Read a significantly condensed version
of Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar
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The source for much of the following information is http://en.wikiversity.org/wiki/Julius_Caesar
bc), Roman general and statesman, who laid the foundations
of the Roman imperial system.
Born in Rome on July 12 or 13, 100 BC, Caesar belonged
to the prestigious Julian clan; yet from early childhood,
he knew controversy. His uncle by marriage was Gaius Marius,
leader of the Populares, a party supporting agrarian reform
and opposed by the reactionary Optimates, a senatorial faction.
Marius was seven times consul (chief magistrate), and in
his last year in office, just before his death in 86 BC,
he exacted a terrifying toll on the Optimates. He also had
Caesar appointed flamendialis, one of an
archaic priesthood with no power, identifying him with his
uncle's extremist politics. His marriage in 84 BC to Cornelia
(d. 68 BC), the daughter of Marius's associate, Cinna, further
marked him as a radical. When Lucius Cornelius Sulla, Marius's
enemy and leader of the Optimates, became dictator in 82
BC, he issued a list of enemies to be executed. Although
Caesar was not harmed, he was ordered to divorce Cornelia.
Refusing that order, he found it prudent to leave Rome and
did not return until 78 BC, after Sulla's resignation.
Caesar was now 22 years old. Unable to gain office, he
left Rome again and went to Rhodes , where he studied rhetoric;
he returned to Rome in 73 BC, a persuasive speaker. In 74
BC, while still absent, he had been elected to the pontificate,
which was an important college of Roman priests.
In 71 BC Pompey the Great, who had earned his epithet in
service under Sulla, returned to Rome , having defeated the
rebellious Populares general Sertorius in Spain . At the
same time Marcus Licinius Crassus, a rich patrician, suppressed
in Italy the slave revolt led by Spartacus. Pompey and Crassus
both ran for the consulship—an office held by two men—in
70 BC. Pompey, who by this time had changed sides, was technically
ineligible, but with Caesar's help, he won the office. Crassus
became the other consul. In 69 BC, Caesar was elected quaestor
and in 65 BC curule aedile, gaining great popularity
for his lavish gladiatorial games. To pay for these, he borrowed
money from Crassus. This united the two men, who also found
common cause with Pompey. When Caesar returned to Rome in
60 BC after a year as governor of Spain, he joined forces
with Crassus and Pompey in a three-way alliance known as
the First Triumvirate; to cement their relationship further,
Caesar gave his daughter Julia to Pompey in marriage. Thus
backed, Caesar was elected consul for 59 BC despite Optimate
hostility, and the year after (58 BC), he was appointed governor
of Roman Gaul.
At that time, Celtic Gaul, to the north, was still independent,
but the Aedui, a tribe of Roman allies, appealed to Caesar
for help against another Gallic people, the Helvetii, during
the first year of his governorship. Caesar marched into Celtic
Gaul with six legions, defeated the Helvetii, and forced
them to return to their home area. Next, he crushed Germanic
forces under Ariovistus (fl. about 71–58 BC). By 57
BC, following the defeat of the Nervii, Rome was in control
of northern Gaul . (A last revolt of the Gauls, led by Vercingetorix,
was suppressed in 52 BC.)
While Caesar was in Gaul , his agents attempted to dominate
politics in Rome . This, however, threatened Pompey's position,
and it became necessary for the triumvirs to arrange a meeting
at Luca in 56 BC, which brought about a temporary reconciliation.
It was decided that Caesar would continue in Gaul for another
five years, while Pompey and Crassus would both be consuls
for 55 BC; after that, each would have proconsular control
of provinces. Caesar then went off to raid Britain and put
down a revolt in Gaul . Crassus, ever eager for military
glory, went to his post in Syria . Provoking a war with the
Parthian Empire, he was defeated and killed at Carrhae in
53 BC. This removed the last buffer between Caesar and Pompey;
their family ties had been broken by the death of Julia in
In 52 BC, with Crassus out of the way, Pompey was made
sole consul. Combined with his other powers, this gave him
a formidable position. Jealous of his younger rival, he determined
to break Caesar's power, an objective that could not be achieved
without first depriving him of his command in Gaul . In order
to protect himself, Caesar suggested that he and Pompey both
lay down their commands simultaneously, but this was rejected;
goaded by Pompey, the Senate summarily called upon Caesar
to resign his command and disband his army, or else be considered
a public enemy. The tribunes, who were Caesar's agents, vetoed
this motion, but they were driven out of the Senate chamber.
The Senate then entrusted Pompey with providing for the safety
of the state. His forces far outnumbered Caesar's, but they
were scattered throughout the provinces, and his troops in
Italy were not prepared for war. Early in 49 BC, Caesar crossed
the Rubicon, a small stream separating his province from
Italy , and moved swiftly southward. Pompey fled to Brundisium
and from there to Greece . In three months, Caesar was master
of all Italy ; his forces then took Spain and the key port
of Massilia (Marseille).
In Rome Caesar became dictator until elected consul for
48 BC. At the beginning of that year, he landed in Greece
and smashed Pompey's forces at Pharsalus . Pompey escaped
to Egypt , where he was assassinated. When Caesar arrived
there, he installed Cleopatra, daughter of the late King
Ptolemy XI (c. 112–51 BC) as queen. In 47 BC, he pacified
Asia Minor and returned to Rome to become dictator again.
By the following year, all Optimate forces had been defeated
and the Mediterranean world pacified.
The basic prop for Caesar's continuation in power was the
dictatorship for life. According to the traditional Republican
constitution, this office was only to be held for six months
during a dire emergency. That rule, however, had been broken
before. Sulla had ruled as dictator for several years, and
Caesar now followed suit. In addition, he was made consul
for ten years in 45 BC, and he received the sanctity of tribunes,
making it illegal to harm him. Caesar also obtained honors
to increase his prestige: He wore the robe, crown, and scepter
of a triumphant general and used the title imperator. Furthermore,
as Pontifex Maximus, he was head of the state religion. Above
all, however, he was in total command of the armies, and
this remained the backbone of his power.
As a ruler, Caesar instituted various reforms. In the provinces,
he eliminated the highly corrupt tax system, sponsored colonies
of veterans, and extended Roman citizenship. At home, he
reconstituted the courts and increased the number of senators.
