Gaius Julius Caesar was an astute
politician & military commander whose conquests expanded Roman
territory but whose political ambitions hastened the transformation
of the Roman government from the old republic into an imperial
military dictatorship. Though a patrician by birth, Caesar's family
was neither wealthy nor influential in the Senate. From youth he
allied himself with the social reformers, Gaius Marius & L.
The defeat of the populist party by
the patrician dictator Sulla (82 BCE) forced the radical teenager
into a military career in Asia Minor. A decade later he returned to
constitutional reforms (70 BCE) & begin a series of lavish
political campaigns funded by borrowed money. His appointment as
governor of Spain
(61 BCE) gave Caesar income to repay his debts;
and his alliance with Pompey & Crassus (60 BCE) enabled him to
run a successful campaign for consul (59 BCE) despite the opposition
of the majority of the Senate. To solidify his popular support,
Caesar allotted public lands to the many military veterans who had
no pensions or other holdings. He secured his own appointment as
military governor of the Roman provinces in north Italy &
southern Gaul & used this as a base to conquer the rest of Gaul
(58-50 BCE). This gave him the manpower, prestige & plunder he
needed to pursue his goal of reorganizing the Roman state by
restricting the power & influence of the patrician controlled
Defying the Senate's order to stay
out of Italy, Caesar brought his army to Rome (49 BCE). Pompey tried
to starve him out by using a naval blockade. But Pompey's defeat
& murder (48 BCE) left
Caesar sole master of the Roman world [Crassus
having died in a battle with Parthia in 53 BCE]. After a brief
affair with Cleopatra VII
in Egypt, Caesar returned to Rome to be
proclaimed dictator (47 BCE).
Still facing pockets of resistance, he
accepted the allegiance of Pompey's ally, Antipater,
& appointed him "procurator" [epitropos] of Judea.
After putting down revolts in Africa & Spain he returned to Rome
(45 BCE) to begin his reorganization of his empire.
to former opponents in the Senate, he gave several of
Longinus & Marcus Brutus---key positions in his new regime. He
was stabbed to death on March 15, 44 BCE by 60 Senatorial
conspirators, including several former supporters who feared he
would use his dictatorial powers to have himself proclaimed king.
Yet, two years later the same Roman Senate, purged of his opponents
by his heirs, Octavian & Marc
Antony, declared Caesar a god (42 BCE).
He ruled for barely a year. The
empire he initiated, however, lasted more than a millennium. He had
no sons; but his extended family dominated the Roman world for more
than a century. He made his family name so synonymous with
"absolute ruler" that it became the title of later
European emperors (Caesar, Kaiser, Czar). Yet his most durable reform was his correction of
the old Roman calendar, which in a slightly revised form, is still
used internationally today.
14.123-143, 185-202, 211-221, 270-271; 19.173.
1.183-187, 192-205, 216-218.
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