Julius Caesar

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Gaius Julius Caesar
The Tusculum portrait, a marble sculpture of Julius Caesar
The Tusculum portrait, possibly the only surviving sculpture of Caesar made during his lifetime, now housed at the Archaeological Museum in Turin, Italy
Born12 July 100 BC
Died15 March 44 BC (aged 55)
Theatre of Pompey, Ancient Rome
Cause of deathAssassination (stab wounds)
Resting placeTemple of Caesar in Rome
41°53′31″N 12°29′10″E / 41.891943°N 12.486246°E / 41.891943; 12.486246
  • Politician
  • soldier
Notable work
AwardsCivic Crown
Military service
Years of service81–45 BC

Gaius Julius Caesar (/ˈsiːzər/; Latin: [ˈɡaːiʊs ˈjuːliʊs ˈkae̯sar]; 12 July 100 BC – 15 March 44 BC) was a Roman general and statesman. A member of the First Triumvirate, Caesar led the Roman armies in the Gallic Wars before defeating his political rival Pompey in a civil war, and subsequently became dictator from 49 BC until his assassination in 44 BC. He played a critical role in the events that led to the demise of the Roman Republic and the rise of the Roman Empire.

In 60 BC, Caesar, Crassus, and Pompey formed the First Triumvirate, an informal political alliance that dominated Roman politics for several years. Their attempts to amass political power were opposed by many in the senate, among them Cato the Younger with the private support of Cicero. Caesar rose to become one of the most powerful politicians in the Roman Republic through a string of military victories in the Gallic Wars, completed by 51 BC, which greatly extended Roman territory. During this time he both invaded Britain and built a bridge across the Rhine river. These achievements and the support of his veteran army threatened to eclipse the standing of Pompey, who had realigned himself with the Senate after the death of Crassus in 53 BC. With the Gallic Wars concluded, the Senate ordered Caesar to step down from his military command and return to Rome. In 49 BC, Caesar openly defied the Senate's authority by crossing the Rubicon and marching towards Rome at the head of an army. This began Caesar's civil war, which he won, leaving him in a position of near-unchallenged power and influence in 45 BC.

After assuming control of government, Caesar began a program of social and governmental reforms, including the creation of the Julian calendar. He gave citizenship to many residents of far regions of the Roman Republic. He initiated land reform and support for veterans. He centralized the bureaucracy of the Republic and was eventually proclaimed "dictator for life" (dictator perpetuo). His populist and authoritarian reforms angered the elites, who began to conspire against him. On the Ides of March (15 March) 44 BC, Caesar was assassinated by a group of rebellious senators led by Brutus and Cassius, who stabbed him to death. A new series of civil wars broke out and the constitutional government of the Republic was never fully restored. Caesar's great-nephew and adopted heir Octavian, later known as Augustus, rose to sole power after defeating his opponents in the last civil war of the Roman Republic. Octavian set about solidifying his power, and the era of the Roman Empire began.

Caesar was an accomplished author and historian as well as a statesman; much of his life is known from his own accounts of his military campaigns. Other contemporary sources include the letters and speeches of Cicero and the historical writings of Sallust. Later biographies of Caesar by Suetonius and Plutarch are also important sources. Caesar is considered by many historians to be one of the greatest military commanders in history. His cognomen was subsequently adopted as a synonym for "Emperor"; the title "Caesar" was used throughout the Roman Empire, giving rise to modern descendants such as Kaiser and Tsar. He has frequently appeared in literary and artistic works, and his political philosophy, known as Caesarism, has inspired politicians into the modern era.

Early life and career

Gaius Marius, Caesar's uncle and the husband of Caesar's aunt Julia. He was an enemy of Sulla and took the city with Lucius Cornelius Cinna in 87 BC.

Gaius Julius Caesar was born into a patrician family, the gens Julia on 12 July 100 BC. The family claimed to have immigrated to Rome from Alba Longa during the seventh century BC after the third king of Rome, Tullus Hostilius, took and destroyed their city. The family also claimed descent from Julus, the son of Aeneas and founder of Alba Longa. Given that Aeneas was a son of Venus, this made the clan divine. This genealogy had not yet been taken its final form by the first century but the clan's claimed descent from Venus was more well established in public consciousness. There is no evidence that Caesar himself was born by Caesarian section; such operations entailed the death of the mother, but Caesar's mother lived for decades after his birth and no ancient sources record any difficulty with the birth.

