and a distinguished writer of Latin
prose. He played a critical role in the gradual transformation of the Roman Republic
into the Roman Empire
In 60 BC, Caesar, Crassus
formed a political alliance
that was to dominate Roman politics for several years. Their attempts to amass power through populist
tactics were opposed by the conservative elite
within the Roman Senate
, among them Cato the Younger
with the frequent support of Cicero
52 BC Vercingetorix, leader of the Gauls, surrenders to the Romans under Julius Caesar, ending the siege and Battle of Alesia.
49 BC Julius Caesar crosses the Rubicon, signaling the start of civil war.
49 BC Julius Caesar's general Gaius Scribonius Curio is defeated in the Second Battle of the Bagradas River by the Numidians under Publius Attius Varus and King Juba of Numidia. Curio commits suicide to avoid capture.
48 BC Battle of Dyrrhachium: Julius Caesar barely avoids a catastrophic defeat to Pompey in Macedonia.
46 BC Julius Caesar defeats Titus Labienus in the Battle of Ruspina.
46 BC Julius Caesar defeats Caecilius Metellus Scipio and Marcus Porcius Cato (Cato the Younger) in the battle of Thapsus.
46 BC Julius Caesar dedicates a temple to his mythical ancestor Venus Genetrix in accordance with a vow he made at the battle of Pharsalus.
45 BC In his last victory, Julius Caesar defeats the Pompeian forces of Titus Labienus and Pompey the Younger in the Battle of Munda.
44 BC Julius Caesar, Dictator of the Roman Republic, is stabbed to death by Marcus Junius Brutus, Gaius Cassius Longinus, Decimus Junius Brutus and several other Roman senators on the Ides of March.
43 BC Battle of Forum Gallorum: Mark Antony, besieging Julius Caesar's assassin Decimus Junius Brutus Albinus in Mutina, defeats the forces of the consul Pansa, who is wounded.
Horum omnium fortissimi sunt Belgae.
Fere libenter homines id quod volunt credunt.
Galia est pacata.
Sed fortuna, quae plurimum potest cum in reliquis rebus tum praecipue in bello, parvis momentis magnas rerum commutationes efficit; ut tum accidit.
Nihil nobis metuendum est, praeter metum ipsum.
and a distinguished writer of Latin
prose. He played a critical role in the gradual transformation of the Roman Republic
into the Roman Empire
In 60 BC, Caesar, Crassus
formed a political alliance
that was to dominate Roman politics for several years. Their attempts to amass power through populist
tactics were opposed by the conservative elite
within the Roman Senate
, among them Cato the Younger
with the frequent support of Cicero
. Caesar's conquest of Gaul, completed by 51 BC, extended Rome's territory to the English Channel
and the Rhine. Caesar became the first Roman general to cross both when he built a bridge across the Rhine
and conducted the first invasion of Britain
. These achievements granted him unmatched military power and threatened to eclipse Pompey's standing. The balance of power was further upset by the death of Crassus
in 53 BC.
Political realignments in Rome finally led to a standoff between Caesar and Pompey, the latter having taken up the cause of the Senate. Ordered by the Senate to stand trial in Rome for various charges, Caesar marched from Gaul to Italy with his legions, crossing the Rubicon
in 49 BC. This sparked a civil war
from which he emerged as the unrivaled leader of the Roman world.
After assuming control of government, he began extensive reforms of Roman society and government. He centralised the bureaucracy of the Republic and was eventually proclaimed "dictator
in perpetuity". A group of senators, led by Marcus Junius Brutus
, assassinated the dictator on the Ides of March
(15 March) 44 BC, hoping to restore the constitutional government of the Republic. However, the result was a series of civil wars, which ultimately led to the establishment of the permanent Roman Empire by Caesar's adopted heir Octavius
(later known as Augustus). Much of Caesar's life is known from his own accounts of his military campaigns, and other contemporary sources, mainly the letters and speeches of Cicero and the historical writings of Sallust
. The later biographies of Caesar by Suetonius
are also major sources.
Early life and career
Julia, which claimed descent from Iulus
, son of the legendary Trojan
, supposedly the son of the goddess Venus
. The cognomen
"Caesar" originated, according to Pliny the Elder
, with an ancestor who was born by caesarean section
(from the Latin verb to cut, caedere, caes-). The Historia Augusta
suggests three alternative explanations
: that the first Caesar had a thick head of hair (Latin caesaries); that he had bright grey eyes (Latin oculis caesiis); or that he killed an elephant (caesai in Moorish) in battle. Caesar issued coins featuring images of elephants, suggesting that he favored this interpretation of his name. Despite their ancient pedigree, the Julii Caesares were not especially politically influential. Caesar's father, also called Gaius Julius Caesar, governed the province of Asia, while his mother, Aurelia Cotta
, came from an influential family. Little is recorded of Caesar's childhood. Caesar's formative years were a time of turmoil. There were several wars from 91 BC to 82 BC, although from 82 BC to 80 BC, the dictator Lucius Cornelius Sulla
was purging Rome of his political enemies. Domestically, Roman politics was bitterly divided. In 85 BC, Caesar's father died suddenly so at sixteen Caesar was the head of the family. The following year he was nominated to be the new high priest of Jupiter
. Since the holder of that position not only had to be a patrician but also be married to a patrician, he broke off his engagement to a plebeian
girl he had been betrothed to since boyhood, and married Lucius Cinna
's daughter Cornelia
. Then, having brought Mithridates
to terms, Sulla returned to Rome and had himself appointed to the revived office of dictator
. Sulla's proscription
s saw hundreds of his political enemies killed or exiled. Caesar, as the nephew of Marius
and son-in-law of Cinna, was targeted. He was stripped of his inheritance, his wife's dowry and his priesthood, but he refused to divorce Cornelia and was forced to go into hiding. The threat against him was lifted by the intervention of his mother's family, which included supporters of Sulla, and the Vestal Virgins. Sulla gave in reluctantly, and is said to have declared that he saw many a Marius in Caesar.
