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Giulio Cesare

Caio Giulio Cesare, one of the most important characters in history: from private life to his rise to power.

Caio Giulio Cesare is without a doubt one of the most important historical figures for Rome and history in general.  In the course of his life, Cesare held many different titles, from General to Dictator, from orator to author, and played an important role in the fundamental transformation from the Roman Republic to Imperial Rome.

Giulio Cesare was born on July 12th or 13th in 100 BC in Suburra (today known as the Monti neighborhood), a neighborhood in Rome, into a patrician family, the gens Julia, which claimed descent from Iulus, son of the legendary Trojan prince Aeneas. Cesare was taught by the celebrated writer Marco Antonio Gnifone from Gaul.  Right away he showed great interest and ability in history and poetry, but also in physics, astronomy, mathematics, theory and natural sciences. Even though his family was from noble origins, Cesare was not in a stable economic position and was not favored by new dictator Silla, who had taken power after Cinna died.  Silla targeted the allies of Cinna once he took power, and therefore targeted Cesare as he was a son in law to the deceased Cinna.

During Silla's dictatorship, Cesare was repeatedly threatened and forced to leave Rome on several occasions.  During this period, Cesare joined the army and traveled extensively, eventually becoming a general and aided to conquer foreign territories for Rome.  In 78 BC Sulla died, signaling the return of Cesare to Rome where he became a great orator and aided in persecuting former corrupt governors.  This political career began in the following years: in 69 BC he was elected as Quaestor (public official), where he pushed through several laws. In 63 BC, he ran for election to the post of Pontifex Maximus, chief priest of the Roman state religion. He won comfortably against two other well known governors all the while avoided being embroiled in the Catiline scandal to overtake the Republic.

In 61 BC, Cesare begame Governor of Spain Ulteriore, where he led various successful military operations which meant he could claim the award of a "triumph" .  However, to claim the triumph, you must remain a soldier and outside of Rome in the Province.  Cesare however wanted to run for consul, the highest political position in Rome, and do so had to return to Rome as a private citizen therefore he did not claim the triumph.  In 59 BC Caesar sought election as consul and won. The following year, Cesare created the First Triumvirate, with Pompey and Crassus. Crassus was one of the wealthiest men in Rome and had in fact paid much of Cesare's personal debt and Pompey was was known for his quality military camps.  The three of them had enough money and political influence to control public business for years to come.  This alliance was cemented by the marriages between Pompey and Cesare's daughter Julia and by Cesare himself who married again, this time to Calpurnia, who was the daughter of another powerful senator.

During the first year of Cesare's consulship, he decided to leave the city to conquer Gaul. Knowing that the Senate would probably try to undermine his authority while away, he created a new law that stated the Senate couldn't make any decisions nor make any case against a General who was away on duty for Rome. Cesare's campaign to the north and to Gaul lasted many years where he was reunited with his trusted armies.  In 50 BC, the battle against Vercingetorix took place at Alesia, where Cesare won and finally declared Gaul a Roman province in 49 BC.

Meanwhile, the conquest of Gaul did not lessen the conflict between Cesare and the Senate, who in his absence had appointed Pompey to take his place temporarily.  This conflict culminated in the civil war that erupted in Rome in 49 BC which definitively signaled the end of the Roman Republic.  Pompey declared Cesare an enemy of the state for not having disbanded his army and returning to Rome when requested to do so.  Cesare instead came to the Rubicone river, which acted as a northern border of Italy, replied with the famous phrase “Alea iacta est” (loosely translated as " let the die be cast" ), and crossed into the territory officially signaling the beginning of the civil war.  Pompey fled the city while Cesare began to re-conquer various provinces from Pompey supporters, starting with Umbria and Etruria, then Spain and finally in Greece.  The Battle of Farsalo on August 9th was the last foothold Pompey had and thus fled to Egypt where he was assassinated at the age of 58.

Re-elected as consul of Rome, Cesare tracked down the last of Pompey's loyalist armies to Alessandria where he defeated them with the support of Cleopatra, who was the sister/wife of the child king Tolomeo, to whom he later proclaimed as the regent of the egyptian province, and is said to have fathered a child from named Cesarione.  War continued for several years and Cesare accumulated many victories in Africa, the middle east and in europe.  The Battle of Zela in 47 BC, then in 46 BC the Battle of Tapso where he defeated Cato, who after soon committed suicide. The civil war ended in 45 BC in Spain where Cesare won one of the most difficult and precarious battles of his career at the Battle of Munda. Once he returned to Rome, he was once again named consul and was closely assisted by his best friend Marc Antony, leaving the disgruntled Marco Giunio Bruto and Gaio Cassio Longino in inferior positions.  On March 15th, 44 BC, Cesare was assassinated by a group of Senators who had plotted against him led by Brutus and Cassio.  He was stabbed 40 times and left to die on the steps of the Forum.

During his political career, Cesare he began extensive reforms to Roman society and government.  He invested in many administrative sectors for Roman citizens and those of Gaul, and also reorganized the Senate. Not only in an administrative capacity, Cesare also made huge innovations with regard to the economic organization of the Republic by ordering coinage to be uniformed and stamped with his fame, a system that was later adopted by both Octavian and Marc Antony. His innovations were visible also in external political structure of his conquered provinces, how they were controlled and also the reorganization of the Roman armies.

In addition to his large contributions to military campaigns and politicals, Cesare will also be remembered for his literary contributions.  Cesare wrote a type of diary, written in the third person called “De Bello Gallico”, that tells of his conquests in Gaul and also another story/diary called “De Bello Civili” where Cesare tells the story of what happened between 49 BC and 48 BC during the civil war.  Other compositions by Cesare include: “Bellum Africanum” (about Africa),  “Bellum Hispaniense” (about Spain) and the “Bellum Alexandrinum” (about Alexandria and Egypt).

If you'd like to know more about the story of Giulio Cesare, go to Caiogiuliocesare.altervista.org where you'll find all kinds of facts and information about his accomplishments, his writing, his enemies, his friends, and the women from from his life that helped make him one of the most famous characters in Rome' s history, and the world.


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