The Life of Julius Caesar

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The Life of Julius Caesar

July 12-13, 100 BCE: Gaius Julius Caesar was born into patrician family that had allied itself politically with the plebian politicians. Julius was not his first name; it was the name of family, Caesar being the name of his clan. The Julii Caesars traced their ancestry back to the goddess of love, Venus. They had a special family temple devoted to her.

Members of Caesar clan had been Roman consuls in the years 91, 90 and 64 BCE. An aunt of Julius Caesar had married Marius, the leader who opposed Sulla in his career.

c. 84 BCE: Gaius Caesar, the father of Julius Caesar died. Julius Caesar married the daughter of a revolutionary associate of Marius. When Sulla gained control of Rome in 83-82 BCE he ordered Caesar to divorce that wife but Caesar refused. Caesar could very well have lost his life and/or property to the counter-revolutionary forces of Sulla. Julius was thus irrevocably committed to the revolutionary plebian-popular side of politics in Rome. Caesar then joined the Roman army and saw service in the Roman provinces of Asia and Cilicia. These provinces were on the northwestern and eastern south coast of Anatolia, respectively.

78 BCE: After Sulla's death Caesar returned to Rome and entered the government as a prosecuting attorney. His major case was against an associate of Sulla who was charged with corruption-extortion. The court, composed of senators sympathetic to the counter-revolution of Sulla, acquitted the defendant.

c. 76 BCE: Caesar decided to gain training in oratory. He chose to study with a famous teacher of rhetoric living on the island of Rhodes. On the way the Rhodes Caesar was captured by pirates and held for ransom. He secured the ransom and was released. He then put together a naval force and captured the pirates. He had them executed in the Roman fashion, by crucifixion.

74 BCE: Caesar assembled a private army to combat the attacks on the Roman Empire of Mithradates VI, the king of Pontus.

c. 73 BCE: While Caesar was in the eastern Mediterranean he was made a member of the College of Pontifices, an honor but without much significance. When he returned to Rome he was elected to be a tribune for the military.

c. 72-71 BCE: Caesar worked with Gnaeus Pompeius (Pompey) to undue the constitutional reform established by Sulla.

69-68 BCE: Caesar was elected to be a quaestor (government financial administrator). This was the first consequential political office. Later in this period his wife died. Since later his aunt, who was the widow of Marius, died.

67-66 BCE: Caesar marries a relative of his political ally Pompey. He serves his term as quaestor in Farther Spain, which was what is now Andalucia, Spain and Portugal.

65 BCE: Ceasar was elected to the office of aedile. An aedile had responsibilities for the maintenance of temples and other public buildings. An aedile also regulated the public games and markets. Originally it was an office which could only be held by plebians. At that time there were two aediles elected. Later positions for two more aediles were created that could be held by either patricians or plebians. These aediles were called curule aediles.

By holding public festivals as aediles aspiring politicians could become better known to the voting public. Politician who had been quaestors could use the office aedile to move up to the office of praetor. A praetor could be either a commander of an army or a jurist. As a jurist a praetor was of the highest level, roughly a chief justice. The office had been created to relief a chief executive, a consul, of responsibility in judicial matters.

Aspiring politicians who were soliciting support from the plebians, as Julius Caesar was, tended to promote lavish games and festivals. Caesar did so on funds he personally borrowed. He seemed to be heavily in debt most of his adult life.

63 BCE: Caesar was elected Pontifex Maximus, the chief priest of the religion of Rome. It was a prestigious office but did not involve much in the way of duties.

In the same year the Catiline Conspiracy was uncovered. Catiline was an unsuccessful candidate from an old patrician family. He had promoted a program for the cancellation of debt to attract plebian support. When his rise to power through political office did not materialize he organized a conspiracy that involved the massacre of Senate members and elected consuls. Cicero was tipped off that he was to be the first assassinated. In the Senate Cicero brought charges against Catiline. Catiline left Rome supposedly going into exile as a result of his ill treatment by Cicero and the Senate. Actually Cataline joined an army that was to be the instrument for taking over the government of Rome. Hard evidence was obtained in Rome against five conspirators and they were executed immediately without trial. Caesar objected to this abrogation of the right of that acused to trials and some acused Caesar of being part of the conspiracy. This was deemed groundless.

62 BCE: Caesar elected praetor for the year. Caesar was still Pontifex Maximus. In the Roman religion there was a very sacred ceremony called Bona Dea that was held one a year typically in the house of the Pontifex Maximus. It was a ceremony in which no males could be in attendance. As a prank, the Roman politician Plubius Clodius snuck into the ceremony disguised as a woman. When he was discovered there was a tremendous public outcry for this act of sacrilege. There was suspicion that somehow Caesar's wife, Pompeia, was to blame. Caesar divorced her, saying "Caesar's wife must be above suspicion."

