked Caesar to divorce Cornelia. Caesar loved his wife and said that there was no way that he would give her up. Sulla was furious with Caesar and was going to kill him, but Caesar s mother, Aurelia had been a friend of Sulla s, so she asked Sulla to spare Caesar and Cornelia s lives. Sulla did so, but banished them out of Rome. Even though Sulla had let him live Caesar had become a fugitive of the Rome and of Sulla s. He went to Greece with his wife and their new born daughter Julia. Caesar had risked his life to save his marriage.(10)


In Greece he entered military service and traveled in Asia until Sulla s death in 78 B.C. At this time he chose to return to Rome and start his political career. Upon returning he became a lawyer and prosecuted many important cases, so that he could make a political name for himself. Some of these cases won him the great recognition that he sought. After Sulla s death the Roman government decided to get ride of all of Sulla s laws. Many of Sulla s sympathizers disagreed and revolted. They then were captured and Caesar had the privilege as the prosecutor of these Sullian revolutionaries. He also prosecuted the Consular that stronrly sympathized with Sulla, Cornelius Dolabella(5 Pg. 20-23) In 75 B.C. Caesar left Rome to study oratory under a famous professor named Molon.(11)

While studying with professor Molon in Rhodes, he left occasionally returned to Rome to visit his family and to do business. On his retur voyage on his way back to Rhodes, he was captured by pirates. He was held on a ship and he was quit smart about the way he acted around these ruthless pirates. Caesar raised his own ransom and freed himself. Stories go that the ransom of Caesar was set at 50 talents, which was a great deal of money. It was only this high because when the pirates set the original ransom at 20 talents, Caesar said that a man of his stature is worth 50 not 20. Anyhow, Caesar later came back to capture his captors, but executed all of them in a moment of revenge. (12 pg. 27)

After Caesar s little adventure, Mithridates VI Eupator, king of Pontus declared war on Rome. Caesar decided that he was going to help in the war effort, so he formed a private army and fought against him. While Caesar was away from Rome fighting, Rome realized more recognition and a member of politico-ecclesiastical college of pontifices. On his return from the war he was elected to be tribune.(11)

Since Caesar had a private army he had to spend a lot of money paying his men. While Caesar was fighting and needing money to pay his army his wife Cornelia died and he remarried to Pompeia. This marriage was different than his last one. It was another controversial one though. Pompeia was the daughter of the dictator Sulla s daughter. Caesar s reason for marrying Pompiea was clear; he needed money. Pompeia was perfect for this. She was rich enough to pay for his army and the rest of Caesar s ambitions for years.(1 pg. 51)

During the next 15 years he became allies with two very important people from Roman society. One was named Marcus Licinius Crassus and the other was named Graeus Pompey. In this time period Caesar also became a praetor, and a governor of Further Spain. Then in 69 B.C. he was elected consul with the support of Pompey and Crassus. These three would go on to form the first triumvirate. This was the governing power over Rome that was shared by the three of them.(4 pg 16)

With Caesar s new acquired power he decided to gain even more support of the people. After becoming govenor of Narbonese Gaul(southern France) in 58 B.C. he decided to conquer the rest of Gaul(now France, Belgium, and parts of Switzerland, Germany, and Holland). One part of Gaul was called Cisalpine Gaul(Northern Italy) and Caesar loved it above all else places. A quote from Caesar said that Cisalpine Gaul was the flower of italy, the mainstay of the Empire of the Roman people…the ornament of its dignity. (7 pg 111) That was a great reason in which Caesar wanted Gaul as part of the Roman Republic. Caesar had a total of four legions, which is over 20 thousand men. Caesar did not have the support of the full support of the Senate, so he decided to raise his own armies. With great opposition he and his armies conquered Gaul and got the popularity from his countrymen that he wanted. From 58-51 B.C. Caesar conquered almost all of Gaul. He was truly a great general. In his years in Gaul he lost only two battles and while winning dozens. Caesar even wrote a book about his travels in Gaul called The Galic Wars.(11)

While Caesar was away in Gaul there were problems back in Rome. Crassus and Pompey began to have quarrles. Soon Pompey had Crassus out of the first triumvirate and put into retirement. Pompey had been married to Caesar s daughter Julia and that had been a great bond between the two. That bond broke when Julia died and when Pompey forced Crassus into retirement. This breakage of the bond caused the total distruction of the first triumvirate and a great strain on Caesar and Pompey s relationship.


