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Julius Caesar was a Roman statesman, general and a renowned author of Latin prose. Accounts concerning his life are sourced from historical records including his personal accounts and biographies written by scholars such as Plutarch. Caesar is notable as one of the most accomplished military commanders in Roman history.
Julius Caesar was given his father’s name, Gaius Julius Caesar, at birth on July 13, 100 BCE in Rome. His father served as the governor of the Roman province of Asia and his mother, Aurelia Cotta, was from a noble family. The husband to Caesar’s aunt Julia was Gaius Marius, a prominent politician in Rome. Caesar’s father died in 85 BCE when Julius was 16 years of age, and he assumed the role of the head of the family. During this time, his uncle Gaius Marius together with his ally Lucius Cornelius Cinna was at war with Lucius Cornelius Sulla. Caesar embraced priesthood as the new High Priest of Jupiter and fittingly married fellow Patrician, Cornelia, who was Cinna’s daughter. His fortunes were reversed when Sulla emerged victorious after which his wife’s dowry, inheritance, and priesthood were taken away from him.
Julius Caesar was apprehensive of life under Sulla’s rule, and he subsequently departed from Rome to join the army. He gained a reputation as a competent soldier, even being awarded the Civic Crown for his role in the Siege of Mytilene. Caesar was part of a mission destined for Bithynia to secure a fleet of ships for King Nicomedes. Upon Sulla’s death, Caesar returned to Rome where he pursued a career as a legal advocate. He became well-known as an eloquent orator and a ruthless prosecutor, especially for former corrupt governors. On his way to Greece across the Aegean Sea, Caesar was kidnapped by pirates and held for ransom. He persuaded the pirates to raise the ransom from 20 to 50 talents because he thought he was worth more than 20 talents. He also threatened the pirates that he would pursue them and have them crucified, a threat which Caesar fulfilled after he was released. He was elected military tribune and then quaestor upon his return to Rome. He remarried the granddaughter of Sulla Pompeia as his first wife had died. His growing prominence enabled him to win elections as the Chief Priest in 63 BCE. His political career saw him serve as praetor in 62 BCE and later appointed propraetor of Hispania Ulterior and consul in 59 BCE.
As Consul, Julius Caesar proposed law for the redistribution of public lands to the lower class. After his term ended, Caesar, together with his legions, invaded and conquered Gaul in 58 BCE. He became aware of the wealth to be gained by way of conquest, and he launched operations against the opposing tribes. He repelled invading Germanic tribes and invaded Britain twice. Caesar also defeated his former ally turned rival Pompey, who abandoned the throne in Rome and fled as Caesar and his troops approached the city. Julius Caesar served as dictator in Rome for 11 days following which he resigned and pursued Pompey to Egypt. Upon arrival in Egypt, Pompey was executed, and Caesar had the executors also killed. Caesar restored the deposed Queen Cleopatra back to her throne while in Egypt. He was reinstated as Rome’s dictator for one year following which he annihilated the King of Potus and killed the rest of Pompey’s senatorial allies. He subsequently served as dictator and consul and established a new Constitution. He passed laws for families with many children, curbing excessive luxuries, limiting the term of governors and reducing debts. He carried out more land, tax, political and economic reforms which made his popularity grow. His most notable contribution was the introduction of the Julian calendar which is almost similar to the current Western Calendar.
Caesar, in his status as a prominent political figure, faced some betrayals, the most notable one being that of his former ally, Pompey. Another of his closest allies, Marcus Brutus, led Caesar’s assassination. Caesar also faced opposition while instituting reforms and legislation, especially from the Senate.
Death and Legacy
The plot to assassinate Caesar was planned by members of the Senate. Casca struck first, using a dagger at the dictator’s neck, and the rest joined in the stabbing. His body was cremated at the place where the Temple of Caesar was built years later. Julius Caesar’s literary works have earned him the title as one of the greatest prose authors in Latin. His surviving war commentaries have contributed immensely to history. Caesar was also instrumental in the expansion of Roman territory through his military conquests.
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