His reform of the calendar gave Rome a rational means of
A number of senatorial families, however, felt that Caesar
threatened their position, and his honors and powers made
them fear that he would become a rex (king), a title
they, as Republicans, hated. Accordingly, in 44 BC, an assassination
plot was hatched by a group of senators, including Gaius
Cassius and Marcus Junius Brutus. On March 15 of that year,
when Caesar entered the Senate house, the group killed him.
After Caesar's first wife, Cornelia, died in 68 BC, he
married Pompeia, a granddaughter of Sulla. When the mysteries
of the Bona Dea, over which she presided, were violated,
she was maligned by gossips, and Caesar then divorced her,
telling the Senate that Caesar's wife must be above suspicion.
His next marriage (59 BC) was to Calpurnia and was politically
motivated. Since Caesar had no male heirs, he stipulated
in his will that his grandnephew, Octavius, become his successor.
It was Octavius who became Rome 's first emperor under the
name of Augustus.
Caesar was a gifted writer, with a clear and simple style.
His Commentaries, in which he described Gaul and
his Gallic campaigns, is a major source of information about
the early Celtic and Germanic tribes.
Scholarly opinion of Caesar's accomplishments is divided.
Some regard him as an unscrupulous tyrant, with an insatiable
lust for power, and blame him for the demise of the Roman
Republic . Others, admitting that he could be ruthless, insist
that the Republic had already been destroyed. They maintain
that to save the Roman world from chaos a new type of government
had to be created. In fact, Caesar's reforms did stabilize
the Mediterranean world. Among ancient military commanders,
he may be second only to Alexander the Great.
- July 13, 100 BC – Birth in Rome ; Alternatively,
July 12, 102 BC
- 84 BC – First marriage to Cornelia (daughter of
L. Cornelius Cinna)
- 82 BC – Escapes the persecutions led by Sulla
- 81 - 79 BC – Military service in Asia and Cilicia
; tryst with Nicomedes of Bithynia
- 75 BC – Captured by Cilician Pirates
- 73 BC – Elected pontifex
- 69 BC – Quaestor in Hispania Ulterior; wife Cornelia
- 67 BC – Marries Pompeia
- 65 BC – Curule aedile (director of the games)
- 63 BC – Elected pontifex maximus and praetor
urbanus; the Cataline conspiracy
- 62 BC – Divorces Pompeia
- 61 BC – Becomes proconsul (governor) of Further
- 60 BC – Elected consul; First Triumvirate
- 59 BC – Elected consul
- 58 BC – Defeats the Helvetii and in Gaul
- 55 BC – Crossing of the Rhine ; Caesar invades
- 54 BC – Death of Julia (Caesar’s daughter
and wife of Pompey)
- 53 BC – Death of Crassus: end of the First Triumvirate
- 52 BC – Battle of Alesia; Death of Clodius; Caesar
- 49 BC – Crossing of the Rubicon, the civil war
- 48 BC – Death of Pompey in Greece ; made dictator;
second time consul
- 47 BC – Campaign in Egypt ; meets Cleopatra VII
- 46 BC – Defeats Cato and Metellus Scipio in northern
Africa ; third time consul
- 45 BC –
- Defeats the last opposition in Hispania
- Returns to Rome ; fourth time consul
- Dictator Perpetuus (for life)
- 44 BC–
- appointed perpetual dictator
- February, Refuses the diadem offered by Antony
- Ides of March (March 15), Assassinated
Gaius Marius serves as Consul. Wars
against Teutones in Gaul . Victories of Aquae Sextiae
102; Vercellae, 101. Legislation of Saturninus; rioting
in Rome . Marius restores order, 100.
Gaius Julius Caesar born in Rome on
July 13. Caesar was born (by Caesarean section according
to an unlikely legend) of Aurelia and Gaius Julius
Caesar, a praetor. His family had noble, patrician
roots, although they were neither rich nor influential
in this period. His aunt Julia was the wife of Gaius
Marius, leader of the Popular faction.
Tribunate of Drusus, whose plans to
satisfy the Italian allies fails; Drusus assassinated.
War breaks out with Italian allies; massacre of Romans
at Asculum .
The "Social War" against
Rome 's Italian allies, demanding greater citizenship
rights. The rebellion is crushed by Sulla, Marius,
and Pompey Strabo, but the allies eventually received
enhanced rights. First campaign of young Pompey, Cicero
Sulpicius Rufus tribune. Proposal
to transfer the Mithridatic command from Sulla to Marius.
Sulla marches on Rome with his army; captures the city;
repeals legislation and passes laws strengthening the
Senate. Marius escapes. Social War ends. Mithridates
overruns Asia Minor , massacres many Romans and Italians;
joined by Athens .
Cinna and Marius occupy Rome ; massacre
of Sulla's supporters. Sulla lands in Greece and besieges
Athens . Carbo consul 87-84. The teenage Caesar is
chosen for the lifetime dignity of flamen dialis (high
priest of Jupiter).
Marius, elected Consul for the seventh
time (with Cinna), dies. Sulla takes Athens , defeats
Mithridates' armies. Immediately after election as
Consul (for the seventh time), Marius dies. Cinna takes
control of the Populares against Sulla's faction.
Sulla negotiates Treaty of Dardanus
with Mithridates. Settlement of Asia . Caesar becomes
officially a man by assuming the toga virilis.
His father dies, and a few years later, he is betrothed
and possibly married to a wealthy young woman, Cossutia.
This betrothal/marriage is soon broken off, and at
age 18 he marries Cornelia, the daughter of a prominent
member of the Popular faction; she later bears him
his only legitimate child, a daughter, Julia. Sulla
orders Caesar to divorce her; when Caesar refuses,
Sulla proscribes him (lists him among those to be executed),
and Caesar goes into hiding. Caesar's influential friends
and relatives eventually get him a pardon.
Cinna in power but is later murdered.
Caesar weds Cinna's daughter. Carbo remains sole consul.
Lucius Cornelius Sulla, returning
from the eastern Mithridatic War, victorious against
the Marian party with the aid of Pompey and Crassus.
Massive proscriptions follow. Sulla's legislation returns
political power to the Senate; tribunician powers limited.
Murena begins Second Mithridatic War.
Civil War in Italy ; Sulla victorious
at the battle of the Colline Gate. Massive proscriptions,
deaths, property confiscations shake the power structure.
