ᑭᑲᓯᑲᒋ ᑌᐊᐁᓭᐊᕃ Template:Infobox officeholder Gaius Julius CaesarTemplate:Efn (Template:IPA-la; 13 July 100 BC – 15 March 44 BC), known as Julius Caesar, was a Roman politician, general, and notable author of Latin prose. He played a critical role in the events that led to the demise of the Roman Republic and the rise of the Roman Empire.
In 60 BC, Caesar, Crassus, and Pompey formed a political alliance that dominated Roman politics for several years. Their attempts to amass power as Populares were opposed by the Optimates within the Roman Senate, among them Cato the Younger with the frequent support of Cicero. Caesar's victories in the Gallic Wars, completed by 51 BC, extended Rome's territory to the English Channel and the Rhine. Caesar became the first Roman general to cross both the Channel and the Rhine, when he built a bridge across the Rhine and crossed the Channel to invade Britain.
These achievements granted him unmatched military power and threatened to eclipse the standing of Pompey, who had realigned himself with the Senate after the death of Crassus in 53 BC. With the Gallic Wars concluded, the Senate ordered Caesar to step down from his military command and return to Rome. Caesar refused the order, and instead marked his defiance in 49 BC by crossing the Rubicon with the 13th Legion, leaving his province and illegally entering Roman Italy under arms. Civil war resulted, and Caesar's victory in the war put him in an unrivalled position of power and influence.
After assuming control of government, Caesar began a programme of social and governmental reforms, including the creation of the Julian calendar. He centralised the bureaucracy of the Republic and was eventually proclaimed "dictator in perpetuity", giving him additional authority. But the underlying political conflicts had not been resolved, and on the Ides of March (15 March) 44 BC, Caesar was assassinated by a group of rebellious senators led by Marcus Junius Brutus. A new series of civil wars broke out, and the constitutional government of the Republic was never fully restored. Caesar's adopted heir Octavian, later known as Augustus, rose to sole power after defeating his opponents in the civil war. Octavian set about solidifying his power, and the era of the Roman Empire began.
Much of Caesar's life is known from his own accounts of his military campaigns, and from other contemporary sources, mainly the letters and speeches of Cicero and the historical writings of Sallust. The later biographies of Caesar by Suetonius and Plutarch are also major sources. Caesar is considered by many historians to be one of the greatest military commanders in history.
Early life and career[edit | edit source]
Caesar was born into a patrician family, the gens Julia, which claimed descent from Iulus, son of the legendary Trojan prince Aeneas, supposedly the son of the goddess Venus. The cognomen "Caesar" originated, according to Pliny the Elder, with an ancestor who was born by Caesarean section (from the Latin verb to cut, caedere, caes-). The Historia Augusta suggests three alternative explanations: that the first Caesar had a thick head of hair (Latin caesaries); that he had bright grey eyes (Latin oculis caesiis); or that he killed an elephant (caesai in Moorish) in battle. Caesar issued coins featuring images of elephants, suggesting that he favored this interpretation of his name.
Despite their ancient pedigree, the Julii Caesares were not especially politically influential, although they had enjoyed some revival of their political fortunes in the early 1st century BC. Caesar's father, also called Gaius Julius Caesar, governed the province of Asia, and his sister Julia, Caesar's aunt, married Gaius Marius, one of the most prominent figures in the Republic. His mother, Aurelia Cotta, came from an influential family. Little is recorded of Caesar's childhood.
In 85 BC, Caesar's father died suddenly, so Caesar was the head of the family at 16. His coming of age coincided with a civil war between his uncle Gaius Marius and his rival Lucius Cornelius Sulla. Both sides carried out bloody purges of their political opponents whenever they were in the ascendancy. Marius and his ally Lucius Cornelius Cinna were in control of the city when Caesar was nominated to be the new high priest of Jupiter, and he was married to Cinna's daughter Cornelia. Following Sulla's final victory, though, Caesar's connections to the old regime made him a target for the new one. He was stripped of his inheritance, his wife's dowry, and his priesthood, but he refused to divorce Cornelia and was forced to go into hiding. The threat against him was lifted by the intervention of his mother's family, which included supporters of Sulla, and the Vestal Virgins. Sulla gave in reluctantly, and is said to have declared that he saw many a Marius in Caesar.
Caesar felt that it would be much safer far away from Sulla should the Dictator change his mind, so he left Rome and joined the army, serving under Marcus Minucius Thermus in Asia and Servilius Isauricus in Cilicia. He served with distinction, winning the Civic Crown for his part in the Siege of Mytilene. He went on a mission to Bithynia to secure the assistance of King Nicomedes's fleet, but he spent so long at Nicomedes' court that rumours arose of an affair with the king, which Caesar vehemently denied for the rest of his life. Ironically, the loss of his priesthood had allowed him to pursue a military career, as the high priest of Jupiter was not permitted to touch a horse, sleep three nights outside his own bed or one night outside Rome, or look upon an army.
- There is some dispute over the year of Caesar's birth. Some scholars have made a case for 101 or 102 BC as the year of his birth, based on the dates that he held certain magistracies, but scholarly consensus favors 100 BC. Similarly, some scholars prefer 12 July, but most give 13 July. Goldsworthy, p. 30, Ward, Heichelheim, & Yeo p. 194. For a source arguing for 12 July, see Badian in Griffin (ed.) p.16
- After Caesar's death, the leap years were not inserted according to his intent, and there is uncertainty about when leap years were observed between 45 BC and AD 4 inclusive; the dates in this article between 45 BC and AD 4 inclusive are those observed in Rome and there is an uncertainty of about a day as to where those dates would be on the proleptic Julian calendar. See Blackburn, B and Holford-Strevens, L. (1999 corrected 2003). The Oxford Companion to the Year. Oxford University Press. p. 671. ISBN 978-0-19-214231-3
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- Template:Cite book See also: Suetonius, Lives of the Twelve Caesars: Julius 6; Velleius Paterculus, Roman History 2.41; Virgil, Aeneid
- Pliny the Elder, Natural History 7.7. The misconception that Julius Caesar himself was born by Caesarian section dates back at least to the 10th century (Suda kappa 1199). Julius wasn't the first to bear the name, and in his time the procedure was only performed on dead women, while Caesar's mother Aurelia lived long after he was born.
- Historia Augusta: Aelius 2.
- Goldsworthy, p. 32.
- Suetonius, Julius 1; Plutarch, Caesar 1, Marius 6; Pliny the Elder, Natural History 7.54; Inscriptiones Italiae, 13.3.51–52
- Plutarch, Marius 6
- Plutarch, Caesar 1; Suetonius, Julius 1
- Suetonius, Julius 1; Pliny the Elder, Natural History 7.54
- Velleius Paterculus, Roman History 2.22; Florus, Epitome of Roman History 2.9
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- Suetonius, Julius 1; Plutarch, Caesar 1; Velleius Paterculus, Roman History 2.41
- Canfora, p. 3
- Suetonius, Julius 2–3; Plutarch, Caesar 2–3; Cassius Dio, Roman History 43.20
- William Smith, A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities: Flamen