Despite their ancient pedigree, the Julii Caesares were not especially politically influential during the middle republic. The first person known to have had the cognomen Caesar was a praetor in 208 BC during the Second Punic War. The family's first consul was in 157 BC, though their political fortunes had recovered in the early first century, producing two consuls in 91 and 90 BC. Caesar's homonymous father was moderately successful politically. He married Aurelia, a member of the politically influential Aurelii Cottae, producing – along with Caesar – two daughters. Buoyed by his own marriage and his sister's marriage (the dictator's aunt) with the extremely influential Gaius Marius, he also served on the Saturninian land commission in 103 BC and was elected praetor some time between 92 and 85 BC; he served as proconsular governor of Asia for two years, likely 91–90 BC.

Life under Sulla and military service

Sulla, depicted on a coin mined by Quintus Pompeius Rufus in 54 BC. Sulla took the city in 82 BC, purged his political enemies, and instituted new constitutional reforms.

Caesar's father did not seek a consulship during the domination of Lucius Cornelius Cinna and instead chose retirement. During Cinna's dominance, Caesar was named as flamen Dialis (a priest of Jupiter) which led to his marriage to Cinna's daughter, Cornelia. The religious taboos of the priesthood would have forced Caesar to forego a political career; the appointment – one of the highest non-political honours – indicates that there were few expectations of a major career for Caesar. In early 84 BC, Caesar's father died suddenly. After Sulla's victory in the civil war (82 BC), Cinna's acta were annulled. Sulla consequently ordered Caesar to abdicate and divorce Cinna's daughter. Caesar refused, implicitly questioning the legitimacy of Sulla's annulment. Sulla may have put Caesar on the proscription lists, though scholars are mixed. Caesar then went into hiding before his relatives and contacts among the Vestal Virgins were able to intercede on his behalf. They then reached a compromise where Caesar would resign his priesthood but keep his wife and chattels; Sulla's alleged remark he saw "in [Caesar] many Mariuses" is apocryphal.

Bust, from the imperial period, of a man – in this case Augustus – wearing the civic crown (Latin: corona civica). Caesar won the civic crown for his bravery at the Siege of Mytilene in 81 BC.

Caesar then left Italy to serve in the staff of the governor of Asia, Marcus Minucius Thermus. While there, he travelled to Bithynia to collect naval reinforcements; he stayed some time as a guest of the king, Nicomedes IV, though later invective connected Caesar to a homosexual relation with the monarch. He then served at the Siege of Mytilene where he won the civic crown for saving the life of a fellow citizen in battle. The privileges of the crown – the senate was supposed to stand on a holder's entrance and holders were permitted to wear the crown at public occasions – whetted Caesar's appetite for honours. After the capture of the Mytilene, Caesar transferred to the staff of Publius Servilius Vatia in Cilicia before learning of Sulla's death in 78 BC and returning home immediately. He was alleged to have wanted to join in on the consul Lepidus' revolt that year but this is likely literary embellishment of Caesar's desire for tyranny from a young age.

Afterward, Caesar attacked some of the Sullan aristocracy in the courts but was unsuccessful in his attempted prosecution of Gnaeus Cornelius Dolabella in 77 BC, who had recently returned from a proconsulship in Macedonia. Going after a less well-connected senator, he was successful the next year in prosecuting Gaius Antonius Hybrida (later consul in 63 BC) for profiteering from the proscriptions but was forestalled when a tribune interceded on Antonius' behalf. After these oratorical attempts, Caesar left Rome for Rhodes seeking the tutelage of the rhetorician Apollonius Molon. While travelling, he was intercepted and ransomed by pirates in a story that was later much embellished. According to Plutarch and Suetonius, he was freed after paying a ransom of fifty talents and responded by returning with a fleet to capture and execute the pirates. The recorded sum for the ransom is literary embellishment and it is more likely that the pirates were sold into slavery per Velleius Paterculus. His studies were interrupted by the outbreak of the Third Mithridatic War over the winter of 75 and 74 BC; Caesar is alleged to have gone around collecting troops in the province at the locals' expense and leading them successfully against Mithridates' forces.