Sertorius, last major Marian leader, leaves for Spain
. Pompey defeats Sulla's opponents in Sicily ; Sulla
orders Murena to stop fighting against Mithridates.
Sulla becomes dictator; constitutional
settlement, reform of criminal law. Pompey defeats
the Marians in Africa ; Sertorius driven from Spain
Sulla hostile against Caesar; Caesar
flees Rome . Sulla persuaded to pardon Caesar, who
refuses to divorce Cinna's daughter, Cornelia. Sulla
impounds Cornelia's dowry and strips Caesar of office
of flamen dialis. Caesar's only child, daughter Julia,
Sulla serves as Consul. Sertorius
returns to Spain . Caesar leaves Rome for military
service with the governor of Asia . Caesar, on the
staff of a military legate, was awarded the corona
civica (civic crown of oak leaves for personal heroism)
for saving the life of a citizen in battle at the battle
of Mytilene. For the rest of his life he will be awarded
public honors (such as being able to wear his laurel
crown on all public occasions). He is also permitted
to sit in the Senate without age restriction. His general
sent him on an embassy to Nicomedes, the king of Bithynia
, to obtain a fleet of ships; Caesar was successful,
but subsequently he became the butt of gossip that
he had persuaded the king (a homosexual) only by agreeing
to sleep with him. When Sulla died in 78, Caesar returned
to Rome and began a career as an orator/lawyer (throughout
his life he was known as an eloquent speaker) and a
life as an elegant man-about-town.
Sulla resigns dictatorship. Sertorius
defeats Metellus Pius in Spain .
Death of Sulla. Lepidus challenges
Sulla's constitution. Caesar serves under P. Servilius
Isauricus in Cilicia . After Sulla's death, Caesar
returns to Rome . He refuses to join Lepidus' insurrection.
Lepidus defeated by Catulus and Pompey,
dies in Sardinia . Pompey appointed against Sertorius
in Spain . In Rome , Caesar, as advocate, prosecutes
the consular Cn. Cornelius Dolabella for extortion
while serving as provincial governor.
Attempts to restore powers to tribunes.
Sertorius successful against Pompey and Metellus.
Lex Aurelia allows tribunes to hold
other offices later. Cicero serves as quaestor in Sicily
. Leaving Rome to study rhetoric in Rhodes , Caesar
is captured by Cilician pirates and held for ransom;
When informed that they intended to ask for 20 talents,
he is supposed to have insisted that he was worth at
least 50. His 50-talent ransom takes 40 days to raise
while he is held captive. He maintained a friendly,
joking relationship with the pirates while the money
was being raised, but warned them that he would track
them down and have them crucified after he was released.
Caesar, released, returns and crucifies all the pirates,
but he first cut their throats to lessen their suffering
because they had treated him well. He then continues
on to Rhodes to study under famous rhetorician Apollonius
Cyrene made a Roman province. Reinforcements
sent to Pompey in Spain . Mithridates invades Bithynia
; Lucullus sent against him. On the outbreak of the
Mithridatic War, Caesar fights against a royal detachment
in Asia province. Returns to Rome . Nicomedes dies,
bequeaths Bythinia to Rome .
Tribune Licius Macer agitates for
reform Laws deal with grain distribution. Rising of
Spartacus at Capua . Lucullus defeats Mithridates on
the Rhyndacus. Caesar joins the Pontifical College
Spartacus continues successfully against
Roman efforts to destroy revolt. In Spain , Sertorius
assassinated; Pompey settles Spain . Lucullus campaigns
against Mithridates in Pontus . M. Antonius unsuccessful
against Cretan pirates. Caesar is elected military
tribune. (Note that Pompey and Crassus were the consuls
for 70 BC.)
Spartacus defeated by Crassus. Pompey
returns from Spain . Lucullus defeats Mithridates who
flees to Tigranes.
Pompey and Crassus elected as consuls;
they continue dismantling provisions of Sullan laws.
Lucullus captures Armenian capital,
Tigranocerta. Caesar serves as quaestor under governor
of Further Spain. His aunt Julia (wife of Marius) dies;
He spoke at the funerals of both his aunt, Julia, and
his wife, Cornelia. On both occasions, he emphasized
his connections with Marius and the ancient nobility
of his family, descended from the first kings on his
mother's side and from the gods on his father's (revealing
a notable talent for self-dramatization and a conception
that there was something exceptional about him). He
also honors Marius in his speeches.
Mithridates returns to Pontus .
Caesar marries Pompeia, granddaughter
of Sulla. Caesar was elected quaestor and obtained
a seat in the Senate; he married Pompeia, a granddaughter
of Sulla. Caesar votes for Lex Gabinia, to give Pompey
total authority to fight piracy in the eastern Mediterranean
; later extended to command of the war against King
Mithridates in Asia Minor.
Pompey destroys piracy in the Mediterranean
; his reputation soars.
First Catilinarian ‘conspiracy.’ Cicero
, Caesar speaks in favor of the Lex Manilia, giving
Pompey unparalleled powers in command of Roman armies
Pompey destroys Mithridates, king
of Pontus , bringing new territories into the Empire.
He completely reorganizes the eastern provinces; his
reputation is at its height.
Crassus is censor; works for influence
in Spain and Egypt . Pompey campaigns in the Caucasus
. Caesar serves as Curule Aedile. He restores Marius'
trophies, formerly removed by Sulla, and spent lavishly
on games to win popular favor; large loans from Crassus
made these expenditures possible. There were rumors
that Caesar was having an affair with Gnaeus Pompey's
wife, Mucia, as well as with the wives of other prominent
Pompey victorious in Syria ; end of
Seleucid monarchy. In the elections, Cataline loses
to Cicero for the consulship; some sources suggest
Caesar supported Cataline.
Consulship of Cicero . Caesar spent
heavily in a successful effort to get elected pontifex
maximus (chief priest). Birth of Octavian. On
December 5, Caesar's significant speech in the Senate
against condemning the Catilinarian conspirators to
death without trial. Cato accuses Caesar of foreknowledge
of the conspiracy but Cicero supports him. Pompey in
Damascus , Jerusalem ; end of Hasmonean power. Mithridates
dies in the Crimea .
