Step 1: Read the following three articles about Julius Caesar and his life. A portrait of Julius Caesar Cross the Rubicon, 49 B. C. The Assassination of Julius Caesar Step 2



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Julius Caesar Activity



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Step 1: Read the following three articles about Julius Caesar and his life.

  • A Portrait of Julius Caesar

  • Julius Caesar Cross the Rubicon, 49 B.C.

  • The Assassination of Julius Caesar

Step 2: Answer the following questions on a separate piece of paper.

  1. What were Caesar’s good qualities or characteristics?

  2. What were Caesar’s bad qualities or characteristics?

  3. Who supported Caesar?

  4. Who was against Caesar?

  5. How did Caesar justify his actions?

  6. How does history portray Caesar?


Step 3: You may create either a “Man of the Year” or “Rome’s Most Wanted” poster about Caesar. Poster should include a visual and a paragraph (eight sentences or more) providing evidence to support your position.
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A Portrait of Julius Caesar
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When Julius Caesar was born in the year 100 BC, Rome was a republic. When he died fifty-six years later, Rome was a dictatorship on its way to becoming an empire. Julius Caesar was in large part responsible for this transition.

Although born into a patrician family and therefore assured of elite status in Roman society, his family was at the lower rung of the social ladder without influence and prestige. Caesar's accomplishments in later life were a result of his own unbridled ambition, talent and a little luck.



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Julius Caesar

He became a spell-binding orator able to sway others to his will through the force of his words. He was an accomplished writer who eloquently advertised his own achievements. He was a brilliant military leader, who over nine years of continuous fighting conquered Gaul adding modern-day France, parts of Switzerland and the Low Countries to Rome's possessions. With the strength of his victorious legion backing him up, Julius Caesar marched on the city of Rome and grabbed the reigns of power. Julius Caesar was a man who changed history.

The Roman historian Suetonius provides us with some insight into the character and personality of Julius Caesar:

"He was tall, of a fair complexion, round limbed, rather full faced, with eyes black and piercing; he enjoyed excellent health except toward the close of his life when he was subject to sudden fainting fits and disturbances in his sleep. He was likewise twice seized with the 'falling sickness,' while engaged in active service.

He was extremely nice in the care of his person, and kept the hair of his head closely cut and had his face smoothly shaved. His baldness gave him much uneasiness, having often found himself on that score exposed to the jibes of his enemies. He used therefore to brush forward the hair from the crown of his head, and of all the honors conferred on him by the Senate and People, there was none which he either accepted or used with greater pleasure than the right of wearing constantly a laurel crown.

It is said that he was particular in his dress, for he wore the (special toga only Roman senators could wear) with fringes about the wrists, and always had it girded about him, but rather loosely.

[He was a notable lady's man, and indulged in many intrigues; he was especially intimate with Servilia, the mother of Marcus Brutus,] for whom' he purchased in his first consulship . . . a pearl which cost him 6,000,000 sesterces and in the Civil War, besides other presents assigned to her -for a trifling consideration -some valuable farms that had been set up at public auction.

He was perfect in the use of arms, an accomplished rider, and able to endure fatigue beyond all belief. On a march he used to go at the head of his troops, sometimes on horseback, but oftener on foot, with his head bare in all kinds of weather. He would travel post in a light carriage without baggage, at the rate of one hundred miles per day; and if he was stopped by floods in the rivers, he swam across, or floated on skins inflated in the wind, so that he often anticipated the tidings of his movements.

Often he rallied his troops by his own personal exertions, stopping those who fled, keeping others in their ranks, and seizing men by the throat, turned them again towards the enemy, although numbers [of his men] were [sometimes] so terrified that an eagle bearer thus stopped made a thrust at him with the spearhead (on the eagle), and another on a like occasion left the standard in his hand."

References: 
   References: Suetonius' account appears in: Davis, William Stearns, Readings in Ancient History vol. 1 (1912); Tingay, Graham, Julius Caesar (1991).
Julius Caesar
Crosses the Rubicon, 49 BC
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The crossing of a small stream in northern Italy became one of ancient history's most pivotal events. From it sprang the Roman Empire and the genesis of modern European culture.