Entrance to politics

While absent from Rome, in 73 BC, Caesar was co-opted into the pontifices in place of his deceased relative Gaius Aurelius Cotta. The promotion marked him as a well-accepted member of the aristocracy with great future prospects in his political career. Caesar decided to return shortly thereafter and on his return was elected one of the military tribunes for 71 BC. There is no evidence that Caesar served in war – even though the war on Spartacus was on-going – during his term; he did, however, agitate for the removal of the Sulla's disabilities on the plebeian tribunate and for those who supported Lepidus' revolt to be pardoned. These advocacies were common and uncontroversial. The next year, 70 BC, Pompey and Crassus were consuls and brought legislation restoring the plebeian tribunate's rights; one of the tribunes, with Caesar supporting, then brought legislation pardoning the Lepidan exiles.

For his quaestorship in 69 BC, Caesar was allotted to serve under Gaius Antistius Vetus in Hispania Ulterior. His election also gave him a lifetime seat in the senate. However, before he left, his aunt Julia, the widow of Marius, died; soon afterwards his wife Cornelia died shortly after bearing his only legitimate child, Julia. He gave eulogies for both at public funerals. During Julia's funeral, Caesar displayed the images of his aunt's husband Marius, whose memory had been suppressed after Sulla's victory in the civil war. Some of the Sullan nobles – including Quintus Lutatius Catulus – who had suffered under the Marian regime objected, but by this point depictions of husbands in aristocratic women's funerary processions was common. Contra Plutarch, Caesar's action here was likely in keeping with a political trend for reconciliation and normalisation rather than a display of renewed factionalism. Caesar quickly re-married, taking the hand of Sulla's grand-daughter Pompeia.

Aedileship and election as pontifex maximus

For much of this period, Caesar was one of Pompey's supporters. Caesar joined with Pompey in the late 70s to support restoration of tribunician rights; his support for the law recalling the Lepidan exiles may have been related to the same tribune's bill to grant lands to Pompey's veterans. Caesar also supported the lex Gabinia in 67 BC granting Pompey an extraordinary command against piracy in the Mediterranean and also supported the lex Manilia in 66 BC to reassign the Third Mithridatic War from its then-commander Lucullus to Pompey.

Four years after his aunt Julia's funeral, in 65 BC, Caesar served as curule aedile and staged lavish games that won him further attention and popular support. He also restored the trophies won by Marius, and taken down by Sulla, over Jugurtha and the Cimbri. According to Plutarch's narrative, the trophies were restored overnight to the applause and tears of joy of the onlookers; any sudden and secret restoration of this sort would not have been possible – architects, restorers, and other workmen would have to have been hired and paid for – nor would it have been likely that the work could have been done in a single night. It is more likely that Caesar was merely restoring his family's public monuments – consistent with standard aristocratic practice and the virtue of pietas – and, over objections from Catulus, these actions were broadly supported by the senate.

In 63 BC, Caesar stood for the praetorship and also for the post of pontifex maximus, who was the head of the College of Pontiffs and the highest ranking state religious official. In the pontifical election before the tribes, Caesar faced two influential senators: Quintus Lutatius Catulus and Publius Servilius Isauricus. Caesar came out victorious. Many scholars have expressed astonishment that Caesar's candidacy was taken seriously, but this was not without historical precedent. Ancient sources allege that Caesar paid huge bribes or was shamelessly ingratiating; that no charge was ever laid alleging this implies that bribery alone is insufficient to explain his victory. If bribes or other monies were needed, they may have been underwritten by Pompey, whom Caesar at this time supported and who opposed Catulus' candidacy.

Many sources also assert that Caesar supported the land reform proposals brought that year by plebeian tribune Publius Servilius Rullus, however, there are no ancient sources so attesting. Caesar also engaged in a collateral manner in the trial of Gaius Rabirius by one of the plebeian tribunes – Titus Labienus – for the murder of Saturninus in accordance with a senatus consultum ultimum some forty years earlier. The most famous event of the year was the Catilinarian conspiracy. While some of Caesar's enemies, including Catulus, alleged that he participated in the conspiracy, the chance that he was a participant is extremely small.


Caesar won his election to the praetorship in 63 BC easily and, as one of the praetor-elects, spoke out that December in the senate against executing certain citizens who had been arrested in the city conspiring with Gauls in furtherance of the conspiracy. Caesar's proposal at the time is not entirely clear: the earlier sources assert that he advocated life imprisonment without trial; the later sources assert he instead wanted the conspirators imprisoned pending trial. Most accounts agree that Caesar supported confiscation of the conspirator's property. Caesar likely advocated the former, which was a compromise position that would place the senate within the bounds of the lex Sempronia de capite civis, and was initially successful in swaying the body; a later intervention by Cato, however, swayed the senate at the end for execution.