Defeat and death of Catiline at Pistoia
. Caesar elected praetor. Clodius profanes the Bona
Dea festival with resulting scandal. He divorced Pompeia
because of her involvement in a scandal with another
man, although the man had been acquitted in the law
courts; Caesar is reported to have said, “The
wife of Caesar must be above suspicion,” suggesting
that he was so exceptional that anyone associated with
him had to be free of any hint of scandal. Pompey settles
the East (including making Syria a province); returns
to Italy and dismisses his army in December.
The Senate opposes Pompey's administrative
acts in the East; Pompey holds his Triumph. Trial of
Clodius. Caesar proconsul of the province of Further
Spain ; victorious campaign against the Lusitani, which
permits him to seek a Triumph in Rome . In Gaul , the
Allobroges revolt; the Aedui appeal to Rome for help.
Crassus negotiates, unsuccessfully, to reduce tax-farming
commitments of the Equites in the east.
Caesar returns to Rome ; Cato filibusters
to prevent his standing for the consulship in absentia.
Foregoing his Triumph, Caesar enters Rome , stands
for office, and wins the Consulship with the support
of Pompey and Crassus. A loose coalition called by
modern historians “The First Triumvirate” and
by his enemies at the time “the three-headed
monster” is formed. In 62, Pompey had returned
victorious from Asia , but had been unable to get the
Senate to ratify his arrangements and to grant land
to his veteran soldiers because he had disbanded his
army on his return and Crassus was blocking his efforts.
Caesar persuaded the two men to work together and promised
to support their interests if they helped him be elected
to the consulship.
Caesar was elected consul against
heavy Optimate opposition led by Marcus Porcius Cato,
a shrewd and extremely conservative politician. Caesar
married his only daughter, Julia, to Pompey to consolidate
their alliance; he himself married Calpurnia, the daughter
of a leading member of the Popular faction. Caesar
pushed Pompey's measures through, helped Crassus' proposals,
and got for himself a five-year term as proconsul of
Gaul after his consulship was over. However, he used
some strong-arm methods in the Assembly and completely
cowed his Optimate colleague in the consulship, Bibulus,
so that jokers referred to the year as “the consulship
of Julius and Caesar” (instead of “the
consulship of Caesar and Bibulus”). Caesar was
safe from prosecution for such actions as long as he
held office, but once he became a private citizen,
again he could be prosecuted by his enemies in the
Tribunate of Publius Clodius. Caesar
left Rome for Gaul ; he would not return for 9 years,
in the course of which he would conquer most of what
is now central Europe , opening up these lands to Mediterranean
civilization—a decisive act in world history.
Caesar moves against the Helvetii and Ariovistus in
the first battles of the Gallic Wars. However, much
of the conquest was an act of aggression prompted by
personal ambition (not unlike the conquests of Alexander
the Great). Fighting in the summers, he would return
to Cisalpine Gaul (northern Italy ) in the winters
and manipulate Roman politics through his supporters.
Cicero exiled; Cato sent to Cypress , which is annexed.
Rioting in Rome between Clodius and
Milo . Cicero is recalled in September. Pompey concerned
with food supply. Caesar campaigns against the Belgii;
all northern Gaul apparently pacified.
The Triumvirate in disarray; Cicero
attacks the land-reform law Caesar passed during his
consulship. Caesar meets with Pompey and Crassus at
Lucca in April to renew their coalition , since Pompey
had been increasingly moving toward the Optimate faction.
Caesar’s term in Gaul to be extended. Pompey
and Crassus will stand, again, for the Consulship.
Caesar campaigns against rebellious tribes in Brittany
and Normandy as well as the Aquitani. Cato returns
from Cypress . Caesar's command in Gaul was extended
until 49 BC.
Second consulship of Pompey and Crassus;
law passed prolonging Caesar's proconsulship for five
years with new commands for both Consuls. Caesar campaigns
against the Usipetes and Tencteri. First crossing of
the Rhine into Germany ; first, historic reconnaissance
mission to Britain . Historic thanksgivings voted to
Caesar by the Senate.
Pompey remains near Rome , governing
Spain through subordinates. Rioting in Rome . Caesar
returns to Britain . Caesar led a three-month expedition
to Britain (this was the first Roman crossing of the
English Channel ), but he did not establish a permanent
base there. He spends the winter in Gaul . Ambiorix
destroys fifteen cohorts. Winter quarters of the legate
Q. Cicero besieged; relieved by Caesar. Labienus campaigns
against the Treveri. Meanwhile, Caesar's coalition
with Pompey was increasingly strained, especially after
Julia, wife of Pompey and Caesar's daughter , died
in childbirth. Caesar's mother, Aurelia, also dies.
Continued rioting in Rome ; no consuls
can be elected until July. Caesar undertakes punitive
expeditions against the rebellious tribes; second Rhine
crossing. The Eburones are exterminated; Ambiorix escapes.
On June 9, in Mesopotamia , Crassus received command
of the armies of the East but was defeated and killed
by the Parthians.
In January, Publius Clodius murdered
by Milo . Disorder in Rome ; Rioting in Rome led to
Pompey's extra-legal election as “consul without
a colleague” on February 25. Without Julia and
Crassus, there was little to bond Caesar and Pompey
together, and Pompey moved to the Optimate faction,
since he had always been eager for the favor of the
aristocrats. Serves alone until order is restored in
August. Caesar negotiates from Ravenna and, by the
law, of the ten tribunes, is permitted to stand for
the consulship in 49 in absentia. The Gallic confederacy
formed under Vercingetorix; Gaul breaks into open rebellion.
Caesar captures Avaricum, has to abandon the siege
of Vergovia, is victorious in the neighborhood of Dijon
, surrounds Vercingetorix in Alesia, and repels the
attempt of the combined Celtic levies to relieve him.
The conquest of Gaul effectively completed,
Caesar set up an efficient provincial administration
to govern the vast territories; he published his history The
Gallic Wars. The Optimates in Rome attempted to
cut short Caesar's term as governor of Gaul and made
it clear that he would be immediately prosecuted if
he returned to Rome as a private citizen (Caesar wanted
to run for the consulship in absentia so that
he could not be prosecuted). Pompey and Caesar were
maneuvered into a public split; neither could yield
to the other without a loss of honor, dignity, and
power. Parthia invades Syria ; Cicero sent as governor
to Cilicia . Death of Ptolemy Auletes; Ptolemy XIII
marries Cleopatra; joint rulers in Egypt . Caesar completes
pacification of Gaul ; surrender of Uxellodunum with
mutilation of rebellious prisoners. Caesar begins political
reorganization of the province from Nemotocenna ( Arras
). In Rome , Marcellus attempts to prematurely recall
Caesar from his command.