For the next couple of years Caesar fought many wars and conquered many people all over Europe. Until 49 B.C. Caesar continued to fight throughout the world. Since the conquring of Gaul years befor, Caesar had been put in charge of Gaul and had acted as procosul. He had held this post for five years and was just given a five year extension. Normally a proconsulship lasts only one year. The Senate ordered Caesar to give up his army and his proconsulship because they feared he had too much power in Gaul. His other enimemies had charged Caesar with charges of treason to the empire and other false cimes. They just wanted him out of office, so that they could take his place. The only thing that was protecting Caesar was his proconsulship. Along with being a proconsul, that person in not lible to prosecution from any person or government. Caesar didn t want to give up his army, so he defied the Senate and continued to do as he was doing. The Senate then said that Caesar was to not cross the Rubican river and return to Rome unless he was alone and without his army. He crossed the river and again defied them. That is where the phrase Crossing the Rubican came from. The Senate was furious at his blatant disregard for their orders. This meant there was to be a war. Pompey had been elected consul and since he was the leader of Rome at the time, the civil war was to be with Caesar on one side and Pompey and the rest of Rome on the other. Pompey and much of the Senate fled Rome and sailed to Greece. (6 pg 338-339). One book on the events that changed the world said that another reason that Caesar defied the Senate was because Caesar saw himself as the single person with enough power to successfully unite Rome together. (4 pg 16) Another book said, …he was not fighting to annihilate…but to…pave the way for a final pacification of the Roman world… (5 pg 217)

Caesar s defeated Pompey s army at Phanslavs, Greece in 48 B.C. Caesar then said that he should be dictator. With Pompey s army defeated, and Rome being surrounded by Caesar s army and the Senate had no other choice except to do what he said. Caesar was then elected the dictator of Rome.(11)

After the battle of Phanslavs Caesar showed moral courage by offering clemancy to the senators and others who had fought against them. Instead of killing or exiling them he pardoned them He had nothing to gain from this act except to make a better and stronger Rome. This act had great risk to himself and later turned out to be a mistake because the key Senators that assasinated him were among those who were pardoned.(11)

Caesar s battle with Pompey was not over yet. Pompey tried to raise another army and kept on fighting Caesar in the East until he was forced to flead to Egypt. When Caesar arrived in Egypt he then learned that Pompey had been murdered and began his famous affair with Cleopatra. Caesar helped Cleopatra get the thrown from her younger brother that had tried to kill her. Cleopatra s brother tried to stop Caesar and was going to fight him, but Caesar was prepared and had dispached an army from a nearby country to fight Cleopatra s brother if he tried anything. Cleopatra s brother ended up getting killed and she gained the trown. Caesar really loved her and married her under Egyption law. He later had a son with her. She later returned with Caesar to Rome and was with him in his last days. (11)

Even though Pompey was dead and his army defeated, others continued the fight against Caesar. The children of Pomey were a few of the ones that kept on fighting Caesar. The war raged on until 45 B.C. when Caesar s army defeated his enemies in a great battle in Muda, Spain. It was to be the last battle of this bloody four year war.(6 pg 340)


In 47 B.C. Caesar gave up his dictatorship and choose to be consul instead. No one really knows why he choose to do this, but it really did not make a difference as far as the way that he ruled Rome. It made no difference in the way he ruled because Caesar was always away on battles and really had no time to rule. It was not until 45 B.C. when the civil was was finally over when Caesar finally got to rule and lead Rome the way that he wanted to. At this point he was elected dictator for life.