Cicero, consul in 63 BC, depicted in an 1889 fresco denouncing Catiline and exposing his conspiracy before the senate. When conspirators within the city were later arrested, Cicero referred their fate to the senate, triggering a debate in which Caesar as praetor-elect participated.

During his year as praetor, Caesar first attempted to deprive his enemy Catulus of the honour of completing the rebuilt Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus, accusing him of embezzling funds and threatening to bring legislation to reassign it to Pompey. This proposal was quickly dropped amid near-universal opposition. He then supported the attempt by plebeian tribune Metellus Nepos to transfer the command against Catiline from the consul of 63, Gaius Antonius Hybrida, to Pompey. After a violent meeting of the comitia tributa in the forum, where Metellus came into fisticuffs with his tribunician colleagues Cato and Quintus Minucius Thermus, the senate passed a decree against Metellus – Suetonius claims that both Nepos and Caesar were deposed from their magistracies; this would have been a constitutional impossibility – which led Caesar to distance himself from the proposals: hopes for a provincial command and need to repair relations with the aristocracy took priority. He also was engaged in the Bona Dea affair, where Publius Clodius Pulcher snuck into Caesar's house sacrilegiously during a female religious observance; Caesar avoided any part of the affair by divorcing his wife immediately – claiming that his wife needed to be "above suspicion" – but there is no indication that Caesar supported Clodius in any way.

Bronze bust of Cato, Caesar's principal opponent in the Catilinarian debate and also a personal enemy. Cato may have been responsible for the law requiring declarations of candidacy in person within the pomerium.

After his praetorship, Caesar was appointed to govern Hispania Ulterior pro consule. Deeply indebted from his campaigns for the praetorship and for the pontificate, Caesar required military victory beyond the normal provincial extortion to pay them off. He campaigned against the Callaeci and Lusitani and seized the Callaeci capital in northwestern Spain, bringing Roman troops to the Atlantic and seizing enough plunder to pay his debts. Claiming to have completed the peninsula's conquest, he made for home after having been hailed imperator. When he arrived home in the summer of 60 BC, he was then forced to choose between a triumph and election to the consulship: either he could remain outside the pomerium (Rome's sacred boundary) awaiting a triumph or cross the boundary, giving up his command and triumph, to make a declaration of consular candidacy. Attempts to waive the requirement for the declaration to be made in person were filibustered in the senate by Caesar's enemy Cato, even though the senate seemed to support the exception. Faced with the choice between a triumph and the consulship, Caesar chose the consulship.

First consulship and the Gallic wars

A denarius depicting Julius Caesar, dated to February–March 44 BC – the goddess Venus is shown on the reverse, holding Victoria and a scepter. Caption: CAESAR IMP. M. / L. AEMILIVS BVCA.

Caesar stood for the consulship of 59 BC along with two other candidates. His political position at the time was strong: he had supporters among the families which had supported Marius or Cinna; his connection with the Sullan aristocracy were good; his support of Pompey had won him support in turn. His support for reconciliation in continuing aftershocks of the civil war were popular in all parts of society. With the support of Crassus, who supported Caesar's joint ticket with one Lucius Lucceius, Caesar won. Lucceius, however, did not and the voters returned Marcus Calpurnius Bibulus instead, one of Caesar's long-standing personal and political enemies.

First consulship

After the elections, Caesar reconciled Pompey and Crassus, two political foes, in a three-way alliance misleadingly termed the "First Triumvirate" in modern times. Caesar was still at work in December of 60 BC attempting to find allies for his consulship and the alliance was finalised only some time around its start. Pompey and Crassus joined in pursuit of two respective goals: the ratification of Pompey's eastern conquests and the bailing out of tax farmers in Asia, many of whom were Crassus' clients. All three sought the extended patronage of land grants, with Pompey especially seeking the promised land grants for his veterans.