In Rome , the Optimates continue their
efforts to recall Caesar and bring him to trial. The
tribune, C. Curio, prevents the passing of a decree
against Caesar by imposition of the tribunician veto.
Curio proposes that both Caesar and Pompey disarm;
vetoed. Pompey asked by consul Marcellus to save the
State (November). In December, Curio's term expires;
Antony takes over as Caesar's leading tribune. Pompey
refuses to compromise. Civil War looms. Caesar continues
to negotiate to avoid losing his Imperium while still
running for the Consulship for 48 in absentia.
Caesar tried to maintain his position
legally, but on January 7, the Senate decrees that
Caesar must dismiss his army by an appointed day and,
despite tribunician veto, grants Pompey and the other
magistrates’ state authority. In response, Caesar
leads his armies across the Rubicon
River (the border of his province), which was automatic
civil war. Caesar crosses Rubicon during the night
of January 10 and, with one legion, begins moving towards
Rome . On February 21, Corfinium surrenders with little
resistance; Pompey's legions were in Spain , so on
March 17, he and the Senate retreated to Brundisium
and from there sailed to the East. On August 2, in
a bold, unexpected move, Caesar led his legions to
Spain , to prevent Pompey's forces from joining him
in the East; he allegedly declared, “I am off
to meet an army without a leader; when I return, I
shall meet a leader without an army.” Pompey's
Army in Nearer Spain surrenders to Caesar following
battle of Ilerda; the southern Spanish province follows.
Massilia surrenders to Caesar after a six-month' siege.
Caesar is elected dictator and, during his 11-day term,
passes emergency legislation. After a remarkably short
campaign, he returned to Rome and was elected consul,
thus (relatively) legalizing his position. Throughout
his campaign, Caesar practiced—and widely publicized—his
policy of clemency (he would put no
one to death and confiscate no property).
Caesar gives up the dictatorship,
elected to second consulship with Publius Servilius
Isauricus. Pompey and the Optimate faction had established
a strong position in Greece by this time, and Caesar,
in Brundisium, did not have sufficient ships to transport
all his legions. He crossed with only about 20,000
men, leaving his chief legate, Mark Antony, in Brundisium
to try to bring across the rest of the soldiers. Crossing
the Adriatic , he surrounds Pompey at Dyrrhachium in
April; Pompey breaks through the siege line in July.
Caesar withdraws towards Thessaly . After some rather
desperate situations for Caesar, the rest of his forces
finally landed, though they were greatly outnumbered
by Pompey's men. In the final battle, on the plains
of Pharsalus on August 9, it is estimated that Pompey
had 46,000 men to Caesar's 21,000. By brilliant generalship,
Caesar was victorious, though the toll was great on
both sides; Caesar pardoned all Roman citizens who
were captured, including Brutus, but Pompey escaped,
fleeing to Egypt . On September 28, prior to Caesar's
arrival, Pompey is murdered by ministers of the Pharaoh
in Egypt .
On October 2, Caesar arrives
and occupies Alexandria , where his small force is
besieged by Ptolemy's hostile forces. Meets and supports
Cleopatra in her quest for rule of Egypt . Caesar,
with no more than 4,000 legionaries, was presented,
to his professed horror, with the head of Pompey,
who had been betrayed by the Egyptians. Caesar demanded
that the Egyptians pay him the 40 million sesterces
he was owed because of his military support some
years earlier for the previous ruler, Ptolemy XII
(“The Flute Player”), who had put down
a revolt against his rule with Caesar's help. After
Ptolemy XII's death, the throne had passed to his
oldest children, Cleopatra
VII and Ptolemy XIII, as joint heirs. When Caesar
landed, the eunuch Pothinus and the Egyptian general
Achillas, acting on behalf of Ptolemy XIII (at this
time about 12 years old), had recently driven Cleopatra
(at this time about 20-21 years old) out of Alexandria.
Cleopatra smuggled herself into the palace in Alexandria
wrapped in a rug (purportedly a gift for Caesar)
and enlisted his help in her struggle to control
the Egyptian throne. Like all the Ptolemies, Cleopatra
was of Macedonian Greek descent; she was highly intelligent
and well educate d. Caesar saw her as a useful ally
as well as a captivating female, and he supported
her right to the throne. Through the treachery of
Pothinus and the hostility of the Egyptian people
to the Romans, Achillas and an army of 20,000 besieged
the palace. Caesar managed to hold the palace itself
and the harbor; he had Pothinus executed as a traitor
but allowed the young Ptolemy to join the army of
Achillas. When he ordered the Egyptian fleet burnt,
the great Library of Alexandria was accidentally
consumed in the flames.
Caesar again appointed dictator, this
time for one year in absentia. Antony , his Master
of the Horse, maintains order in Italy . In February,
a fter some months under siege, Caesar tried unsuccessfully
to capture Pharos, a great lighthouse on an island
in the harbor; at one point when cut off from his men
he had to jump in the water and swim to safety. Plutarch
says that he swam with one hand, using the other to
hold some important papers above the water; Suetonius
adds that he also towed his purple general's cloak
by holding it in his teeth so that it would not be
captured by the Egyptians.
In March, Caesar had sent for reinforcements from
Asia Minor , two Roman legions and the army of an
ally, King Mithridates; when they arrived outside
Alexandria he marched out to join them and on March
26 defeated the Egyptian army (Ptolemy XIII died
in this battle). Although he had been trapped in
the palace for nearly six months and had been unable
to exert a major influence on the conduct of the
civil war, which was going rather badly without him,
Caesar nevertheless remained in Egypt until June,
even cruising on the Nile with Cleopatra to the southern
boundary of her kingdom. Pharnaces of Bosporus defeats
Roman army under Domitius Calvinus in Pontus .