Caesar left Rome and joined the army, where he won the Civic Crown
for his part in an important siege. On a mission to Bithynia
to secure the assistance of King Nicomedes's
fleet, he spent so long at his court that rumors of an affair with the king arose, which Caesar would vehemently deny for the rest of his life. Ironically, the loss of his priesthood had allowed him to pursue a military career, as the high priest of Jupiter was not permitted to touch a horse, sleep three nights outside his own bed or one night outside Rome, or look upon an army. Hearing of Sulla's death in 78 BC, Caesar felt safe enough to return to Rome. Lacking means since his inheritance was confiscated, he acquired a modest house in a lower-class neighborhood of Rome. Instead, he turned to legal advocacy. He became known for his exceptional oratory, accompanied by impassioned gestures and a high-pitched voice, and ruthless prosecution of former governors notorious for extortion
On the way across the Aegean Sea
, Caesar was kidnapped by pirates
and held prisoner. He maintained an attitude of superiority throughout his captivity. When the pirates thought to demand a ransom of twenty talents
of silver, he insisted they ask for fifty. After the ransom was paid, Caesar raised a fleet, pursued and captured the pirates, and imprisoned them. He had them crucified on his own authority, as he had promised while in captivity—a promise the pirates had taken as a joke. As a sign of leniency, he first had their throats cut. He was soon called back into military action in Asia, raising a band of auxiliaries
to repel an incursion from the east.
, a first step in a political career. He was elected quaestor
for 69 BC, and during that year he delivered the funeral oration for his aunt Julia
. His wife, Cornelia, also died that year. After her funeral, in the spring or early summer of 69 BC, Caesar went to serve his quaestorship in Spain
. While there he is said to have encountered a statue of Alexander the Great, and realized with dissatisfaction he was now at an age when Alexander had the world at his feet, while he had achieved comparatively little. On his return in 67 BC, he married Pompeia, a granddaughter of Sulla, whom he later divorced. In 63 BC, he ran for election to the post of Pontifex Maximus
, chief priest of the Roman state religion. He ran against two powerful senators. There were accusations of bribery by all sides. Caesar won comfortably, despite his opponents' greater experience and standing. When Cicero
, who was consul that year, exposed Catiline
's conspiracy to seize control of the republic, several senators accused Caesar of involvement in the plot.
After his praetorship, Caesar was appointed to govern Spain
, but he was still in considerable debt and needed to satisfy his creditors before he could leave. He turned to Marcus Licinius Crassus
, one of Rome's richest men. In return for political support in his opposition to the interests of Pompey
, Crassus paid some of Caesar's debts and acted as guarantor for others. Even so, to avoid becoming a private citizen and thus be open to prosecution for his debts, Caesar left for his province before his praetorship had ended. In Spain, he conquered two local tribes and was hailed as imperator
by his troops, reformed the law regarding debts, and completed his governorship in high esteem. As imperator, Caesar was entitled to a triumph
. However, he also wanted to stand for consul, the most senior magistracy in the republic. If he were to celebrate a triumph, he would have to remain a soldier and stay outside the city until the ceremony, but to stand for election he would need to lay down his command and enter Rome as a private citizen. He could not do both in the time available. He asked the senate for permission to stand in absentia, but Cato blocked the proposal. Faced with the choice between a triumph and the consulship, Caesar chose the consulship.
Consulship and military campaignsIn 60 BC, Caesar sought election as consul for 59 BC, along with two other candidates. The election was dirty – even Cato
, with his reputation for incorruptibility, is said to have resorted to bribery in favor of one of Caesar's opponents. Caesar won, along with conservative Marcus Bibulus
Caesar was already in Crassus
' political debt, but he also made overtures to Pompey
. Pompey and Crassus had been at odds for a decade, so Caesar tried to reconcile them. The three of them had enough money and political influence to control public business. This informal alliance, known as the First Triumvirate
("rule of three men"), was cemented by the marriage of Pompey to Caesar's daughter Julia
. Caesar also married again, this time Calpurnia
, who was the daughter of another powerful senator.
Caesar proposed a law for the redistribution of public lands to the poor, a proposal supported by Pompey, by force of arms if need be, and by Crassus, making the triumvirate public. Pompey filled the city with soldiers, a move which intimidated the triumvirate's opponents. Bibulus attempted to declare the omens unfavorable and thus void the new law, but was driven from the forum by Caesar's armed supporters. His bodyguards
had their ceremonial axes
broken, two high magistrates accompanying him were wounded, and Bibulus had a bucket of excrement thrown over him. In fear of his life, he retired to his house for the rest of the year, issuing occasional proclamations of bad omens. These attempts to obstruct Caesar's legislation proved ineffective. Roman satirists ever after referred to the year as "the consulship of Julius and Caesar."
When Caesar was first elected, the aristocracy tried to limit his future power by allotting the woods and pastures of Italy, rather than the governorship
of a province, as his military command duty after his year in office was over. With the help of political allies, Caesar later overturned this, and was instead appointed to govern Cisalpine Gaul
(northern Italy) and Illyricum
(southeastern Europe), with Transalpine Gaul (southern France) later added, giving him command of four legions. The term of his governorship, and thus his immunity from prosecution, was set at five years, rather than the usual one. When his consulship ended, Caesar narrowly avoided prosecution for the irregularities of his year in office, and quickly left for his province.
Conquest of GaulCaesar was still deeply in debt, and there was money to be made as a governor, whether by extortion or by military adventurism. Caesar had four legions under his command, two of his provinces bordered on unconquered territory, and parts of Gaul
were known to be unstable. Some of Rome's Gallic allies had been defeated by their rivals, with the help of a contingent of Germanic
tribes. The Romans feared these tribes were preparing to migrate south, closer to Italy, and that they had warlike intent. Caesar raised two new legions and defeated these tribes.
In response to Caesar's earlier activities, the tribes in the north-east began to arm themselves. Caesar treated this as an aggressive move and, after an inconclusive engagement against the united tribes, he conquered the tribes piecemeal. Meanwhile, one of his legions began the conquest of the tribes in the far north (directly opposite Britain
). During the spring of 56 BC, the Triumvirate held a conference, as Rome was in turmoil and Caesar's political alliance was coming undone. The meeting renewed the Triumvirate and extended Caesar's governorship for another five years. The conquest of the north was soon completed, while a few pockets of resistance remained. Caesar now had a secure base from which to launch an invasion of Britain.