Caesar's first act was to publish the minutes of the senate and the assemblies, signalling the senate's accountability to the public. He then brought in the senate a bill – crafted to avoid objections to previous land reform proposals and any indications of radicalism – to purchase property from willing sellers to distribute to Pompey's veterans and the urban poor. It would be administered by a board of twenty, Caesar would be excluded, and financed by Pompey's plunder and territorial gains. Referring it to the senate in hopes that it would take up the matter to show its beneficence for the people, there was little opposition and the obstructionism that occurred was largely unprincipled, firmly opposing it not on grounds of public interest but rather opposition to Caesar's political advancement. Unable to overcome Cato's filibustering, he moved the bill before the people; at a public meeting, Caesar's co-consul Bibulus threatened a permanent veto for the entire year. This clearly violated the people's well-established legislative sovereignty and triggered a riot in which his fasces were broken, symbolising popular rejection of his magistracy. The bill was then voted through. Bibulus attempted to induce the senate to nullify it on grounds it was passed by violence and contrary to the auspices; the senate refused.

Caesar also brought and passed a one-third write-down of tax farmers' arrears for Crassus and ratification of Pompey's eastern settlements. Both bills were passed with little or no debate in the senate. Caesar then moved to lift the extend his agrarian bill to Campania some time in May; this may be when Bibulus withdrew to his house. Pompey, shortly thereafter, also wed Caesar's daughter Julia to seal their alliance. An ally of Caesar's, plebeian tribune Publius Vatinius, moved the lex Vatinia assigning the provinces of Illyricum and Cisalpine Gaul to Caesar for five years. Suetonius' claim that the senate had assigned to Caesar the silvae callesque (woods and tracks) is likely an exaggeration; fear of Gallic invasion had grown in 60 BC and it is more likely that the consuls had been assigned to Italy and that Caesarian partisans dismissed this defensive posture as "mere 'forest tracks'". The senate was also persuaded to assign to Caesar the Transalpine Gaul as well, subject to annual renewal, likely to control his ability to make war on the far side of the Alps.

Some time in the year, perhaps after the passage of bill distributing the Campanian land, after these political defeats, Bibulus to withdrew to his house to issue edicts in absentia purporting unprecedentedly to cancel all days on which Caesar or his allies could hold votes for religious reasons. Cato too attempted symbolic gestures against it which allowed him and his allies, allowing them to "feign victimisation"; these tactics were successful in building revulsion to Caesar and his allies through the year. This opposition caused serious political difficulties to Caesar and his allies, belying the common depiction of triumviral political supremacy". When his consulship ended, Caesar's legislation was challenged by two of the new praetors but discussion in the senate stalled and was regardless dropped. He stayed near the city until some time around mid-March.

Caesar in Gaul

The extent of the Roman Republic in 40 BC after Caesar's conquests

During the Gallic Wars, Caesar wrote his Commentaries thereon, which were acknowledged even in his time as a Latin literary masterwork. Meant to document Caesar's campaigns in his own words and maintain support in Rome for his military operations and career, he produced some ten volumes covering operations in Gaul from 58–52 BC. Each was likely produced in the year following the events described and was likely aimed at the general, or at least literate, population in Rome; the account is naturally partial to Caesar – his defeats are excused and victories highlighted – but it is almost the sole source for events in Gaul in this period.

Gaul in 58 BC was in the midst of some instability. Tribes had raided into Transalpine Gaul and there was an on-going struggle between two tribes in central Gaul which collaterally involved Roman alliances and politics. The divisions within the Gauls – they were no unified bloc – would be exploited in the coming years. The first engagement was in April 58 BC when Caesar met the migrating Helvetii from moving through Roman territory, allegedly because he feared they would unseat a Roman ally. Building a wall, he stopped their movement near Geneva and – after raising two legions – defeated them in at the Battle of Bibracte before forcing them to return to their original homes. He was drawn further north responding to requests of Gallic tribes, including the Aedui, for aid against Ariovistus – king of the Suebi and a declared friend of Rome by the senate during Caesar's own consulship – and he defeated them at the Battle of Vosges. Wintering in northeastern Gaul near the Belgae in the winter of 58–57, Caesar's forward military position triggered an uprising to remove his troops; able to eke out a victory at the Battle of the Sabis, Caesar spent much of 56 BC suppressing the Belgae and dispersing his troops to campaign across much of Gaul, including against the Veneti in what is now Brittany. At this point, almost all of Gaul – except its central regions – falling under Roman subjugation.

Vercingetorix throws down his arms at the feet of Julius Caesar, painting by Lionel Royer in 1899. Musée Crozatier, Le Puy-en-Velay, France.