In early June, Caesar leaves Egypt , established
Cleopatra as a client ruler in alliance with Rome
; he left three legions under the command of Rufio,
as legate, in support of her rule. Either immediately
before or soon after he left Egypt , Cleopatra bore
a son, whom she named Caesarion, claiming that he
was the son of Caesar. He moves against the king
of Pontus , Pharnaces II (Mithridates' son).
On August 1, after leaving Alexandria , Caesar
swept through Asia Minor to settle the disturbances
there. He met and immediately overcame Pharnaces,
a rebellious king, at Zela; he later publicized the
rapidity of this victory with the slogan veni,
vidi, vici (“I came, I saw, I conquered”).
In October, Caesar (dictator) arrives in Rome and
settles the problems caused by the mismanagement
of Antony ; further legislative reforms including
reorganization of debt laws. When he attempted to
sail for Africa to face the Optimates (who had regrouped
under Cato and allied with King Juba of Numidia ),
his legions mutinied and refused to sail. In a brilliant
speech, Caesar brought them around totally, and after
some difficult battles decisively defeated the Optimates
at Thapsus , after which Cato committed suicide rather
than be pardoned by Caesar.
On December 28, Caesar and his legions return to
the coast of Africa to defeat the remaining Pompeian
forces. Since 48, the Optimates have been collecting
armies in the African Province .
Caesar elected consul for the third
time, serving with Lepidus. On April 6, The two sons
of Pompey, Gnaeus and Sextus, led a revolt in Spain
; since Caesar's legates were unable to quell the revolt,
Caesar had to go himself, winning a decisive but difficult
victory at Munda. Gnaeus Pompey was killed in the battle,
but Sextus escaped to become, later, the leader of
the Mediterranean pirates. Caesar is victorious at
Battle of Thapsus, defeating Scipio and Juba . Suicide
of Cato. Caesar completes further legislation including
reform of the calendar, adding additional days to this
year to bring the solar calendar into alignment.
On July 25, Caesar returns to Rome where he is
appointed to his third dictatorship, this time for
a ten-year term. The victorious and now unchallenged
Caesar arrived back in Rome and celebrated four splendid
triumphs (over the Gauls, Egyptians, Pharnaces, and
Juba ); he sent for Cleopatra and the year-old Caesarion
and established them in a luxurious villa across
the Tiber from Rome . In a letter at this time, he
listed his political aims as “tranquility for
Italy , peace for the provinces, and security for
the Empire.” His program for accomplishing
these goals—both what he actually achieved
and what he planned but did not have time to complete—was
sound and farsighted (e.g., resolution of the worst
of the debt crisis, resettlement of veterans abroad
without dispossessing others, reform of the Roman
calendar, regulation of the grain dole, strengthening
of the middle class, enlargement of the Senate to
900), but his methods alienated many of the nobles.
Holding the position of dictator, Caesar
governed autocratically, more in the manner of a
general than a politician. Although he nominally
used the political structure, he often simply announced
his decisions to the Senate and had them entered
on the record as senatorial decrees without debate
Caesar, back in Rome , celebrated a triumph over
Gnaeus Pompey, arousing discontent because triumphs
were reserved for foreign enemies.
By this time Caesar was virtually appointing all
major magistrates; for example, when the consul for
45 died on the morning of his last day of office,
Caesar appointed a new consul to serve out the term—from
1:00 p.m. to sundown! Caesar was also borrowing some
of the customs of the ruler cults of the eastern
Hellenistic monarchies; for example, he issued coins with
his likeness (note how the
portrait on this coin, celebrating his fourth
dictatorship, emphasizes his age) and allowed his
statues, especially in the provinces, to be adorned
like the statues of the gods. Furthermore, the Senate
was constantly voting him new honors—the right
to wear the laurel wreath and purple and gold toga
and sit in a gilded chair at all public functions,
inscriptions such as “to the unconquerable
god,” etc. When two tribunes, Gaius Marullus
and Lucius Flavius, opposed these measures, Caesar
had them removed from office and from the Senate.
Caesar serves as his fourth consulship
(without a colleague). On March 17, Caesar victorious
at Munda; after administrative reforms, he returns
to Rome in October. The Senate votes extravagant decrees
in his honor, including dictatorship for life and divine
worship. Caesar's images begin to appear on coinage.
In the fall, Caesar prepares for a campaign in Parthia
the next year and makes his will, appointing his great-nephew,
Octavian, as his primary heir, allegedly adopting him
as his son.
Caesar was named dictator perpetuus.
On February 15, at the feast of Lupercalia, Caesar
wore his purple garb for the first time in public.
At the public festival, Antony offered him a diadem
(symbol of the Hellenistic monarchs), but Caesar refused
it, saying Jupiter alone is king of the Romans (possibly
because he saw the people did not want him to accept
the diadem, or possibly because he wanted to end once
and for all the speculation that he was trying to become
a king). Caesar was preparing to lead a military campaign
against the Parthians, who had treacherously killed
Crassus and taken the legionary eagles; he was due
to leave on March 18. Although Caesar was apparently
warned of some personal danger, he nevertheless refused
60 Republicans, led by Brutus
and Cassius, join in conspiracy to murder him. On
the Ides of March (March 15), Caesar attended the
last meeting of the Senate before his departure,
held at its temporary quarters in the portico
of the theater built by Pompey the Great (the
Curia, located in the Forum and the regular meeting
house of the Senate, had been badly burned and was
being rebuilt). The sixty conspirators,
led by Marcus Junius Brutus, Gaius Cassius Longinus,
Decimus Brutus Albinus, and Gaius Trebonius, came
to the meeting with daggers concealed in their togas
and struck Caesar at least 23 times as he stood at
the base of Pompey's statue. Legend has it that Caesar
said in Greek to Brutus, “You, too, my child?” After
his death, all the senators fled, and three slaves
carried his body home to Calpurnia several hours
later. For several days there was a political vacuum,
for the conspirators apparently had no long-range
plan and, in a major blunder, did not immediately
kill Mark Antony (apparently by the decision of Brutus).
The conspirators had only a band of gladiators to
back them up, while Antony had a whole legion, the
keys to Caesar's money boxes, and Caesar's will.
Antony receives command in Cisalpine and Transalpine
Gaul . Cicero 's first Phillipic against Antony .