In 55 BC, Caesar repelled an incursion into Gaul by two Germanic tribes, and followed it up by building a bridge across the Rhine and making a show of force in Germanic territory, before returning and dismantling the bridge. Late that summer, having subdued two other tribes, he crossed into Britain, claiming that the Britons had aided one of his enemies the previous year possibly the Veneti
. His intelligence information was poor, and although he gained a beachhead on the coast, he could not advance further, and returned to Gaul for the winter.He returned the following year, better prepared and with a larger force, and achieved more. He advanced inland, and established a few alliances. However, poor harvests led to widespread revolt in Gaul, which forced Caesar to leave Britain for the last time.
While Caesar was in Britain his daughter Julia, Pompey's wife, had died in childbirth. Caesar tried to re-secure Pompey's support by offering him his great-niece in marriage, but Pompey declined. In 53 BC Crassus was killed leading a failed invasion
of the east. Rome was on the edge of civil war. Pompey was appointed sole consul as an emergency measure, and married the daughter of a political opponent of Caesar. The Triumvirate was dead.
In 52 BC another, larger revolt erupted in Gaul, led by Vercingetorix
. Vercingetorix managed to unite the Gallic tribes and proved an astute commander, defeating Caesar in several engagements, but Caesar's elaborate siege-works at the Battle of Alesia
finally forced his surrender. Despite scattered outbreaks of warfare the following year, Gaul was effectively conquered. Plutarch claimed that the army had fought against three million men during the Gallic Wars
, of whom one million died, and another million were enslaved
. The Romans subjugated 300 tribes and destroyed 800 cities. However, in view of the difficulty in finding accurate counts in the first place, Caesar's propagandistic purposes, and the common exaggeration of numbers in ancient texts, the stated totals of enemy combatants are likely to be too high.
Civil warIn 50 BC, the Senate
, led by Pompey
, ordered Caesar to disband his army and return to Rome because his term as governor had finished. Caesar thought he would be prosecuted if he entered Rome without the immunity enjoyed by a magistrate. Pompey accused Caesar of insubordination and treason. In January 49 BC, Caesar crossed the Rubicon
river (the frontier boundary of Italy) with only one legion
and ignited civil war
. Upon crossing the Rubicon, Caesar, according to Plutarch
, is supposed to have quoted the Athenian playwright Menander
, in Greek, "the die is cast
". Erasmus, however, notes that the more accurate translation of the Greek imperative mood
would be "alea icta esto" let the die be cast. Pompey and much of the Senate fled to the south, having little confidence in his newly raised troops. Despite greatly outnumbering Caesar, who only had his Thirteenth Legion
with him, Pompey did not intend to fight. Caesar pursued Pompey, hoping to capture him before his legions could escape. Pompey managed to escape before Caesar could capture him. Caesar decided to head for Spain, while leaving Italy under the control of Mark Antony
. Caesar made an astonishing 27-day route-march to Spain
, where he defeated Pompey's lieutenants. He then returned east, to challenge Pompey in Greece where in July 48 BC at Dyrrhachium
Caesar barely avoided a catastrophic defeat. He decisively defeated Pompey at Pharsalus
in an exceedingly short engagement later that year.
, with Mark Antony
as his Master of the Horse
(second in command); Caesar presided over his own election to a second consulship and then, after eleven days, resigned this dictatorship. Caesar then pursued Pompey to Egypt, where Pompey was soon murdered. Caesar then became involved with an Egyptian civil war between the child pharaoh and his sister, wife, and co-regent queen, Cleopatra
. Perhaps as a result of the pharaoh's role in Pompey's murder, Caesar sided with Cleopatra; he is reported to have wept at the sight of Pompey's head, which was offered to him by the pharaoh as a gift. In any event, Caesar defeated the pharaoh's forces in 47 BC and installed Cleopatra as ruler. Caesar and Cleopatra celebrated their victory with a triumphant procession on the Nile in the spring of 47 BC. The royal barge was accompanied by 400 additional ships, and Caesar was introduced to the luxurious lifestyle of the Egyptian pharaohs. Caesar and Cleopatra never married, as Roman law recognized marriages only between two Roman citizens. Caesar continued his relationship with Cleopatra throughout his last marriage, which lasted fourteen years – in Roman eyes, this did not constitute adultery – and may have fathered a son called Caesarion
. Cleopatra visited Rome on more than one occasion, residing in Caesar's villa just outside Rome across the Tiber
Late in 48 BC, Caesar was again appointed Dictator
, with a term of one year. After spending the first months of 47 BC in Egypt, Caesar went to the Middle East, where he annihilated the king of Pontus
; his victory was so swift and complete that he mocked Pompey's previous victories over such poor enemies. Thence, he proceeded to Africa to deal with the remnants of Pompey's senatorial supporters. He quickly gained a significant victory in 46 BC over Cato, who then committed suicide. After this victory, he was appointed Dictator for ten years. Nevertheless, Pompey's sons escaped to Spain; Caesar gave chase and defeated the last remnants of opposition in the Battle of Munda
in March 45 BC. During this time, Caesar was elected to his third and fourth terms as consul in 46 BC and 45 BC (this last time without a colleague).
Dictatorship and assassinationWhile he was still campaigning in Spain, the Senate began bestowing honors on Caesar. Caesar had not proscribed his enemies, instead pardoning almost all, and there was no serious public opposition to him. Great games and celebrations were held in April to honor Caesar’s victory at Munda. Plutarch writes that many Romans found the triumph held following Caesar's victory to be in poor taste, as those defeated in the civil war had not been foreigners, but instead fellow Romans. On Caesar's return to Italy in September 45 BC, he filed his will, naming his grandnephew Gaius Octavius
(Octavian) as the heir to everything, including his name. Caesar also wrote that if Octavian died before Caesar did, Marcus Junius Brutus
would be the next heir in succession.
