Julius Caesar was a Roman general and statesman, and one of the most influential figures in Roman history. He helped to overturn the republic and build the Roman empire into a powerful force, expanding the empire’s territory through his military campaigns.
Caesar was also a skilled politician and his reforms helped improve the efficiency of government. However, Caesar’s career was cut short when he was assassinated by a group of senators who feared his power.
Julius Caesar was not a directly moral person; among other things, he used his charm and influence to seduce the Senate – and a number of aristocratic women. Yet he also had many other qualities and achievements that continue to fascinate readers to this day. Despite his brutal death, he left a lasting legacy to Rome and the world.
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Gaius Julius Caesar
His full name was Gaius Julius Caesar. This descends from his father, Gaius Cæsar, and the family at large, Julii Caesares, who was a patrician family. The patricians were Rome’s original aristocracy, but Caesar’s family was by no means rich, high-ranking, or snobbish.
When was Caesar born?
Caesar was born on July 12 in the year 100 BC in Subura, Italy. His father died when he was only 16 years old. His mother, Aurelia, however, lived longer. She was a remarkable woman, and there is much to indicate that he had much to thank her for.
One of Caesar’s aunts was married to Gaius Marius, a self-made man who had risen to the top through his military abilities, and who had introduced the ground-breaking innovation that it was no longer only wealthy families who could be recruited into the military, but also peasants of the lowest rank.
Despite the fact that his family background does not suggest that he had any advantages in coming to power – quite the opposite – it seems that Julius Caesar was determined to climb the system from early on.
What did Caesar do?
Caesar’s achievements are numerous. Some of the most famous include when he:
- Was captured by pirates and later hunted them down to crucify them
- Conquered Gaul and significantly expanded the borders of the Roman Empire
- Overthrew the Republic and played a central role in turning Rome into an empire
Captured by pirates
Around 78 BC, when he was in his early twenties, Caesar wanted to study oratory under a famous professor, Molon. Along the way, however, he was captured by pirates. This is one of the events that best portrays Caesar’s eccentric character. When he was on the boat, he didn’t crouch down like other slaves would and give up – quite the contrary. He turned to the pirates and began to give them orders, just as a Roman general would. He told jokes, meted out insults, and promised them personally that he would come back and crucify them all when he was released.
They all laughed at this since it seemed unlikely to them that he would be able to let go. That would prove to cost them dearly. This was exactly what he did; he recruited a naval force, sought out the pirates, and crucified them all.
Julius Caesar: Gallic Wars
Julius Caesar conquered Gaul during what was called the Gallic War. It took place between the years 58 to 50 BC, and succeeded colossally, despite the fact that the Romans apparently didn’t have any better military technology than the Gauls.
When pitted against each other, a Gallic cavalryman was probably superior to a Roman. However, this could not make up for the Romans’ superior abilities in strategy, tactics, military technique, and not least – discipline.
While the Gauls (or “barbarians”, as the Romans called all non-Roman peoples) howled and roared and ran wildly at the Romans, it was standard practice for Rome’s legionnaires to fight as one unit; to form a wall with its tall, rectangular shields; and to methodically relieve their front-line warriors with healthy men who had conserved energy further back – something the perhaps stronger and larger barbarians from the north rarely managed to resist over time.
On the strategic level, Rome also had the advantage of being able to deal separately with the many Gallic chiefdoms. Caesar conquered these piecemeal, and when several chieftains had come together to fight a united war against the Romans under the leader Vercingetorix in 52 BC, it was too late (see the Battle of Alesia).
I came, I saw, I conquered – Veni vidi vici
“Veni vidi vici,” are the famous Latin words that left Caesar’s mouth after the Gauls were under the heel of Rome. If we translate veni vidi vici into English, it means “I came, I saw, I conquered.”
However great it was to conquer the Gauls, the Gallic War was only one of the means for Caesar’s political ambitions. He amassed great wealth from the booty, and used the money to gain political strength in Rome.
Julius Caesar becomes dictator and overthrows the Republic
Later in life, Gaius Julius Caesar appointed himself dictator for life, which he is perhaps best known for, after overthrowing the Republic. The Roman Republic had lasted almost 500 years, before Caesar took power and started the process that would lead to Rome becoming an empire.
Julius Caesar and Cleopatra
The relationship between Julius Caesar and Cleopatra is one of the most famous in history. Julius Caesar and Cleopatra became lovers in connection with Cleopatra having asked Caesar to invade Egypt in 47 BC.
In the Battle of the Nile, the Roman-Egyptian forces of Caesar and Cleopatra defeated the reigning Queen Arsinoe IV and King Ptolemy XIII. Thus the love birds secured the throne of Egypt. The two had a well-documented affair that naturally ended with Caesar’s death.
Julius Caesar’s son
Cleopatra eventually gave birth to a son, Caesarion, who was her only child by Caesar. Caesarion was born on 23 June in the year 47 BC, and his full name was Ptolemy XV Philopator Philometor Cæsar. He died on 23 August in the year 30 BC.