What Caesar wanted to do was to make Rome into the civilization that he always wanted to be. He started to make reforms. Some of the reforms that he made were to acquir new provinces, correct the calendar, and establish new laws. During this time period he showed another act of moral courage. Some of his followers wanted to make him king the of Rome for the rest of his life. He knew that this was something that would tear the Roman Republic apart because he knew that a king to the Roman people would mean an evil unjust ruler, as were the former rulers of Rome. He refused the crown.(11)

It is ironic that the most famous son of the Roman Empire is remembered above all else for his death. (4 pg 16) On March 15, 44 B.C., the ides of March, a great assasination plot was unfolded. When Caesar entered the Senate House on that remeberable day, he found himself surrounded by his fellow Senators. To distract Caesar some of the conspiritors came up to Caesar and started asking him for favors. In the next split second they all pulled out knives and stabbed Caesar over 22 times. One of the assasins of Caesar was a man named Quintus Caepio Brutus. He was a valued friend of Caesar s that was one of the Senators pardoned after the civil war. When Caesar is being stabbed and he finally realizes that Brutus is one of he assasins he says the famous quote Et tu, Brute which ment You too, Brutus. This just means how close the assasins were to Caesar. The reason for this murder was because these senators still believed that Caesar had too much power even though he had so forcfully refused the crown. Many were angry at his death and revenge was set out upon all that were invoved. None of them lived to see the next year.(11)

There are some interesting myths that are roumored about Caesar s death. One said that when Caesar was a young man he visited a soothsayer and asked for his fortune. Along with telling him his fortune she also told him to beware of the ides of March. Another myth roumored said that the night before Caesar died his wife had nightmares the night before. Finally, the aromour that once belonged to Mars, fell off his wall that day too. Doctors and soothsayers were said to have advised him not to go to the Senate on that day.(4 pg 16)


Some historians believe that Caesar did not really have that much moral courage. For example, Professor Hartigan from the University of Nevada, Reno said Caesar proved himself a man of courage on the battlefield and in politics…As for his moral courage, I think it depends on what was the phrase means. He believed in himself, he felt he understood the Roman people, and he knew the Roman political scene well. His main focus was on his own personal ambition. It is a matter of opinion on whether one person or another believes if what Caesar was doing was soulfully for himself or for his people. It is true though that most of the acts that Caesar did were for himself and not for others, but there are a number of acts that seem that they had only a little or no benefit for himself and much for others. One also must consider the times in which Caesar lived. In the time of Caesar it was not uncommon if a leader won a war and slaughtered all of his enemies opponents themselves and their soldiers. In Caesar case he let them all live and didn t even punish them. The fact that Caesar defied the leader of his country and became an enemy of his country for the love of his woman would be considered moral courage by todays standards. Caesar does appear to have had much better morals than other leaders of his time. The fact that he was assasinated showed the risk he took in trying to forgive his enemies and to create a better Rome(13)

Caesar did show moral courage in the time that he was alive. In both by todays standards and by his times standards. The evidence about Caesar is simple and it shows that he did do moral acts that improved his countryand the others that were around him. Therefore Caesar did show moral courage throughout his life and it made a difference.


End Notes

1. Bradford, Ernle. Julius Caesar: The Pursuit of Power. New York:

William Morrow and company, 1986.

2. Caesar, Julius. The New Encyclop dia Britanica. 15th ed. 1974

3. Caesar, Julius. The World Book Encyclopedia. 1993 ed.

4. Death of Julius Caesar. Encyclopedia of Events that Changed the World: Eighty

Turning Points in History. 1991 ed.

5. Gelzer, Matthias. Caesar: Politician and Statesman. Great Britain: Basil Blackwell,


6. Hart, Michael H.. The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in

History. New York City: Hart Publishing Company, Inc.

7. Kahn, Arthur. The Education of Julius Caesar. New York: Schocken Books, 1986.

8. Mazour, Antatole G.. and John M. Peoples. World History: People and Nations.

United States of America: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc, 1987.

9. Rome, Ancient. The New Encyclop dia Britanica. 15th ed. 1974

10. Rome, Ancient. The World Book Encyclopedia. 1993 ed.

11. Sulla, Lucius Cornelius. The New Encyclop dia Britanica. 15th ed. 1974.

12. Walter, Gerard. Caesar: a Biography. New York: Charles Scribner s Sons, 1952.

13. Francis X. Hartigan, Ph.D.



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