During his early career, Caesar had seen how chaotic and dysfunctional the Roman Republic had become. The republican machinery had broken down under the weight of imperialism
, the central government had become powerless, the provinces had been transformed into independent principalities under the absolute control of their governors, and the army had replaced the constitution as the means of accomplishing political goals. With a weak central government, political corruption had spiraled out of control, and the status quo had been maintained by a corrupt aristocracy, which saw no need to change a system that had made its members rich.
Between his crossing of the Rubicon River
in 49 BC, and his assassination
in 44 BC, Caesar established a new constitution, which was intended to accomplish three separate goals. First, he wanted to suppress all armed resistance out in the provinces, and thus bring order back to the empire. Second, he wanted to create a strong central government in Rome. Finally, he wanted to knit together the entire empire into a single cohesive unit. The first goal was accomplished when Caesar defeated Pompey and his supporters. To accomplish the other two goals, he needed to ensure that his control over the government was undisputed, and so he assumed these powers by increasing his own authority, and by decreasing the authority of Rome's other political institutions. Finally, he enacted a series of reforms that were meant to address several long neglected issues, the most important of which was his reform of the calendar.
DictatorshipWhen Caesar returned to Rome, the Senate granted him triumphs
for his victories, ostensibly over Gaul, Egypt, Pharnaces
, rather than over his Roman opponents. Not everything went Caesar's way. When Arsinoe IV, Egypt's former queen, was paraded in chains, the spectators admired her dignified bearing and were moved to pity. Triumphal games
were held, with beast-hunts involving 400 lions, and gladiator contests
. A naval battle
was held on a flooded basin at the Field of Mars
. At the Circus Maximus
, two armies of war captives, each of 2,000 people, 200 horse and 20 elephants, fought to the death. Again, some bystanders complained, this time at Caesar's wasteful extravagance. A riot broke out, and only stopped when Caesar had two rioters sacrificed by the priests on the Field of Mars.
After the triumph, Caesar set forth to passing an unprecedented legislative agenda. He ordered a census be taken, which forced a reduction in the grain dole, and that jurors could only come from the Senate or the equestrian ranks. He passed a sumptuary law that restricted the purchase of certain luxuries. After this, he passed a law that rewarded families for having many children, to speed up the repopulation of Italy
. Then he outlawed professional guilds, except those of ancient foundation, since many of these were subversive political clubs. He then passed a term limit law applicable to governors. He passed a debt restructuring law, which ultimately eliminated about a fourth of all debts owed. The Forum of Caesar
, with its Temple of Venus Genetrix
, was then built, among many other public works. Caesar also tightly regulated the purchase of state-subsidised grain and reduced the number of recipients to a fixed number, all of whom were entered into a special register. From 47 to 44 BC he made plans for the distribution of land to about 15,000 of his veterans. The most important change, however, was his reform of the calendar. The calendar at the time was regulated by the movement of the moon, and this had resulted in a great deal of disorder. Caesar replaced this calendar with the Egyptian calendar, which was regulated by the sun. He set the length of the year to 365.25 days by adding an intercalary/leap day
at the end of February every fourth year. To bring the calendar into alignment with the seasons, he decreed that three extra months be inserted into 46 BC (the ordinary intercalary month at the end of February, and two extra months after November). Thus, the Julian calendar
opened on 1 January 45 BC. This calendar is almost identical to the current Western calendar
Shortly before his assassination, he passed a few more reforms. He established a police force, appointed officials to carry out his land reforms, and ordered the rebuilding of Carthage
and Corinth. He also extended Latin rights throughout the Roman world, and then abolished the tax system and reverted to the earlier version that allowed cities to collect tribute however they wanted, rather than needing Roman intermediaries. His assassination prevented further and larger schemes, which included the construction of an unprecedented temple to Mars, a huge theater, and a library on the scale of the Library of Alexandria
. He also wanted to convert Ostia
to a major port, and cut a canal through the Isthmus of Corinth
. Militarily, he wanted to conquer the Dacia
ns, and avenge the loss at Carrhae
. Thus, he instituted a massive mobilization. Shortly before his assassination, the Senate named him censor for life and Father of the Fatherland, and the month of Quintilis
was renamed July in his honor. He was granted further honors, which were later used to justify his assassination as a would-be divine monarch; coins were issued bearing his image and his statue was placed next to those of the kings. He was granted a golden chair in the Senate, was allowed to wear triumphal dress whenever he chose, and was offered a form of semi-official or popular cult
, with Mark Antony
as his high priest.
Political reformsThe history of Caesar's political appointments is complex and uncertain. Caesar held both the dictatorship
and the tribunate
, but alternated between the consulship
and the Proconsul
ship. His powers within the state seem to have rested upon these magistracies. He was first appointed dictator in 49 BC possibly to preside over elections, but resigned his dictatorship within eleven days. In 48 BC, he was re-appointed dictator, only this time for an indefinite period, and in 46 BC, he was appointed dictator for ten years. In February of 44 BC, one month before his assassination, he was appointed dictator for life. Under Caesar, a significant amount of authority was vested in his lieutenants, mostly because Caesar was frequently out of Italy. In October 45 BC, Caesar resigned his position as sole consul, and facilitated the election of two successors for the remainder of the year which theoretically restored the ordinary consulship, since the constitution did not recognize a single consul without a colleague. In 48 BC, Caesar was given permanent tribunician powers, which made his person sacrosanct and allowed him to veto the Senate, although on at least one occasion, tribunes did attempt to obstruct him. The offending tribunes in this case were brought before the Senate and divested of their office. This was not the first time that Caesar had violated a tribune's sacrosanctity. After he had first marched on Rome in 49 BC, he forcibly opened the treasury although a tribune had the seal placed on it. After the impeachment of the two obstructive tribunes, Caesar, perhaps unsurprisingly, faced no further opposition from other members of the Tribunician College.