Antony 's siege of Mutina raised;
deaths of consuls Hirtius and Pansa. D. Brutus killed
in Gaul . Octavian declared consul in August. Triumvirate
of Octavian, Antony and Lepidus (November). Proscriptions;
death of Cicero . Brutus in Macedonia and Cassius in
Syria raising armies.
Julius Caesar deified. Sextus Pompeius
controls Sicily . Brutus and Cassius are defeated at
Philippi in October; both commit suicide.
Caesar and the
In 75 BC, Julius
Caesar was captured by Cilician
pirates, who infested the Mediterranean
Sea . The Romans had
never sent a navy against them, because the pirates
offered the Roman senators slaves, which they
needed for their plantations in Italy .
Consequently, piracy was common.
In chapter 2 of his “Life of
Julius Caesar,” the Greek author Plutarch
of Chaeronea (46-c.120) describes what happened
when Caesar encountered the pirates.
On the way to the island of Rhodes to study philosophy
and oratory (public speaking), Caesar was kidnapped
by Cilician pirates in the Mediterranean Sea . When
they demanded a ransom of twenty talents, he laughed
at them, saying they did not know whom they had captured.
Instead, he ordered them to ask for fifty. They accepted,
and Caesar sent his followers to various cities to
collect the ransom money.
In all he was held for 38 days, and he used the
time to write poems and speeches which he read aloud
to the pirates. If they failed to admire his work,
he would call them illiterate savages to their faces,
and would often laughingly threaten to have them
all crucified. These pirates were about the most
bloodthirsty people in the world at the time, but
Caesar treated them so highhandedly that, whenever
he wanted to sleep, he would send to them and tell
them to stop talking. The pirates grew fond of Caesar
and attributed his freedom of speech to a kind of
simplicity in his character or boyish playfulness.
However, the ransom arrived from Miletus and, as
soon as he had paid it and been set free, he immediately
manned some ships and set sail from the harbor of
Miletus against the pirates. He found them still
there, lying at anchor off the island, and he captured
nearly all of them. He took their property as spoils
of war and put the men themselves into the prison
at Pergamum . He then went in person to [Marcus]
Junius, the governor of Asia , thinking it proper
that he, as praetor in charge of the province, should
see to the punishment of the prisoners. Junius, however,
cast longing eyes at the money, which came to a considerable
sum, and kept saying that he needed time to look
into the case.
Caesar paid no further attention to him. He went
to Pergamum , took the pirates out of prison, and
crucified the lot of them, just as he had often told
them he would do when he was on the island and they
imagined that he was joking. However, since they
had treated him well, he had their throats cut before
they were crucified to lessen their suffering.
7, 49 BC , the Senate
demanded Julius Caesar to hand over his ten well-trained
legions to a new governor. Caesar heard the news
in Ravenna, and knew that he had to make a choice
between prosecution and rebellion; preferring the
dignity of war over the humiliation of unfriendly
politics, Caesar chose to rebel, quoting his favorite
poet Menander, 'the die is cast' (alea iacta est).
On January 10 or 11, 49 BC, his
army advanced to Rimini ,
where Caesar could control the passes across
the Apennines Mountains .
In doing so, he crossed the river Rubico (a.k.a.
the Rubicon River ),
a river in northern Italy forming
part of the boundary between Cisalpine
Gaul and Italy .
In so doing, he invaded his own country of Italy
, which the Senate declared to be an act of civil
The Rubicon was a relatively minor waterway in
northern Italy . Roman legionaries, slaves, generals,
and whoever else might be traveling with a Roman
army could easily cross it on foot. However, since
ancient times, the Rubicon River had marked the northernmost
boundary of Rome , a boundary between Rome and its
northern neighbor, Gaul . A Roman general could not
go across the boundary while at the head of his army.
For such a man to lead his troops in battle gear
into the heart of Rome was against one of the oldest
laws on the Roman law books. It was treason.
Treason was an offense against the Roman government,
against the very heart of Roman society. Treason was
punishable by death. Someone who committed treason
would inevitably be hunted down by Roman soldiers and
dragged to the Roman Senate, where he would be tried, with the very likely
outcome of a guilty verdict and a death sentence.
In 49 BC, the frontiers of Rome were expanding. The young general,
Julius Caesar, was making quite a name for himself in Gaul , which is
mostly what we now call France . Caesar and his army had spent several
years of hard fighting defeating the native Celts and Germanic peoples
of Gaul , including the Helvetii. Now Caesar ruled the area with an iron
fist. Elsewhere in the Republic, Pompey, the other surviving consul of
the First Triumvirate (Crassus had been killed in 53 BC), was conquering
vast territories in the east and south. At the time that Caesar's army
arrived in northern Italy , Pompey and his army were in Spain , relatively
far away by ancient transportation standards.
By this time, Pompey and Caesar had grown quite jealous
of each other. An attempt at familial reconciliation
was made when Caesar's daughter Julia married Pompey.
This worked only for a short time, however, because
Julia died in childbirth; and, since no blood ties
kept the men together anymore, the rivalry intensified.
By this time, also, Caesar had become such a favorite of the
common people of Rome (who outnumbered the wealthy) that “Caesar” was
a well-known name throughout much of the Republic. Pompey, on
the other hand, was a master general and favorite of the wealthy
and of the Senate, but he considered himself much more than Caesar's
equal, both in governmental terms and on the battlefield.
So here was Caesar, staying in Ravenna , and wanting
to consolidate his hold on the hearts and minds of
the Roman people (and government). He marched his
men to the brink of confrontation and then boldly
took them across in history. Some historians differ
on exactly how the crossing took place. Suetonius,
an ancient Roman historian, had this to say:
Coming up with his troops on the banks of
the Rubicon, which was the frontier of his province,
he halted for a while, and revolving in his mind
the importance of the step he meditated, he turned
to those about him, saying: 'Still we can retreat!
But once let us pass this little bridge, - and
nothing is left but to fight it out with arms!'
as he hesitated, this incident occurred. A
man of strikingly noble mien and graceful aspect
appeared nearby, and played upon a pipe. To hear
him not merely some shepherds, but soldiers too
came flocking from their posts, and amongst them
some trumpeters. He snatched a trumpet from one
of them and ran to the river with it; then sounding
the "Advance!" with
a piercing blast he crossed to the other side. At this Caesar cried
out, 'Let us go where the omens of the Gods and the crimes of our enemies
summon us! THE DIE IS NOW CAST!'