Death of Julius Caesar
The death of Julius Caesar is one of the most famous events in Roman history, and all history in general. Below we will look at, among other things, when he died, who killed him, the power struggle that broke out after his brutal death, and who came to rule the Roman Empire after him.
When did Caesar die?
Although scholars still debate exactly how and when Caesar met his end, most agree that he probably died around 12 o’clock on March 15, 44 BC. This date is also called the Ides of March (the 15th day of the month of March). By all accounts, this day marks one of the most important moments in history, and a key turning point for both ancient Rome and for civilization as a whole.
Where was Caesar killed?
Caesar’s story ends in tragedy on the steps of the Roman Senate, where he is assassinated by a group of senators. While his exact location at the time of his death is unknown, historical accounts place him in the senate chamber.
How many did Julius Caesar kill?
There is much debate among historians about the exact number of people who assassinated Julius Caesar. Some claim that there were as many as sixty conspirators, while others claim that only a handful of men were actively involved. What we do know for sure is that Caesar was stabbed twenty-three times, a shocking and violent display intended to send a message to those who would challenge the power of the Roman Republic. However, it would turn out to have the opposite effect.
Who killed Caesar?
Although Caesar was stabbed 23 times, it was his former friend Marcus Brutus who gave the last and most fatal stab that killed him. It was later investigated that only one of the stabs was fatal (aside from the profuse bleeding that came from so many punctures on the body).
You too, Brutus?
After the many senators had stabbed Caesar, they pressured his former close friend Brutus, who had led the conspiracy, to give him the final blow. Caesar’s last words thus became “You too, Brutus?”, a clear sign of the close friendship they had enjoyed before Brutus saw it necessary to break it off with Caesar. However, it is Shakespeare who put these words in Caesar’s mouth in the play Caesar, and it is therefore uncertain whether he actually said them.
Who won the power struggle after Caesar’s death?
The power struggle that followed Julius Caesar’s death was complex and intense, pitting different factions against each other. On one side were two of Caesar’s murderers, Marcus Junius Brutus and Gaius Cassius Longinus, who hoped to avenge their fallen leader while establishing their own political dominance. Meanwhile, Mark Antony, another key figure in Caesar’s assassination plot, wanted to consolidate his own control of the Roman Empire by establishing himself as Caesar’s official heir.
Over time, Brutus and Cassius faced fierce opposition from Antony, who gradually assembled a powerful army in preparation for civil war. Finally, however, their armies supported each other at Philippi in 42 BC during an epic battle that left both Brutus and Cassius dead. Antonius emerged victorious from this battle.
Now, however, another power struggle became more and more prominent. On one side was Mark Antony. On the other was Octavian, Caesar’s nephew and heir. This conflict would continue to shape Rome’s history for many years to come.
In the early days of the conflict, Mark Antony seemed to have gained the upper hand. He quickly assumed control of large parts of Rome, amassing vast armies at his command and silencing his political enemies with lethal force if necessary. However, he soon found himself facing opposition from Octavian, who mobilized his own army with the support of powerful allies. Faced with this formidable new opposition, Mark Antony was forced to retreat and surrender to Octavian in 31 BC.
With Mark Antony outmaneuvered, Octavian slowly consolidated power in the following years. In 27 BC he had established himself as emperor under the title of Augustus. Despite repeated attempts by Antony to regain control during this period, he ultimately failed due to strong support for Augustus from much of Roman society.
All in all, it can be said that Octavian emerged victorious from this power struggle after Julius Caesar’s death – although not without significant costs in terms of lost lives and damage to Rome itself.
Who ruled after Caesar?
In the end, it would turn out that the assassination of Julius Cæsar had the opposite effect of what the conspirators wanted. Instead of ending dictatorship and autocracy, and returning to the old form of government with the Republic, Caesar’s death sealed the fate of the Empire, where one person came to rule the Roman Empire: Emperor Augustus.
Julius Caesar quotes
Below is a collection of Julius Caesar’s most famous quotes.
- The die is cast (latin: Iacta alea est)
- I came, I saw, I conquered (latin: veni vidi vici)
- You too, Brutus? (latin: et tu, Brute?)
Facts about Julius Caesar
Why was Julius Caesar important?
Julius Caesar was one of the most important figures in world history, and his legacy continues to shape our modern world in countless ways:
- His military campaigns spanned the whole of Europe, allowing him to unite much of the area under Roman rule.
- He also had an enormous influence on the development of laws and government, laying the foundation for Rome’s political structure and inspiring ideas that have shaped many modern societies.
- Finally, Caesar stood at the forefront of culture and intellect, championing literature, art and philosophy.
Through his visionary leadership, Caesar helped lay the foundations for Western civilization as we know it today. Therefore, it is clear that Julius Caesar was truly one of the most significant figures in history.
What position did Caesar have in the Roman Empire?
During his reign as ruler of the Roman Empire, Julius Caesar held a number of important positions in government:
- His most notable role was as a military general, and he was able to achieve many impressive victories on the battlefield.
- In addition, Caesar acted as a high priest in Rome, and oversaw various religious ceremonies and rituals.