". Coins bore his likeness, and he was given the right to speak first during senate meetings. Caesar then increased the number of magistrates who were elected each year, which created a large pool of experienced magistrates, and allowed Caesar to reward his supporters. Caesar even took steps to transform Italy into a province, and to link more tightly the other provinces of the empire into a single cohesive unit. This addressed the underlying problem that had caused the Social War decades earlier, where individuals outside Rome and Italy were not considered "Roman", and thus were not given full citizenship rights. This process, of fusing the entire Roman Empire into a single unit, rather than maintaining it as a network of unequal principalities, would ultimately be completed by Caesar's successor, the emperor Augustus.
When Caesar returned to Rome in 47 BC, the ranks of the Senate had been severely depleted, and so he used his censorial powers to appoint many new senators, which eventually raised the Senate's membership to 900. All the appointments were of his own partisans, which robbed the senatorial aristocracy of its prestige, and made the Senate increasingly subservient to him. To minimize the risk that another general might attempt to challenge him, Caesar passed a law that subjected governors to term limits. Near the end of his life, Caesar began to prepare for a war against the Parthian Empire
. Since his absence from Rome might limit his ability to install his own consuls, he passed a law which allowed him to appoint all magistrates in 43 BC, and all consuls and tribunes in 42 BC. This, in effect, transformed the magistrates from being representatives of the people to being representatives of the dictator.
AssassinationOn the Ides of March
(15 March; see Roman calendar
) of 44 BC, Caesar was due to appear at a session of the Senate. Mark Antony
, having vaguely learned of the plot the night before from a terrified Liberator named Servilius Casca
, and fearing the worst, went to head Caesar off. The plotters, however, had anticipated this and, fearing that Antony would come to Caesar's aid, had arranged for Trebonius
to intercept him just as he approached the portico of Theatre of Pompey
, where the session was to be held, and detain him outside. (Plutarch, however, assigns this action to delay Antony to Brutus Albinus.) When he heard the commotion from the senate chamber, Antony fled.
According to Plutarch
, as Caesar arrived at the Senate, Tillius Cimber
presented him with a petition to recall his exiled brother. The other conspirators crowded round to offer support. Both Plutarch and Suetonius
say that Caesar waved him away, but Cimber grabbed his shoulders and pulled down Caesar's tunic
. Caesar then cried to Cimber, "Why, this is violence!" ("Ista quidem vis est!"). At the same time, Casca produced his dagger and made a glancing thrust at the dictator's neck. Caesar turned around quickly and caught Casca by the arm. According to Plutarch, he said in Latin, "Casca, you villain, what are you doing?" Casca, frightened, shouted, "Help, brother!" in Greek
("", "adelphe, boethei!"). Within moments, the entire group, including Brutus, was striking out at the dictator. Caesar attempted to get away, but, blinded by blood, he tripped and fell; the men continued stabbing him as he lay defenceless on the lower steps of the portico. According to Eutropius, around 60 or more men participated in the assassination. He was stabbed 23 times. According to Suetonius, a physician later established that only one wound, the second one to his chest, had been lethal.
The dictator's last words are not known with certainty, and are a contested subject among scholars and historians alike. Suetonius reports that others have said Caesar's last words were the Greek phrase "" (transliterated as "Kai su, teknon?": "You too, child?" in English). However, Suetonius says Caesar said nothing. Plutarch also reports that Caesar said nothing, pulling his toga over his head when he saw Brutus among the conspirators. The version best known in the English-speaking world is the Latin phrase "Et tu, Brute?
" ("And you, Brutus?", commonly rendered as "You too, Brutus?"); this derives from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar
, where it actually forms the first half of a macaronic line: "Et tu, Brute? Then fall, Caesar." It has no basis in historical fact and Shakespeare's use of Latin here is not from any assertion that Caesar would have been using the language, rather than the Greek reported by Suetonius, but because the phrase was already popular when the play was written.
According to Plutarch, after the assassination, Brutus stepped forward as if to say something to his fellow senators; they, however, fled the building. Brutus and his companions then marched to the Capitol while crying out to their beloved city: "People of Rome, we are once again free!" They were met with silence, as the citizens of Rome had locked themselves inside their houses as soon as the rumor of what had taken place had begun to spread. Caesar's dead body lay where it fell on the Senate floor for nearly three hours before other officials arrived to remove it.
Caesar's body was cremated, and on the site of his cremation the Temple of Caesar
was erected a few years later (at the east side of the main square of the Roman Forum
). Nowadays, only its altar remains.
A lifesize wax statue of Caesar was later erected in the forum displaying the 23 stab wounds. A crowd who had gathered there started a fire, which badly damaged the forum and neighboring buildings. In the ensuing chaos Mark Antony
, Octavian (later Augustus Caesar), and others fought a series of five civil wars, which would end in the formation of the Roman Empire.
Aftermath of the assassinationThe result unforeseen by the assassins was that Caesar's death precipitated the end of the Roman Republic. The Roman middle and lower classes
, with whom Caesar was immensely popular and had been since before Gaul, became enraged that a small group of aristocrats had killed their champion. Antony, who had been drifting apart from Caesar, capitalised on the grief of the Roman mob and threatened to unleash them on the Optimates
, perhaps with the intent of taking control of Rome himself. However, to his surprise and chagrin, Caesar had named his grandnephew Gaius Octavian
his sole heir, bequeathing him the immensely potent Caesar name and making him one of the wealthiest citizens in the Republic. The crowd at the funeral boiled over, throwing dry branches, furniture and even clothing on to Caesar's funeral pyre, causing the flames to spin out of control, seriously damaging the Forum. The mob then attacked the houses of Brutus and Cassius, where they were repelled only with considerable difficulty, ultimately providing the spark for the Liberators' civil war
, fulfilling at least in part Antony's threat against the aristocrats. However, Antony did not foresee the ultimate outcome of the next series of civil wars, particularly with regard to Caesar's adopted heir. Octavian, aged only 18 when Caesar died, proved to have considerable political skills, and while Antony dealt with Decimus Brutus
in the first round of the new civil wars, Octavian consolidated his tenuous position.