61 BCE: Caesar is appointed governor of Farther Spain (Andalusia and Portugal). Before he was allowed to leave Rome his debtors demanded that a wealthy friend of Caesar's, Marcus Licinius Crassus, guarantee a quarter of his debts. During his governorship a military expedition into the territory lying to northwest of Farther Spain resulted in so much loot that Caesar was able to pay off his debts.

60 BCE: Caesar returned to Rome and ran for consul for the next year.

59 BCE: Caesar is elected consul despite every effort by the Senate to prevent it. Caesar arranged an alliance of himself, his rich friend Crassus and his old political ally, Pompey. Pompey had carried out at successful military expedition in the east and returned to Italy in 62 BCE. He wanted to settle his soldiers on land grants but the Senate refused to allow this. The three, Caesar, Pompey and Crassus, became effectively a triumvirate. Prior to the formation of the triumvirate Crassus had been an opponent of Pompey. Pompey married Caesar's daughter Julia. At that time Caesar remarried. His new wife, Calpurnia, was the daughter of the man who would win the consulship for the next year.

As consul Caesar introduced into the Senate a law for the distribution of lands in Italy controlled by the government of Rome. Veterans like those of Pompey's had first call in this distribution. The patrician opposition tried very hard to prevent this law from being implemented but Caesar succeeded despite these efforts. Pompey's needs were thus taken care of.

58 BCE: Caesar's allies in the government arranged for him to become the governor of Cisalpine Gaul. When the designated governor for Transalpine Gaul died this province was given to Caesar as well. His governships were authorized to last from 58 to 54 BCE.

58 BCE: Caesar stopped the Celtic tribe of the Helvetii from leaving their homeland in what is now Switzerland and migrating west. His forces also defeated a band of Germans led by Ariovistus.

57 BCE: Caesar's forces subdued Celtic tribes in Brittany and Normandy.

56 BCE: Caesar's forces destroyed the Veneti, a Celtic tribe of southern Brittany. Caesar arranged a meeting in Cisalpine Gaul with Pompey and Crassus to settle differences. The three agreed that Pompey and Crassus were to be consuls in 55 BCE and that as consuls they would extend Caesar's governships of the two Gauls to the year 50 BCE. Caesar was to become a consul in the year Furthermore a successor to Caesar as governor of the two Gauls would not be considered until the beginning of the year 50 BCE. Also as consuls in 55 BCE Pompey and Crassus would arrange for Pompey to have a five-year governship of Spain and Crassus the same term as governor of Syria.

55 BCE: Caesar's forces anihilated two Germanic tribes which had invaded Gaul. His troops built a bridge across the Rhine and invaded the territory of the Germanic tribes. Caesar took an invasion force across the English Channel to the island of Britain.

54 BCE: Ceasar revisited Britain. A serious revolt developed in northeastern Gaul and Caesar's forces defeated it.

Caesar's daughter Julia, whom Pompey had married, died.

53 BCE: Caesar's forces put another bridge across the Rhine for another invasion of the territory of the Germanic tribes. Crassus was defeated in a major battle with the Parthian Empire.

52 BCE: Caesar spent the winter in Cisalpine Gaul. In Transalpine Gaul were uniting under the leadership of Vercingetorix of Arvernia. Vercingetorix recognized that his forces would probabily loose any pitched battle against Caesar's forces so he chose to battle the Romans by cutting off their supplies. Caesar's forces attacked Vercingetorix' forces encamped in the city of Gergovia which was a natural fortress. The Roman attempt of capture Gergovia by storm resulted in failure and great losses for the Romans. Later Vercingetorix and his forces were encamped at another natural fortress at the city of Alesia, northwest of Dijon. The Romans attacked, despite the arrival of Celtic re-enforcements, were successful and captured Vercingetorix in Alesia.

Pompey was elected as the only consul for the year 52. His alliance with Caesar weakened and ended with the two becoming bitter rivals.

51 BCE: Caesar's force laid siege to Celtic rebels encamped in a natural fortress at Uxellodunum. The Roman's cut off the water supply to Uxellodunum and the rebels surrendered. Caesar then ordered the his soldiers to cut off the hands of the rebels.

Caesar wanted to become consul in the year 48. He knew if there was any time period after the end of his governships in which he was simply a Roman citizen his enemies in the Senate would have him arrested and imprisoned. He needed to keep control of an army as governor until he was elected consul and assumed office. After he and Pompey had become rivals for power Caesar had to make sure that he was never without an army at his command while Pompey had an army at his command.

50 BCE: Caesar organized the rule of the territories in Gaul which his forces recently conquered.

The consul for the year 50 obtained passage by the Senate of a resolution that Caesar would relinquish his command of his army without any requirement that Pompey give up his command of his army. A tribune and supporter of Caesar then obtained passage of a resolution that the Caesar and Pompey would resign their governorships at the same time. The consul then secretly offered Pompey the command of all troops in Italy. This would have been independent of Pompey's command as governor. Pompey accepted.

Caesar sent a message to the Senate that he would accept an agreement that he and Pompey relinquish their commands at the same time.

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