Born with unbridled political ambition and unsurpassed oratory skills, Julius Caesar manipulated his way to the

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Roman Legionary
 

position of consul of Rome in 59 BC. After his year of service he was named governor of Gaul where he amassed a personal fortune and exhibited his outstanding military skill in subduing the native Celtic and Germanic tribes. Caesar's popularity with the people soared, presenting a threat to the power of the Senate and to Pompey, who held power in Rome. Accordingly, the Senate called upon Caesar to resign his command and disband his army or risk being declared an "Enemy of the State". Pompey was entrusted with enforcing this edict - the foundation for civil war was laid.

It was January 49 BC, Caesar was staying in the northern Italian city of Ravenna and he had a decision to make. Either he acquiesced to the Senate's command or he moved southward to confront Pompey and plunge the Roman Republic into a bloody civil war. An ancient Roman law forbade any general from crossing the Rubicon River and entering Italy proper with a standing army. To do so was treason. This tiny stream would reveal Caesar's intentions and mark the point of no return.



The Die is Cast

Suetonius was a Roman historian and biographer. He served briefly as secretary to Emperor Hadrian (some say he lost his position because he became too close to the emperor's wife.) His position gave him access to privileged imperial documents, correspondence and diaries upon which he based his accounts. For this reason, his descriptions are considered credible. We join Suetonius's narrative as Caesar receives the news that his allies in the Senate have been forced to leave Rome:

"When the news came [to Ravenna, where Caesar was staying] that the interposition of the tribunes in his favor had been utterly rejected, and that they themselves had fled Rome, he immediately sent forward some cohorts, yet secretly, to prevent any suspicion of his plan; and to keep up appearances, he attended the public games and examined the model of a fencing school which he proposed building, then - as usual - sat down to table with a large company of friends.

However, after sunset some mules from a near-by mill were put in his carriage, and he set forward on his journey as privately as 

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Julius Caesar

possible, and with an exceedingly scanty retinue. The lights went out. He lost his way and wandered about a long time - till at last, by help of a guide, whom he discovered towards daybreak, he proceeded on foot through some narrow paths, and again reached the road. 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!'

Even as he hesitated this incident occurred. A man of strikingly noble mien and graceful aspect appeared close at hand, 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!'

Accordingly he marched his army over the river; [then] he showed them the tribunes of the Plebs, who on being driven from Rome had come to meet him, and in the presence of that assembly, called on the troops to pledge him their fidelity; tears springing to his eyes [as he spoke] and his garments rent from his bosom."

References: 
   Duruy, Victor, History of Rome vol. V (1883); Suetonius "Life of Julius Caesar" in Davis, William Stearns, Readings in Ancient History (1912).

The Assassination of
Julius Caesar, 44 BC
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In January of 49 BC, Julius Caesar led his army across the Rubicon River in Northern Italy (see Caesar Crosses the Rubicon, 49 BC) and plunged the Roman Republic into civil war. Caesar's rival, Pompey, fled to Greece. Within three months Caesar controlled the entire Italian peninsula and in Spain had defeated the legions loyal to Pompey.

Caesar now pursued Pompey to Greece. Although outnumbered, Caesar crushed the forces of his enemy but not before Pompey escaped to Egypt. Following Pompey to Egypt, Caesar was presented with his rival's severed head as a token of friendship. Before leaving the 



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The Assassination of Caesar

region, Caesar established Cleopatra as his surrogate ruler of Egypt. Caesar defeated his remaining rivals in North Africa in 47 BC and returned to Rome with his authority firmly established.

Caesar continued to consolidate his power and in February 44 BC, he declared himself dictator for life. This act, along with his continual effort to adorn himself with the trappings of power, turned many in the Senate against him. Sixty members of the Senate concluded that the only resolution to the problem was to assassinate Caesar.



Death of a Dictator

Nicolaus of Damascus wrote his account of the murder of Caesar a few years after the event. He was not actually present when the assassination occurred but had the opportunity to speak with those who were. He was a friend of Herod the Great and gathered his information during a visit to Rome. His account is thought to be reliable.

