Julius  Caesar  [100-44 BCE; assassinated]

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. Cornelius Cinna.

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 support Pompey's 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 Senate.

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. Granting amnesty to former opponents in the Senate, he gave several of them---including Cassius 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.

References: Josephus, Antiquities 14.123-143, 185-202, 211-221, 270-271; 19.173.
                   _____, War 1.183-187, 192-205, 216-218.

Other resources on line:

Silver denarius with image of Caesar laureate with inscription (reading right to left from nose): Caesar Dict. Perpetuo ["Caesar Dictator Forever"]. For a catalog of Caesar's coins see:

Perspective on the World of Jesus

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