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Gaius Julius Caesar was born on the 13th day of the month Quintilis, July in modern calendars, in the year 100 BC. His name was the same as his father’s, with Gaius being his given name, and Julius being his surname. Caesar was the name for one branch of the Julian family, and originally meant “hairy.” His family was not extremely wealthy, however they lived in relative comfort. Regardless of his background, he was well connected and did some important work for the government in his youth. When he was only 20 years old he was honored for bravery at the siege of Mytilene. A short time after that he left to study in Rhodes, but was captured and incarcerated by pirates on his way there. His family paid a ransom for his release. Caesar returned with a small private army to execute the pirates who had apprehended him. He never finished his studies due to the war with Mithradates VI of Pontis in 74 BC
Caesar was a man of great strength and strong beliefs. At one point in time, Sulla told Caesar that he had to divorce his wife as a symbolic act of his loyalty to the new regime. Caesar told him no, and Sulla was so impressed by this act that he pardoned Caesar instead of exiling him. Cesar’s strength gained him some small political offices in his early years. It was in 59 BC that he became a Roman Consul, and made the alliance with Pompey and Crassus that is known as the “First Triumvirate.” This alliance was extremely important in the history of Rome and its empire.
Caesar’s rise to power came in three main areas, politics, religion, and the military. He gained the power in politics and religion from a very early age. He became active in both, and eventually became the central figure in religion and politics. His rise to power in the military came shortly after the death of Crassus. This left only Pompey and Caesar fighting for whom was in charge of the Triumvirate. Caesar marched his army down to southern Italy and defeated Pompey’s army in a bloody civil war.
Once he had control of religion, military, and politics, Caesar’s power was unstoppable. Caesar had good intentions for the city of Rome, but at the same time he abused the powers that was given to him. In order to get across may of his reforms, he manipulated the government and the senate especially. He created nearly 400 new seats in the senate, because he crated them, most of the new Senators were supporters of Caesar. Once he controlled the Senate he was able to control almost all of Roman Politics. He was appointed dictator for a year in 49 BC, and for two more years starting in 48 BC. This all accumulated to him being granted Dictatus Perpetus, or dictator for life in 44 BC. This struck great fear in many of Rome’s politicians, because they had no way of stopping Caesar from returning Rome to a monarchy. On March 15, 44 BC, members of his own Senate assassinated Caesar.
Caesar’s assassins acted for a multitude of reasons. Some acted out of fear, others out of anger, and some out of jealousy. Those who feared him, did so because of his extreme power. Nothing could stop Caesar from acting out his will whenever and wherever he pleased. This scared the Republic because they did not want to return to a monarchy, and instead wanted their republic to remain intact. Others were angry simply because of their standing the society. Because Caesar was the high power, if someone such as Brutus could not attain the prestige they strove for, they turned their anger directly to Caesar. As Caesar became more and more powerful, his situation worsened with the people, because he was not able to reward everybody to their expectations. Since Caesar was all supreme those who felt let down, instantly turned all their blame on Caesar. Although Caesar’s death would be avenged, it couldn’t make up for some of the reforms he put into effect. Caesar had made a large, lasting changes to the Roman Empire. His reforms would last for hundreds of years after his death.
1. Encylopedia Britannica, vol. 15, 1997, “Caesar, Julius” pg. 402-406.
2. Encyclopedia Americana, vol. 5, 1996, “Caesar, Julius” pg. 135-138.
3. J.P.V.P. Baldson Julius Caesar: A Political Biography. New York: Athenaeum, 1967.
4. Storch, Rudolf H. “Relative Deprivation and the Ides of March: Motive for Murder.” The Ancient History Bulletin. Vol. 9.1, 1995: 45-52.
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