To combat Brutus and Cassius, who were massing an enormous army in Greece, Antony needed soldiers, the cash from Caesar's war chests, and the legitimacy that Caesar's name would provide for any action he took against them. With the passage of the lex Titia on 27 November 43 BC, the Second Triumvirate
was officially formed, composed of Antony, Octavian, and Caesar's loyal cavalry commander Lepidus
. It formally deified
Caesar as Divus Iulius in 42 BC, and Caesar Octavian henceforth became Divi filius ("Son of a god"). Because Caesar's clemency had resulted in his murder, the Second Triumvirate reinstated the practice of proscription
, abandoned since Sulla. It engaged in the legally-sanctioned murder of a large number of its opponents to secure funding for its forty-five legions in the second civil war against Brutus and Cassius. Antony and Octavius defeated them at Philippi
, resulted in the permanent ascendancy of Octavian, who became the first Roman emperor, under the name Caesar Augustus, a name that raised him to the status of a deity.
Julius Caesar had been preparing to invade Parthia
, the Caucasus
, and then march back to Germania
through Eastern Europe. These plans were thwarted by his assassination. His successors did attempt the conquests of Parthia and Germania, but without lasting results.
Julius Caesar was the first historical Roman to be officially deified. He was posthumously granted the title Divus Iulius or Divus Julius (the divine Julius or the deified Julius) by decree of the Roman Senate on 1 January 42 BC. Though his temple was not dedicated until after his death, he may have received divine honors during his lifetime: and shortly before his assassination, Mark Antony
had been appointed as his flamen
(priest). Both Octavian and Mark Antony promoted the cult of Divus Iulius. After the death of Antony, Octavian, as the adoptive son of Caesar, assumed the title of Divi Filius (son of a god).
Health and physical appearanceBased on remarks by Plutarch, Caesar is sometimes thought to have suffered from epilepsy
. Modern scholarship is "sharply divided" on the subject, and some scholars believe that he was plagued by malaria, particularly during the Sullan proscriptions of the 80s. Despite the commonly held belief that Caesar suffered from epilepsy, several specialists in headache medicine believe that a more accurate diagnosis would be migraine headache.
Caesar had four documented episodes of what may have been complex partial seizures. He may additionally have had absence seizure
s in his youth. The earliest accounts of these seizures were made by the biographer Suetonius
, who was born after Caesar died. The claim of epilepsy is countered among some medical historians by a claim of hypoglycemia
, which can cause epileptoid seizures.
In 2003, psychiatrist Harbour F. Hodder published what he termed as the "Caesar Complex" theory, arguing that Caesar was a sufferer of temporal lobe epilepsy
and the debilitating symptoms of the condition were a factor in Caesar's conscious decision to forgo personal safety in the days leading up to his assassination.
A line from Shakespeare has sometimes been taken to mean that he was deaf in one ear: Come on my right hand, for this ear is deaf. No classical source mentions hearing impairment in connection with Caesar. The playwright may have been making metaphorical use of a passage in Plutarch that does not refer to deafness at all, but rather to a gesture Alexander of Macedon customarily made. By covering his ear, Alexander indicated that he had turned his attention from an accusation in order to hear the defense.
The Roman historian Suetonius
describes Caesar as "tall of stature with a fair complexion, shapely limbs, a somewhat full face, and keen black eyes."
Name and familyUsing the Latin alphabet
as it existed in the day of Caesar (i.e., without lower case letters, "J", or "U"), Caesar's name would be rendered "GAIVS IVLIVS CAESAR"; the form "CAIVS" is also attested, using the old Roman representation of G by C; it is an antique form of the more common "GAIVS". The standard abbreviation was, and this is not archaic, "C. IVLIVS CAESAR". (The letterform "Æ" is a ligature
, which is often encountered in Latin inscriptions where it was used to save space, and is nothing more than the letters "ae".) In Classical Latin, it was pronounced
ˈɡaːjus ˈjuːljus ˈkajsar. In the days of the late Roman Republic
, many historical writings were done in Greek, a language most educated Romans studied. Young wealthy Roman boys were often taught by Greek slaves and sometimes sent to Athens
for advanced training, as was Caesar's principal assassin, Brutus
. In Greek
, during Caesar's time, his family name was written Καίσαρ, reflecting its contemporary pronunciation. Thus, his name is pronounced in a similar way to the pronunciation of the German Kaiser
. In Vulgar Latin
, the plosive /k/ before front vowel
s began, due to palatalization
, to be pronounced as an affricate – hence renderings like [ˈtʃeːsar] in Italian and [ˈtseːsar] in German regional pronunciations of Latin
, as well as the title of Tsar
. With the evolution of the Romance languages
, the affricate [ts] became a fricative [s] (thus, [ˈseːsar]) in many regional pronunciations, including the French one, from which the modern English pronunciation is derived. The original /k/ is preserved in Norse mythology
, where he is manifested as the legendary king Kjárr
would itself become a title; it was greatly promulgated by the Bible, by the famous verse "Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's". The title became the German Kaiser
and Slavic Tsar
/Czar. The last tsar in nominal power was Simeon II of Bulgaria whose reign ended in 1946; for two thousand years after Julius Caesar's assassination, there was at least one head of state bearing his name.
- Father Gaius Julius Caesar the ElderGaius Julius Caesar the ElderGaius Julius Caesar was a Roman senator, supporter and brother-in-law of Gaius Marius, and father of Julius Caesar, the later dictator of Rome....
- Mother AureliaAurelia CottaAurelia Cotta or Aurelia was the mother of Roman dictator Gaius Julius Caesar .-Family:...
(related to the Aurelii Cottae)
- Julia Caesaris "Maior"Julia Caesaris (sister of Julius Caesar)Julia is the name of two daughters of praetor Gaius Julius Caesar and Aurelia Cotta, the parents of dictator Gaius Julius Caesar. The sisters were born and raised in Rome....
- Julia Caesaris "Minor"Julia Caesaris (sister of Julius Caesar)Julia is the name of two daughters of praetor Gaius Julius Caesar and Aurelia Cotta, the parents of dictator Gaius Julius Caesar. The sisters were born and raised in Rome....