The Plan:

"The conspirators never met openly, but they assembled a few at a time in each others' homes. There were many discussions and proposals, as might be expected, while they investigated how and where to execute their design. Some suggested that they should make the attempt as he was going along the Sacred Way, which was one of his favorite walks. Another idea was for it to be done at the elections during which he bad to cross a bridge to appoint the magistrates in the Campus Martius; they should draw lots for some to push him from the bridge and for others to run up and kill him. A third plan was to wait for a coming gladiatorial show. The advantage of that would be that, because of the show, no suspicion would be aroused if arms were seen prepared for the attempt. But the majority opinion favored killing him while he sat in the Senate, where he would be by himself since non-Senators would not be admitted, and where the many conspirators could hide their daggers beneath their togas. This plan won the day."



Brutus Persuades Caesar to Ignore his Apprehensions:

"...his friends were alarmed at certain rumors and tried to stop him going to the Senate-house, as did his doctors, for he was suffering from one of his occasional dizzy spells. His wife, Calpurnia, especially, who was frightened by some visions in her dreams, clung to him and said that she would not let him go out that day. But Brutus, one of the conspirators who was then thought of as a firm friend, came up and said, 'What is this, Caesar? Are you a man to pay attention to a woman's dreams and the idle gossip of stupid men, and to insult the Senate by not going out, although it has honored you and has been specially summoned by you? But listen to me, cast aside the forebodings of all these people, and come. The Senate has been in session waiting for you since early this morning.' This swayed Caesar and he left."



Bad Omens:

"Before he entered the chamber, the priests brought up the victims for him to make what was to be his last sacrifice. The omens were clearly unfavorable. After this unsuccessful sacrifice, the priests made repeated other ones, to see if anything more propitious might appear than what had already been revealed to them. In the end they said that they could not clearly see the divine intent, for there was some transparent, malignant spirit hidden in the victims. Caesar was annoyed and abandoned divination till sunset, though the priests continued all the more with their efforts.

Those of the murderers present were delighted at all this, though Caesar's friends asked him to put off the meeting of the Senate for that day because of what the priests had said, and he agreed to do this. But some attendants came up, calling him and saying that the Senate was full. He glanced at his friends, but Brutus approached him again and said, 'Come, good sir, pay no attention to the babblings of these men, and do not postpone what Caesar and his mighty power has seen fit to arrange. Make your own courage your favorable omen.' He convinced Caesar with these words, took him by the right hand, and led him to the Senate which was quite near. Caesar followed in silence."

The Attack:

"The Senate rose in respect for his position when they saw him entering. Those who were to have part in the plot stood near him. Right next to him went Tillius Cimber, whose brother had been exiled by Caesar. Under pretext of a humble request on behalf of this brother, Cimber approached and grasped the mantle of his toga, seeming to want to make a more positive move with his hands upon Caesar. Caesar wanted to get up and use his hands, but was prevented by Cimber and became exceedingly annoyed.

That was the moment for the men to set to work. All quickly unsheathed their daggers and rushed at him. First Servilius Casca struck him with the point of the blade on the left shoulder a little above the collar-bone. He had been aiming for that, but in the excitement he missed. Caesar rose to defend himself, and in the uproar Casca shouted out in Greek to his brother. The latter heard him and drove his sword into the ribs. After a moment, Cassius made a slash at his face, and Decimus Brutus pierced him in the side. While Cassius Longinus was trying to give him another blow he missed and struck Marcus Brutus on the hand. Minucius also hit out at Caesar and hit Rubrius in the thigh. They were just like men doing battle against him.

Under the mass of wounds, he fell at the foot of Pompey's statue. Everyone wanted to seem to have had some part in the murder, and there was not one of them who failed to strike his body as it lay there, until, wounded thirty-five times, he breathed his last. "



References: 
   Nicolaus of Damascus' account appears in Workman, B.K. They Saw it Happen in Classical Times (1964); Suetonius, The Twelve Caesars (Penguin Classics), translated by Robert Graves (1957).

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