Probably the best-known historical character of the Roman Empire was also the most popular among his subjects, because while he expanded the borders of the empire by subjecting the barbarians to great aggressiveness, he won the sympathy of broad sectors of the population with his populist measures. population.
He was a politically crucial character, because with him the period of the Republic ended. But also, his character and his hectic private life with the tragic final destination of his murder turned him into a myth object of artistic creations .
- You can also read: The 10 most powerful empires in the history of mankind.
Who was Julius Caesar
Gaius Julius Caesar was born on July 13, 100 BC in Rome, and died in 44 BC During his life he was the absolute owner of Rome and lord of the Mediterranean, and he dominated with the same firmness the military art and the arts amatory _
His heroic halo accompanied him from the cradle , as he was raised under the influence of various political personalities of power related to his lineage, the patrician Julia family, and they said that he descended from the gods. In addition, he obtained a very rich cultural background that was greatly influenced by the reading of the epic Odyssey.
His political destiny was strongly marked by his opposition to the dictatorial regime of Emperor Sulla, which forced him into exile in Asia until his death. During that timeHe showed great diplomatic skills making friends with the king of Bithynia (south of the Black Sea) that he would later annex to the empire.
After spending a few years practicing law and training in rhetoric, in 59 BC he was elected consul and formed a triumvirate with Crassus and Pompey .
But the key moment in his biography comes when he is appointed governor of Gaul, where he waged an aggressive war of conquest. When Pompey wanted to put an end to his power, he headed south with his armies, opening a period of civil war that ended with his appointment as perpetual dictator .
In his private life he was a loving predator: the chroniclers of the time attribute dozens of love affairs to him, including the queen of Egypt, Cleopatra, and Pompeii, Sulla’s granddaughter. But passion in Rome used to be expensive: he was assassinated as a result of political conspiracy by Brutus, the son of another of his lovers.
What did Julio Cesar do?
We review the most important aspects of Cesar’s legacy.
1. A valuable literary production
One of the reasons why Julius Caesar has gone down in history is because of his literary production. It was common for politicians who had received a refined education to record their experiences in writing, but in the case of Gaius Julius Caesar, scholarsThey have seen in his works a quality out of the ordinary .
Unfortunately, a part was lost and only the historiographical work remains . This has been very useful for recreating its political context, but also its time, as it does not skimp on details of the Roman way of life: fashion, food, architecture…
The first great work is De bello gallico (The Gallic War ) , a complex narration of the military campaign of Gaul from 58 to 52 BC which includes the battles against the Helvetii, the revolt of the Gallic tribes, the conquest of Aquitaine, the defeat of the Germans and the surrender of Vercingetorix.
The second great work was De bello civili (The civil war)where he narrates the first bars of the war he waged against Pompey, since he crossed the Rubicon and declared war on his fellow triumvirate until Pompey’s death.
In addition, he published works on his conquests in Hispania, Africa and Alexandria . And also, although they got lost along the way, there is evidence of his poetic work and literary theory thanks to the sources of writers such as Suetonius and Ovid.
2. The conquest of Gaul
In 58 BC the Roman Senate appointed Gaius Julius Caesar as governor of Gaul. Upon arrival, he found that the northern area was full of rebellious Gallic tribes who used to raid the Roman area.
Added to the sense of threat was the personal ambition of Julius Caesar, who, having serious financial problems, wanted to carry out a heroic action that would allow him a better situation. In 58 BC one of the rebellious tribes, the Helvetii, burned their villages and marched towards Roman territories, which led Julius Caesar to declare war.
After the defeat of the Helvetii, another of the tribes, the Swabians, had Germanic legions commanded by Ariovistus. This planned the taking of the city Vesontio , and again Julius Caesar crushed them. The conquest of Gaul was completed with the battle against the Vosges, the rise of the Belgians and the rebellion of Vercingetorix.
The war ends in 52 BC with the taking of the city of Alesia. The conquest of Gaul demonstrated the cunning of Julius Caesar , who conquered his enemies thanks to the deep knowledge he acquired of them and a perfected military system in which soldiers received rewards for their merits.
3. The civil war against Pompey
In the middle of the first century BC, Roman society was divided between the reformist sector and the conservative sector , and politics had become a hornet’s nest. Although the laureate Julius Caesar had won many followers, while he conquered Gaul in Rome Pompey had consolidated his power.
Morte di Cesare, by Vincenzo Camuccini, portrays the death of Julius Caesar. | Image from: Wikimedia Commons.
