Julius Caesar is one of the most well-known ancient Romans today for his many victories, successful strategies, and political reforms. Most notably, he is remembered for his unprecedented climb to power, during which he held several offices simultaneously before he was given the dictatorship, and finally the title "Perpetual Dictator."
Gaius Julius Caesar—commonly known as Julius Caesar—was born July 12, 100 BCE. Caesar decided to become the High Priest of Jupiter to support his family when his father died suddenly, leaving him as head of the family.
When Sulla declared himself dictator, he purged his enemies and those who believed in the Populare ideology, which included Julius Caesar. Caesar was stripped of his position as priest and joined the army in order to provide for his family. He was a good soldier and was promoted but, after Sulla died, Julius became a successful orator (lawyer). He was elected military tribune, and married the granddaughter of the former Emperor Sulla.
In time, Caesar gained prominence in Rome. He was successful in establishing stability in Spain. As a result, Caesar was awarded a consulship by the Senate, and, upon returning to Rome, made an agreement with Crassus and Pompey, which is now called the First Triumvirate. The three men ruled Rome together with Caesar as consul; they made policies in favor of the Populare faction, which kept Caesar safe from his Optimate enemies.
The First Triumvirate deteriorated in Rome while Caesar conquered Gaul and invaded Britain and Crassus was killed in battle. Pompey became the sole military and political power and demanded Caesar return to Rome as a private citizen. Instead, Caesar crossed the Rubicon River into the city with his army in 49 BCE, a historic moment which Pompey considered a threat.
When Pompey eventually fled to Egypt, he was immediately killed because Egypt had already chosen to support Caesar. Caesar declared martial law and took over the palace, and he and Cleopatra became lovers. Together, they had a son, Ptolemy Caesar, or Caesarion. During this time, Caesar held permanent tribunician powers, which meant he could veto the Senate. He had also been declared dictator and held several positions of power simultaneously during his reign.
Back in Rome, Caesar gave Cleopatra and their son Caesarion a house, which he often visited despite already being married to Calpurnia. Though the Senate was enraged by his indiscretion, they still granted Caesar the title Dictator Perpetuus - dictator for life. As dictator, he made many reforms; he distributed more land to the poor and reformed veteran land laws. He changed the calendar - hence the Julian calendar - established a police force, did away with the tax system, and more. He acted without consideration of the Senate and made many changes about which the senate was not happy.
Fearing that he was becoming too powerful and close to a king, the senators assassinated Caesar on March 15, 44 BCE in the portico of the basilica of Pompey the Great. In 42 BCE, during gladiatorial games in Caesar's honor, a comet was regarded as divine confirmation, and Caesar was given the title Divius Julius - the Divine Julius.
Julius Caesar’s Significant Accomplishments
- Was elected high priest of Jupiter, then Chief Priest (Pontifex Maximus), then praetor, and then propraetor.
- Was awarded the consulship for his victories in Spain.
- Formed the First Triumvirate, which was an important alliance in his rise to power.
- Won many battles and was very skilled in war, earning respect from his troops.
- Took Egypt and Rome, and subsequently bestowed substantial authority upon himself.
- Held many offices simultaneously, which had never been done before.
- Defeated the opposing political faction.
- Made many reforms that benefited the poor.
- Changed the calendar and abolished the tax system.
- Became Dictator for Life and, in death, became a god - Divine Julius.
Julius Caesar Quotes
“I came, I saw, I conquered.”
“Experience is the teacher of all things.”
“Men freely believe that which they desire.”
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