Seeking to buttress his military reputation, he engaged Germans attempting to cross the Rhine, which marked it as a Roman frontier; displaying Roman engineering prowess, he here built a bridge across the Rhine in a feat of engineering meant to show Rome's ability to project power. Ostensibly seeking to interdict British aid to his Gallic enemies, he led expeditions into southern Britain in 55 and 54 BC, perhaps seeking further conquests or otherwise wanting to impress readers in Rome: Britain at the time was to the Romans an "island of mystery" and "a land of wonder". He, however, withdrew from the island in the face of winter uprisings in Gaul led by the Eburones and Belgae starting in late 54 BC which ambushed and virtually annihilated a legion and five cohorts. Caesar was, however, able to lure the rebels into unfavourable terrain and routed them in battle. The next year, a greater challenge emerged with the uprising of most of central Gaul, led by Vercingetorix of the Averni. Caesar was initially defeated at Gergovia before besieging Vercingetorix at Alesia; after becoming himself besieged, Caesar won a major victory which forced Vercingetorix's surrender; Caesar then spent much of his time into 51 BC suppressing any remaining resistance.

Politics, Gaul, and Rome

In the initial years from the end of Caesar's consulship in 59 BC, the three so-called triumvirs sought to maintain the goodwill of the extremely popular Publius Clodius Pulcher, who was plebeian tribune in 58 BC and in that year successfully sent Cicero into exile. When Clodius took an anti-Pompeian stance later that year, he unsettled Pompey's eastern arrangements, started attacking the validity of Caesar's consular legislation, and by August 58 forced Pompey into seclusion. Caesar and Pompey responded by successfully backing the election of magistrates to recall Cicero from exile on the condition that Cicero would refrain from criticism or obstruction of the allies.

With politics in Rome falling into violent street clashes between Clodius and two tribunes who were friends of Cicero, now supporting the allies, Caesar sent to Rome news of his victories in Gaul along with the claim of total victory and pacification. The senate at Cicero's motion voted him an unprecedented fifteen days of thanksgiving. Such reports were necessary for Caesar, especially in light of senatorial opponents, to prevent the senate from reassigning his command in Transalpine Gaul, even if his position in Cisalpine Gaul and Illyricum was guaranteed by the lex Vatinia until 54 BC. His success was evidently recognised when the senate voted state funds for some of Caesar's legions, which until this time Caesar paid for personally.

The three allies' relations broke down in 57 BC: one of Pompey's allies challenged Caesar's land reform bill and the allies had a poor showing in the elections that year. With a real threat to Caesar's command and acta brewing in 56 BC under the aegis of the unfriendly consuls, Caesar needed his allies' political support. Pompey and Crassus too wanted military commands; they pooled their political resources again. Drawing in the support of Appius Claudius Pulcher and his younger brother Clodius for the consulship of 54 BC, they planned second consulships with following governorships in 55 BC, for both Pompey and Crassus, along with a five year extension of Caesar's command.

Cicero was inducted to oppose reassignment of Caesar's provinces and to defend a number of the allies' clients; his gloomy predictions of a triumviral set consuls-designate for years on end proved an exaggeration when only by desperate tactics, bribery, intimidation, and violence were Pompey and Crassus elected consuls for 55 BC. During their consulship, Pompey and Crassus passed – with some tribunician support – the lex Pompeia Licinia extending Caesar's command and the lex Trebonia giving them respective commands in Spain and Syria, though Pompey never left for the province and remained politically active at Rome. The opposition again unified against their heavy-handed political tactics – though not against Caesar's activities in Gaul – and defeated the allies in the elections of that year.

The ambush and destruction in Gaul of a legion and five cohorts in the winter of 55–54 BC produced substantial concern in Rome about Caesar's command and competence, evidenced by the highly defensive narrative in Caesar's Commentaries. The death of Caesar's daughter and Pompey's wife Julia in childbirth c. late August 54 did not create a rift between Caesar and Pompey. At the start of 53 BC, Caesar sought and received reinforcements by recruitment and a private deal with Pompey before two years of largely unsuccessful campaigning against Gallic insurgents. In the same year, Crassus's campaign ended in disaster at the Battle of Carrhae, culminating in his death amongst the Parthians. When in 52 BC Pompey started the year with a sole consulship to restore order to the city, Caesar was in Gaul suppressing insurgencies; after news of his victory at Alesia, with the support of Pompey he received twenty days of thanksgiving and, pursuant to the "Law of the Ten Tribunes", the right to stand for the consulship in absentia.