The fight of egos began to turn into threats and provocations as one and the other recruited legions and armed themselves for war. In January 49 BC Pompey received extraordinary powers from the senate , and Caesar, knowing it, marched with his troops until they crossed the Rubicon river, the border between Gaul and Italy.
The advance of Julius Caesar’s troops towards Rome heralded the start of the civil war, the second in the Republic. Caesar moved like a steamroller as Pompey’s power crumbled in Rome as terror and chaos gripped the city .
The conflict lasted more than 4 years, with events such as the siege of Brindisi and battles in Hispania, Greece, the East and Africa. Finally, the Pompeian faction was defeated and Caesar proclaimed himself perpetual dictator.
4. Cesar as perpetual dictator
After his victory, the senate appointed him dictator and from September 21 to October 2, 45 BC, Cesar organized parades and celebrations that spared no pomposity and expense. Vercingetorix was even executed while Caesar was parading through crowds with a chariot that read: “Veni, vidi, vinci” (I came, I saw and I conquered).
He began to develop a populist policy that enchanted his subjects.
I reward the troops with denarii and land, and to the people with wheat and oils. He lowered the rent, distributed meat throughout the empire and celebrated succulent popular banquets that were accompanied by the celebration of games in the circus, gladiator fights and various shows.
Another aspect of his populist and reformist policy was his construction activity, since he undertook numerous projects to reform public buildings and infrastructures . He reformed the census and the supply of the provinces, established a new calendar. But, above all, he left behind the stage of anarchy and offered stability.
5. The romances of Caesar
The historian Suetonius recorded in his chronicles the facet of seducer of Gaius Julius Caesar, who throughout his career not only conquered vast territories for the empirebut also ladies of Roman high society .
The romances with Postumia, wife of Servio Sulpicio Rufo, jurist and friend of Cicero, are considered to his credit; with Lollia, wife of the military man and politician Aulio Gabinio; and with Tertula, the wife of Marcus Licinius Crassus. It is even said that he flirted with Pompey’s wife herself .
Deeper was the love that Julius Caesar felt for Servilia , mother of Brutus, with whom he had a lasting relationship, from 63 BC until his death in 44 BC According to Suetonius, he did not skimp on gifts and favors.
However, Julius Caesar’s most famous relationship was with Queen Cleopatra of Egypt., to which he was joined by a certain strategy aimed at keeping Egypt under the control of Rome, but also an enormous fascination and sexual pleasure. He also conquered Queen Eunoe of Mauritania.
The death of Julius Caesar
Although Caesar had won the war and had enormous popular support, from the beginning he feared that he would end up being assassinated. His suspicions were justified: the division within Roman politics between populists and conservatives remained latent.
- It may interest you: The 8 differences between liberals and conservatives.
On the conservative side, the Optimates party had accumulated a huge grudge against the figure of Julius Caesar. This represented everything that the conservatives hated: the defense of the popular assemblies against the power of the Senate, the support for the rise of the “new men” against the noble families, and the extension of Roman citizenship to the provinces.
Thus, the optimates orchestrated a conspiracy that ended up bringing together eighty men led by Cassius, Crassus’s former lieutenant, and Brutus , Cato’s nephew. Julius Caesar attended a public meeting of the Senate on March 15, 44 BC, and did so without his military cohort despite the threat to his.
Although Julius Caesar knew of the conspiracy, he entered the Senate and barely flinched when several men rushed him to stab him. He was only surprised to see among the conspirators the son of his mistress, Brutus, whom he especially loved. It was then that, before he died, he uttered the famous words “Tu quoque, fili
” (You too, my son
Julius Caesar as a historical character
Julius Caesar died at the foot of the statue of Pompey with 23 stab wounds. And with him the man died and the historical character was born, the myth that has inspired many creators and artists in later centuries.
Julius Caesar’s most famous appearance in literature is probablyWilliam Shakespeare’s tragedy Julius Caesar , although it has also been an inspiration for writers such as George Bernard Shaw, Thornton Wilder and Jorge Luis Borges.
Even Dante included him in one of his scenes, making him pose lying in limbo with Hector and Aeneas and become a hero of antiquity.
Handel turned him into music inspired by him for the opera Julius Caesar in Egypt, and his figure has been the subject of movies and series , including the movie Julius Caesar by Joseph Mankiewicz performed by Marlon Brando and Louis Calhern, and the film Cleopatra by same director, with the seal of Elizabeth Taylor and Rex Harrison.
Even the world of comics has given him a prominent place in Goscinny and Uderzo’s Asterixes, where he is portrayed as an egomaniac with attempts at honesty.
- You can also read: 15 dictators in history who changed the world.