Childhood & Early Life
He was born in 100 BC into a patrician family. His father Gaius Julius Caesar governed the region of Asia and his aunt Julia married one of the most important figures in the Republic. His mother, Aurelia, too came from a very influential family.
After the sudden death of his father in 85 BC, a 16-year-old Julius was burdened with all kinds of responsibilities. At that time, there was a civil war going on between his Uncle Gaius Marius and Lucius Cornelius Sulla.
He was nominated to be the new high priest and got married to Cornelia, the daughter of Lucius Cornelius Cinna, Marius’s biggest ally.
Sulla was victorious in the war and his new target was Caesar. In a bid to save himself from Sulla, Caesar decided to go to Asia for military service. He came back only after Sulla’s death.
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He started his career as a prosecuting advocate and studied philosophy temporarily in Rhodes.
Caesar was captured by pirates and held prisoner while crossing the Aegean Sea. Once the ransom was paid, Caesar was released. After his release, he led a fleet, pursuing and capturing the pirates and crucifying them in his authority as promised earlier to the pirates when he was held captive.
In 69 BC, he was elected as the quaestor by the Assembly of people and later as curule aedile in 65 BC. He was also elected as Pontifex Maximus (chief high priest) in 63 BC. He was proclaimed as the Imperator (commander) of the Roman Republic in 60 BC.
In 59 BC, he was elected as senior consul of the Roman Republic by the ‘Centuriate Assembly.’ Since he needed allies, he became friends with Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus (Pompey the Great) and Marcus Licinius Crassus, a former consul and one of the richest men in Rome. He was in desperate need of Crassus’ money and Pompey’s influence. Thus an informal union, called the ‘First Triumvirate,’ was formed.
His discontentment led to the start of the ‘Gallic Wars’ (58 BC - 50 BC) in which the remaining parts of France and Germania was annexed to Rome. He then waged wars against many other nations. Altogether, Caesar conquered 800 cities, subdued 300 tribes, sold a million slaves, and had three million slaves killed.
Despite these conquests, he was always unpopular with his peers. After the death of Julia Caesaris (Caesar’s daughter and Pompey’s wife) in 54 BC and Crassus’s murder in 53 BC in Parthia, Pompey started drifting apart and became close to the ‘Optimates.’ Caesar tried to bring him back, but Pompey married Cornelia Metella, the daughter of Caesar’s greatest enemy, Metellus Scipio.
In 50 BC, Caesar was asked by the Senate and Pompey to resign. However, he refused and in order to avoid prosecution, he fled to Italy by crossing the Rubicon River and the civil war broke out.
He marched his troops to Rome and conquered it in 49 BC. He then spent the next 18 months fighting Pompey. Pompey fled to Egypt after being defeated by Caesar. Frightened that Caesar would invade Egypt, the young Pharaoh, Ptolemy XIII had Pompey killed and presented his head as a gift to Caesar.
After Caesar was declared dictator, he established police forces, introduced land reforms, abolished taxes, and re-established the tribune system. Militarily, he wanted to conquer Parthians, Dacians, and Carrhae. The most important change was the reformation of the calendar. The Roman calendar was in accordance with the movements of the moon, so Caesar changed it according to the sun’s movement just like the Egyptians.
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Even though Rome had its senate, the real power was with Caesar and many were scared of Rome being governed by a king. Caesar did not wish to become the king, but the fear of the republicans led the senate to conspire against Caesar.
On the Ides of March (15th of March), Caesar was assassinated by the senators. After his death, a civil war broke out between the murderers (Liberators) and the ‘Second Triumvirate’ which included Mark Antony, Octavian (Caesar’s grandnephew), and Lepidus (Caesar’s loyal cavalry commander).
Militarily, Caesar’s tactical brilliance was compared to that of Alexander’s military prowess. ‘Battle of Alesia’ took place on September, 52 BC. It was the last major engagement between the Gauls and the Romans. It was a turning point in the ‘Gallic Wars’ in favor of Rome.
‘The Battle of Pharsalus’ was the decisive battle in Caesar’s civil war. He defeated his long-time friend-turned-enemy Pompey. Though Pompey had a greater number of warriors, Caesar’s army was more experienced and better trained.
He was one of the finest and brilliant orators and authors of prose in Rome. Among the most famous was his funeral oration for his aunt. ‘Anticato’ is a document that was written to respond to the Cato’s memorial.
Most of his works have been lost but some of his best preserved works are: the ‘Commentarii de Bello Gallico’ (Commentaries on the Gallic War) and the ‘Commentarii de Bello Civili’ (Commentaries on the Civil War).
Personal Life & Legacy
He was first married to Cornelia Cinna, the daughter of Lucius Cornelius Cinna, from 84 BC until 69 BC. They had a daughter named Julia.
His second marriage was with Pompeia from 67 BC to 61 BC. He got married for the third time to Calpurnia Pisonis in 59 BC. This marriage lasted until his death.
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Caesar had a love affair with Cleopatra VII, who was the queen of Egypt. They were madly in love and even had a child together named Caesarion, who was killed.
It is believed that he suffered from epilepsy.
He was the first historical Roman to be deified and was given the title ‘Divus Iulius’ (the divine Julius). The comet that appeared during the games confirmed his godliness.
In 46 BC, Caesar gave himself the title ‘Prefect of the Morals’ which was a new office that basically censored offensive matters.
He was the only Roman to have his picture on a coin while still alive.
A group of senators, led by Brutus, stabbed him to death in March 44 BC.
After his death, his body was cremated and the ‘Temple of Caesar’ was erected a few years later.