- First marriage to Cornelia CinnillaCornelia Cinna minorCornelia Cinnilla , daughter of Lucius Cornelius Cinna , and a sister to suffect consul Lucius Cornelius Cinna, was married to Gaius Julius Caesar, who would become one of Rome's greatest conquerors and its dictator...
, from 83 BC until her death in childbirth in 69 or 68 BC
- Second marriage to Pompeia, from 67 BC until he divorced her around 61 BC
- Third marriage to Calpurnia PisonisCalpurnia PisonisCalpurnia Pisonis , daughter of Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus, sister of Lucius Calpurnius Piso, "the Pontifex", was a Roman woman and the third and last wife of Julius Caesar. Calpurnia was the great-granddaughter of a lieutenant of Lucius Cassius Longinus, whose name was Lucius Piso...
, from 59 BC until Caesar's death
- JuliaJulia (daughter of Julius Caesar)Julia Caesaris , 83 or 82 BC-54 BC, was the daughter of Gaius Julius Caesar the Roman dictator, by his first wife, Cornelia Cinna, and his only child in marriage. Julia became the fourth wife of Pompey the Great and was renowned for her beauty and virtue.-Life:Julia was born around 83 BC–82 BC...
with Cornelia Cinnilla, born in 83 or 82 BC
- CaesarionCaesarionPtolemy XV Philopator Philometor Caesar , better known by the nicknames Caesarion and Ptolemy Caesar , was the last king of the Ptolemaic dynasty of Egypt, who reigned jointly with his mother Cleopatra VII of Egypt, from September 2, 44 BC...
, with Cleopatra VII, born 47 BC. He was killed at age 17 by Caesar's adopted son Octavianus.
- adopted: Gaius Julius Caesar OctavianusAugustusAugustus ;23 September 63 BC – 19 August AD 14) is considered the first emperor of the Roman Empire, which he ruled alone from 27 BC until his death in 14 AD.The dates of his rule are contemporary dates; Augustus lived under two calendars, the Roman Republican until 45 BC, and the Julian...
, his great-nephew by blood, who later became Emperor Augustus.
- Marcus Junius BrutusMarcus Junius BrutusMarcus Junius Brutus , often referred to as Brutus, was a politician of the late Roman Republic. After being adopted by his uncle he used the name Quintus Servilius Caepio Brutus, but eventually returned to using his original name...
: The historian Plutarch notes that Caesar believed Brutus to have been his illegitimate son, as his mother Servilia had been Caesar's lover during their youth.
- Grandson from JuliaJulia (daughter of Julius Caesar)Julia Caesaris , 83 or 82 BC-54 BC, was the daughter of Gaius Julius Caesar the Roman dictator, by his first wife, Cornelia Cinna, and his only child in marriage. Julia became the fourth wife of Pompey the Great and was renowned for her beauty and virtue.-Life:Julia was born around 83 BC–82 BC...
and PompeyPompeyGnaeus Pompeius Magnus, also known as Pompey or Pompey the Great , was a military and political leader of the late Roman Republic...
, dead at several days, unnamed.
- Cleopatra VIICleopatra VII of EgyptCleopatra VII Philopator was the last pharaoh of Ancient Egypt.She was a member of the Ptolemaic dynasty, a family of Greek origin that ruled Egypt after Alexander the Great's death during the Hellenistic period...
mother of CaesarionCaesarionPtolemy XV Philopator Philometor Caesar , better known by the nicknames Caesarion and Ptolemy Caesar , was the last king of the Ptolemaic dynasty of Egypt, who reigned jointly with his mother Cleopatra VII of Egypt, from September 2, 44 BC...
- Servilia CaepionisServilia CaepionisServilia Caepionis was the mistress of Julius Caesar, mother of one of Caesar's assassins, Brutus, mother-in-law of another Caesar assassin, Cassius, and half-sister of Cato the Younger.-Life:...
mother of Brutus
- Eunoë, queen of MauretaniaMauretaniaMauretania is a part of the historical Ancient Libyan land in North Africa. It corresponds to present day Morocco and a part of western Algeria...
and wife of BogudBogudBogud, son of King Bocchus of Mauretania , was joint king of Mauretania with his elder brother Bocchus II, with Bocchus ruling east of the Mulucha River and his brother west...
- Gaius MariusGaius MariusGaius Marius was a Roman general and statesman. He was elected consul an unprecedented seven times during his career. He was also noted for his dramatic reforms of Roman armies, authorizing recruitment of landless citizens, eliminating the manipular military formations, and reorganizing the...
(married to his Aunt Julia)
- Mark AntonyMark AntonyMarcus Antonius , known in English as Mark Antony, was a Roman politician and general. As a military commander and administrator, he was an important supporter and loyal friend of his mother's cousin Julius Caesar...
- Lucius Julius CaesarLucius Julius CaesarIn Ancient Rome, several men of the Julii Caesares family were named Lucius Julius Caesar. Distinct by their praenomen, "Lucius", none of these members of the Julii Caesares family can be confused with their distant relative and much more famous Gaius Julius Caesar, the Roman who conquered Gaul,...
- Julius SabinusJulius SabinusJulius Sabinus was an aristocratic Gaul of the Lingones at the time of the Batavian rebellion of AD69. He attempted to take advantage of the turmoil in Rome after the death of Nero to set up an independent Gaulish state....
, a GaulGaulGaul was a region of Western Europe during the Iron Age and Roman era, encompassing present day France, Luxembourg and Belgium, most of Switzerland, the western part of Northern Italy, as well as the parts of the Netherlands and Germany on the left bank of the Rhine. The Gauls were the speakers of...
of the LingonesLingonesLingones were a Celtic tribe that originally lived in Gaul in the area of the headwaters of the Seine and Marne rivers. Some of the Lingones migrated across the Alps and settled near the mouth of the Po River in Cisalpine Gaul of northern Italy around 400 BCE. These Lingones were part of a wave of...
at the time of the Batavian rebellionBatavian rebellionThe Revolt of the Batavi took place in the Roman province of Germania Inferior between 69 and 70 AD. It was an uprising against Roman rule by the Batavians and other tribes in the province and in Gaul...
of AD 69, claimed to be the great-grandson of Caesar on the grounds that his great-grandmother had been Caesar's lover during the Gallic war.