Thus, the historian Suetonius could seem to be
arguing, it was not Caesar who initiated the treason;
rather, he was responding to a charge made by another
of his men. "The die is now cast" could
be interpreted to mean that the decision was made
for him and that he had only to go along.
No matter the interpretation, the fact remained
that Caesar and his army were now in violation of
one of the oldest laws of them all, treason. The
outcry was immediate in Rome itself, with the Senate
calling for Caesar to disband his army and submit
to their authority. The call went out to Pompey to
come defend his beloved Senate against the intrusion
by Caesar. The response by both men was telling:
Caesar marched his army into Rome, took over the
place, and had a new Senate installed, one that included
mostly men favorable to his intentions; Pompey, meanwhile,
sailed his army to Greece, there to set up a defensive
position and await Caesar's attack.
The result was
the epic Battle of Pharsalus, which resulted in
a victory by Caesar, the death of Pompey, and the
dawning of a new day in Rome .
The Death of
March 44 BC , the Roman
dictator Julius Caesar was murdered. There are
several accounts of this incident, but the most
famous and probably most accurate is the one that
was written by Caesar's biographer Caius Suetonius
Tranquillus (c.70-c.135), who seems to have had
access to imperial archives and may have consulted
The following fragment is from Suetonius’ “Lives
of the Twelve Caesars” (Caesar 80-82).
In order to avoid giving assent to this
proposal the conspirators hastened the execution of
their designs. Therefore the plots that had previously
been formed separately, often by groups of two or
three, were united in a general conspiracy, since
even the populace no longer were pleased with present
conditions, but both secretly and openly rebelled
at his tyranny and cried out for defenders of their
liberty. On the admission of foreigners to the Senate,
a placard was posted: 'God bless the commonwealth!
Let no one consent to point out the House to a newly
made Senator.’ The following verses too were
The Gauls he dragged in triumph
through the town
Caesar has brought into the Senate house
And changed their breeches for the purple gown.
When Quintus Maximus, whom he had appointed consul
in his place for three months, was entering the theater,
and his lictor in the usual manner called attention
to his arrival, a general shout was raised: 'He's
no Consul!’ After the removal of Caesetius
and Marullus from office as tribunes, they were bound
to have not a few votes at the next elections of
consuls. Some wrote on the base of Lucius Brutus'
statue, 'Oh, that you were still alive'; and on that
of Caesar himself:
Because he drove from Rome the royal
Brutus was first made consul in their place.
This man, because he put the consuls down,
has been rewarded with a royal crown.
More than sixty joined the conspiracy against him,
led by Caius Cassius and Decimus and Marcus Junius
Brutus. At first, they hesitated whether to form
two divisions at the elections in the Field of Mars,
so that while some hurled him from the bridge as
he summoned the tribes to vote, the rest might wait
below and slay him; or to set upon him in the Sacred
Way or at the entrance to the theater. When, however,
a meeting of the Senate was called for the ides of
March in the Hall of Pompey, the senators readily
gave that time and place the preference.
Now Caesar's approaching murder was foretold to
him by unmistakable signs. A few months before, when
the settlers assigned to the colony at Capua by the
Julian Law were demolishing some tombs of great antiquity,
to build country houses, and plied their work with
the greater vigor because as they rummaged about
they found a quantity of vases of ancient workmanship,
there was discovered in a tomb, which was said to
be that of Capys, the founder of Capua, a bronze
tablet, inscribed with Greek words and characters
to this effect: 'Whenever the bones of Capys shall
be discovered, it will come to pass that a descendant
of his shall be slain at the hands of his kindred,
and presently avenged at heavy cost to Italy.' And
let no one think this tale a myth or a lie, for it
is vouched for by Cornelius Balbus, an intimate friend
Shortly before his death, as he was told, the herds
of horses which he had dedicated to the Rubicon River
when he crossed it, and had let loose without a keeper,
stubbornly refused to graze and wept copiously. Again,
when he was offering sacrifice, the soothsayer Spurinna
warned him to beware of danger, which would come
no later than the ides of March. On the day before
the ides of that month, a little bird called the
king-bird flew into the Hall of Pompey with a sprig
of laurel, pursued by others of various kinds from
the grove hard by, which tore it to pieces in the
hall. In fact the very night before his murder he
dreamt now that he was flying above the clouds, and
now that he was clasping the hand of Jupiter; and
his wife Calpurnia thought that the pediment of their
house fell, and that her husband was stabbed in her
arms; and on a sudden the door of the room flew open
of its own accord.
Both for these reasons and because of poor health
he hesitated for a long time whether to stay at home
and put off what he had planned to do in the Senate.
At last, urged by Decimus Brutus not to disappoint
the full meeting, who had been waiting for him for
some time, he went forth almost at the end of the
fifth hour. When a note revealing the plot was handed
him by some one on the way, he put it with others
which he held in his left hand, intending to read
them presently. Then, after many victims had been
slain, and he could not get favorable omens, he entered
the House in defiance of portents, laughing at Spurinna
and calling him a false prophet, because the ides
of March were come without bringing him harm. Spurinna
replied that they had of a truth come, but they had
As he took his seat, the conspirators gathered
about him as if to pay their respects, and straightway
Tillius Cimber, who had assumed the lead, came nearer
as though to ask something. When Caesar with a gesture
put him off to another time, Cimber caught his toga
by both shoulders. As Caesar cried, 'Why, this is
violence!’ one of the Casca stabbed him from
one side just below the throat. Caesar caught Casca's
arm and ran it through with his stylus, but as he
tried to leap to his feet, he was stopped by another
wound. When he saw that he was beset on every side
by drawn daggers, he muffled his head in his robe,
and at the same time drew down its lap to his feet
with his left hand, in order to fall more decently,
with the lower part of his body also covered. And
in this wise he was stabbed with three and twenty
wounds, uttering not a word, but merely a groan at
the first stroke, though some have written that when
Marcus Brutus rushed at him, he said in Greek, 'You
too, my child?'
All the conspirators made off, and he lay there
lifeless for some time, until finally three common
slaves put him on a litter and carried him home,
with one arm hanging down. Moreover, of so many wounds
none, in the opinion of the physician Antistius,
would have proved mortal except the second one in