- He was also an influential politician, and served as both consul and member of the Senate.
Through these positions, Caesar played a key role in shaping the course of Roman history and helping shape the empire’s future direction.
What does Caesar mean?
The origin of the word “Caesar” is somewhat shrouded in mystery. Some scholars believe that it is derived from a title given to Roman emperors, while others claim that its origin lies in an ancient Roman family name.
Regardless of its etymology, “Caesar” has taken on a variety of meanings over the centuries. Over time, it has been used as a synonym for emperor, ruler, dictator and even business magnate. Today, it remains a popular term for both men and women around the world, and its rich historical roots give it a sense of grandeur and power.
So whether you’re looking to evoke the strength and ambition associated with ancient Rome or simply looking for an impressive name for your next child or pet, ‘Caesar’ is sure to fit the bill.
How long was Julius Caesar emperor?
Despite his name, Caesar – which eventually came to mean emperor, or ruler – he is not counted as the first emperor. Rather, he went under the title of dictator, a position he held for just over 4 years. So, although Julius Caesar was no emperor, he played what we can call the key role in introducing imperial rule in Rome, after there had been a republican system of government with one-year consuls for almost 500 years.
Salacious gossip about Julius Caesar
While many stories and rumors about Caesar exist, it’s important to distinguish between fact and gossip. Nevertheless, here are a few salacious and controversial anecdotes associated with Julius Caesar:
“Queen of Bithynia”
There were rumors that Caesar had a romantic relationship with Nicomedes IV, the King of Bithynia, during his early years. Some of his political enemies later used this as a way to mock him, implying that he had been involved in a homosexual relationship.
The term “Caesarean section” is commonly associated with the birth of Julius Caesar. According to legend, his mother, Aurelia, gave birth to him via this method. While it’s unlikely that this is true, the connection between Caesar and the surgical procedure has persisted in popular culture.
Bona Dea Scandal
The Bona Dea festival was an exclusive and secretive Roman religious event dedicated to the goddess Bona Dea (meaning “Good Goddess”), usually held in December. The festival was strictly for women, and men were forbidden from participating or attending the rituals.
In 62 BC, the Roman politician Publius Clodius Pulcher, a notorious troublemaker, managed to infiltrate the festival disguised as a woman. He was allegedly seeking to seduce Caesar’s wife, Pompeia, who was hosting the event in her house. Clodius’s presence at the festival was discovered when a servant informed Pompeia of his true identity.
The revelation of a man sneaking into the sacred festival of Bona Dea caused a major scandal. The sanctity of the festival was compromised, and it was believed that the presence of a man had defiled the rituals.
Caesar’s wife, Pompeia, was divorced by Caesar soon after the scandal, not because of any proven wrongdoing on her part but out of concern for his political reputation, as Caesar famously said, “Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion.”
Clodius was put on trial for sacrilege but was ultimately acquitted due to a combination of bribery and political maneuvering. The scandal and Clodius’s subsequent acquittal added to the political tensions in Rome and contributed to the ongoing rivalry between Caesar and his political opponents.
Caesar was known to have been married multiple times. One of his more scandalous marriages was to Pompeia, but it ended in divorce after the event at the Bona Dea festival (mentioned above). His other marriages and relationships also fueled gossip during his lifetime.
Rumors of Deification
After his assassination, there were rumors that Caesar would be deified, or declared a god, by the Roman Senate. Some even claimed to have seen a comet shortly after his death, interpreting it as a sign of his ascent to godhood.
It’s crucial to keep in mind that many of these stories are based on historical accounts that may be embellished or politically motivated. While they add intrigue to the life of Julius Caesar, they should be viewed with a critical perspective, and the historical accuracy of such gossip is often debatable.
Timeline of Julius Caesar’s life
Below, you can find a timeline of the key events in the life of Julius Caesar.
July 12 or 13, 100 BCE
Caesar is born in Rome
His family is part of the patrician class, the aristocratic upper class of Roman society.
Captured by pirates
Caesar is captured by pirates while sailing to Rhodes. He is held captive but ultimately released after a ransom is paid.
Caesar holds the position of quaestor, a public office in Rome.
Caesar is elected Pontifex Maximus, the chief priest of Rome.
The First Triumvirate
Caesar forms the First Triumvirate with Gaius Pompeius Magnus (Pompey) and Marcus Licinius Crassus. This political alliance helps him gain power and influence in Rome.
Caesar is elected consul, one of the two highest offices in the Roman Republic.
Conquest of Gaul
Caesar conducts his famous Gallic Wars, expanding Roman territory into Gaul (modern-day France) and beyond.
Civil War -> Dictator
Caesar engages in a civil war against Pompey, ultimately defeating him in Egypt. During this time, he declares himself dictator perpetuo, or dictator in perpetuity.
Caesar is assassinated
Julius Caesar is assassinated by a group of Roman senators, including Brutus and Cassius, on the Ides of March (March 15th). His death marks the end of the Roman Republic and the beginning of the Roman Empire.