Political rumorsRoman society viewed the passive role during sexual activity, regardless of gender, to be a sign of submission or inferiority. Indeed, Suetonius says that in Caesar's Gallic triumph, his soldiers sang that, "Caesar may have conquered the Gauls, but Nicomedes conquered Caesar." According to Cicero, Bibulus
, Gaius Memmius
, and others (mainly Caesar's enemies), he had an affair with Nicomedes IV of Bithynia
early in his career. The tales were repeated, referring to Caesar as the Queen of Bithynia, by some Roman politicians as a way to humiliate him. It is very likely that the rumors were spread only as a form of character assassination; Caesar himself denied the accusations repeatedly throughout his lifetime, and according to Cassius Dio, even under oath on one occasion. This form of slander was popular during this time in the Roman Republic to demean and discredit political opponents. A favorite tactic used by the opposition was to accuse a popular political rival as living a Hellenistic lifestyle based on Greek and Eastern culture, where homosexuality and a lavish lifestyle were more acceptable than in Roman tradition.
wrote two poems suggesting that Caesar and his engineer Mamurra
were lovers, but later apologised.
charged that Octavian
had earned his adoption by Caesar through sexual favors. Suetonius described Antony's accusation of an affair with Octavian as political slander. Octavian eventually became the first Roman Emperor.
Literary worksCaesar was considered during his lifetime to be one of the best orators and authors of prose in Rome—even Cicero spoke highly of Caesar's rhetoric and style. Among his most famous works were his funeral oration for his paternal aunt Julia and his Anticato
, a document written to defame Cato
and respond to Cicero's Cato memorial. Poems by Caesar
are also mentioned in ancient sources. His works other than his war commentaries have been lost, although a few sentences are quoted by other authors.
- The Commentarii de Bello GallicoCommentarii de Bello GallicoCommentarii de Bello Gallico is Julius Caesar's firsthand account of the Gallic Wars, written as a third-person narrative. In it Caesar describes the battles and intrigues that took place in the nine years he spent fighting local armies in Gaul that opposed Roman domination.The "Gaul" that Caesar...
(Commentaries on the Gallic WarGallic WarsThe Gallic Wars were a series of military campaigns waged by the Roman proconsul Julius Caesar against several Gallic tribes. They lasted from 58 BC to 51 BC. The Gallic Wars culminated in the decisive Battle of Alesia in 52 BC, in which a complete Roman victory resulted in the expansion of the...
), campaigns in Gallia and Britannia during his term as proconsul; and
- The Commentarii de Bello CiviliCommentarii de Bello CiviliCommentarii de Bello Civili , or Bellum Civile, is an account written by Julius Caesar of his war against Gnaeus Pompeius and the Senate...
(Commentaries on the Civil WarCaesar's civil warThe Great Roman Civil War , also known as Caesar's Civil War, was one of the last politico-military conflicts in the Roman Republic before the establishment of the Roman Empire...
), events of the Civil War until immediately after Pompey's death in Egypt.
Other works historically attributed to Caesar, but whose authorship is doubted, are:
- De Bello AlexandrinoDe Bello AlexandrinoDe Bello Alexandrino is a Latin work continuing Julius Caesar's commentaries, De Bello Gallico and De Bello Civili. It details Caesar's campaigns in Alexandria and Asia. Though normally collected and bound with Caesar's authentic writings, the authorship of the work has been debated since antiquity...
(On the Alexandrine War), campaign in Alexandria;
- De Bello AfricoDe Bello AfricoDe Bello Africo is part of the Caesarian corpus. Its authorship is disputed, though scholarly consensus has ruled out Julius Caesar as the author...
(On the African War), campaigns in North Africa; and
- De Bello Hispaniensi (On the Hispanic War), campaigns in the Iberian PeninsulaIberian PeninsulaThe Iberian Peninsula , sometimes called Iberia, is located in the extreme southwest of Europe and includes the modern-day sovereign states of Spain, Portugal and Andorra, as well as the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar...
These narratives were written and published annually during or just after the actual campaigns, as a sort of "dispatches from the front." Apparently simple and direct in style—to the point that Caesar's Commentarii are commonly studied by first and second year Latin students—they are in fact highly sophisticated tracts, aimed most particularly at the middle-brow readership of minor aristocrats in Rome, Italy, and the provinces.
Legend and legacyIn the Middle Ages
Caesar was created a member of the Nine Worthies
, a group of heroes encapsulating all the ideal qualities of chivalry
DepictionsFor the marble bust from Arles discovered in 2007–8 alleged to be Caesar's likeness, and the ensuing controversy, see Arles portrait bust
- Forum Romanum Index to Caesar's works online in Latin and translation
- omnia munda mundis Hypertext of Caesar's De Bello Gallico
Ancient historians' writings
- Appian, Book 13 (English translation)
- Cassius Dio, Books 37–44 (English translation)
- Plutarch on Antony (English translation, Dryden edition)
- Plutarch: The Life of Julius Caesar (English translation)
- Plutarch: The Life of Mark Antony (English translation)
- Suetonius: The Life of Julius Caesar. (Latin and English, cross-linked: the English translation by J. C. Rolfe)
- Suetonius: The Life of Julius Caesar (J. C. Rolfe English translation, modified)
- C. Julius Caesar Jona Lendering's in‑depth history of Caesar (Livius. Org)
- Guide to online resources
- History of Julius Caesar
- Julius Caesar at BBC History
- Grey, D. The Assassination of Caesar, Clio History Journal, 2009.
Caesar was acclaimed Imperator in 60 and 45 BC. In the Roman Republic
, this was an honorary title assumed by certain military commanders. After an especially great victory, an army's troops in the field would proclaim their commander imperator, an acclamation necessary for a general to apply to the Senate
for a triumph
. After being acclaimed imperator, the victorious general had a right to use the title after his name until the time of his triumph
, where he would relinquish the title as well as his imperium