Gaius Julius Caesar lived from 100–44 B. C. He was a Roman military & political leader and one of the most influential people in history. A brilliant general, he laid the groundwork for the future Roman Empire.
Early Political Career
In 60 B.C. Julius Caesar joined with the wealthy Marcus Crassus and the powerful Roman general and statesman Pompey the Great to rule Rome as the first triumvirate. In 59 B.C. Julius Caesar became consul and used his position to gain favor with the public, such as by distributing grain to the poor.
Julius Caesar then made himself the provincial ruler (proconsul) of Gaul (modern-day France). He conquered vast amounts of territory for Rome and, while fighting abroad, sent written reports back to Rome of the victories he was winning to sustain his popularity and to ensure that the people did not forget him. Back in Rome, Julius Caesar’s plan was working, and Pompey became increasingly jealous (by this time, Crassus had died in battle). Pompey, with the support of the Senate, objected to Julius Caesar’s actions and ordered him to disband his army and return to Rome. He refused, and in an act of direct defiance to the Senate, led his loyal troops across the Rubicon River to Rome and conquered it in 49 B. C. The expression, “crossing the Rubicon” is used today to describe an act from which there is no turning back. Julius Caesar went on to defeat Pompey at the Battle of Pharsalus in 48 B.C. This left Julius Caesar firmly in control of Rome, and he then took his veteran army on campaigns in Egypt (where he installed ally Cleopatra as queen), Asia Minor, Africa and Spain before returning to Rome again in 45 B.C. Rome ruled much of the Western civilized world as result of these military campaigns. It is interesting to note that Caesar did not start his string of incredible military victories until he was well into middle age. The Roman Senate appointed Julius Caesar as dictator for life in 46 B.C.
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Later Career and Death
The Roman Senate was less than pleased with Caesar's actions as dictator. In a conspiracy famously recounted in Shakespeare’s play “Julius Caesar,” Cassius and Brutus and up to 60 others agreed to stab and kill Julius Caesar when he entered the Senate on the “Ides of March” (March 15, 44 B.C.). After he died, Rome fell into chaos for 13 years as rivals strove for power. Julius Caesar had named his 18-year-old grandnephew, Gaius Octavius, to be his heir. Gaius Octavius also intended to inherit his adopted father's political power. Others wanted Mark Antony. Cassius and Brutus also had armies of their own. First a triumvirate of Octavian, Antony and Lepidus defeated the armies of Cassius and Brutus, and that ended the republican rule by the Senate. Octavius went on in history to become Augustus, the first Roman Emperor.
Julius Caesar instituted the 12-month, 365-day Julian Calendar, which provided the foundation for the Gregorian Calendar adopted later by a pope and used to this day. Julius Caesar also granted religious rights to the Jews in Palestine, so that the Jewish religion could be practice outside the requirements of Roman religious law. An uneasy practice of the Jewish faith thus continued in the Roman empire up to and through the time of Christ. Julius Caesar, as all Roman generals, campaigned strenuously on behalf of his veterans, in particular with regards to the gifting of land. Roman culture flourished in the struggles during the lifetime of Julius Caesar, and those which followed his assassination.
Casesar's influence extends even to this day in the name of the month of July, and in such titles as Czar (tsar) and Kaiser.
- The Gallic Wars (Commentarii de Bello Gallico)
- The Civil Wars (Comentarii de Bello Civili)