Civil war

A Roman bust of Pompey the Great made during the reign of Augustus (27 BC – 14 AD), a copy of an original bust from 70 to 60 BC, Venice National Archaeological Museum, Italy

From the period 52 to 49 BC, trust between Caesar and Pompey disintegrated. In 51 BC, the consul Marcellus proposed recalling Caesar, arguing that his provincia (here meaning "task") in Gaul – due to his victory against Vercingetorix in 52 – was complete; it evidently was incomplete as Caesar was that year fighting the Bellovaci and regardless the proposal was vetoed. That year, it seemed that the conservatives around Cato in the Senate would seek to enlist Pompey to force Caesar to return from Gaul without honours or a second consulship. Cato, Bibulus, and their allies, however, were successful in winning Pompey over to take a hard line against Caesar's continued command.

As 50 BC progressed, fears of civil war grew; both Caesar and his opponents started building up troops in southern Gaul and northern Italy, respectively. In the autumn, Cicero and others sought disarmament by both Caesar and Pompey, and on 1 December 50 BC this was formally proposed in the Senate. It received overwhelming support – 370 to 22 – but was not passed when one of the consuls dissolved the meeting. That year, when a rumour came to Rome that Caesar was marching into Italy, both consuls instructed Pompey to defend Italy, a charge he accepted as a last resort. At the start of 49 BC, Caesar's renewed offer that he and Pompey disarm was read to the Senate, which was rejected by the hardliners. A later compromise given privately to Pompey was also rejected at their insistence. On 7 January, his supportive tribunes were driven from Rome; the Senate then declared Caesar an enemy and it issued its senatus consultum ultimum.

There is scholarly disagreement as to the specific reasons why Caesar marched on Rome. A very popular theory is that Caesar was forced to choose – when denied the immunity of his proconsular tenure – between prosecution, conviction, and exile or civil war in defence of his position. Whether Caesar actually would have been prosecuted and convicted is debated. Some scholars believe the possibility of successful prosecution was extremely unlikely. Caesar's main objectives were to secure a second consulship – first mooted in 52 as colleague to Pompey's sole consulship – and a triumph. He feared that his opponents – then holding both consulships for 50 BC – would reject his candidacy or refuse to ratify an election he won. This also was the core of his war justification: that Pompey and his allies were planning, by force if necessary (indicated in the expulsion of the tribunes), to suppress the liberty of the Roman people to elect Caesar and honour his accomplishments.

Italy, Spain, and Greece

Around 10 or 11 January 49 BC, in response to the Senate's "final decree", Caesar crossed the Rubicon – the river defining the northern boundary of Italy – with a single legion, the Legio XIII Gemina, and ignited civil war. Upon crossing the Rubicon, Caesar, according to Plutarch and Suetonius, is supposed to have quoted the Athenian playwright Menander, in Greek, "let the die be cast". Pompey and many senators fled south, believing that Caesar was marching quickly for Rome. Caesar, after capturing communication routes to Rome, paused and opened negotiations, but they fell apart amid mutual distrust. Caesar responded by advancing south, seeking to capture Pompey to force a conference.

Pompey withdrew to Brundisium and was able to escape to Greece, abandoning Italy in face of Caesar's superior forces, evading Caesar's pursuit. Caesar stayed near Rome for about two weeks – during his stay his forceful seizure of the treasury over tribunician veto put the lie to his pro-tribunician war justifications – and left Lepidus in charge of Italy while he attacked Pompey's Spanish provinces. He defeated two of Pompey's legates at the Battle of Ilerda before forcing surrender of the third; his legates moved into Sicily and into Africa, though the African expedition failed. Returning to Rome in the autumn, Caesar had Lepidus, as praetor, bring a law appointing Caesar dictator to conduct the elections; he, along with Publius Servilius Isauricus, won the following elections and would serve as consuls for 48 BC. Resigning the dictatorship after eleven days, Caesar then left Italy for Greece to stop Pompey's preparations, arriving in force in early 48 BC.

Caesar besieged Pompey at Dyrrhachium, but Pompey was able to break out and force Caesar's forces to flee. Following Pompey southeast into Greece and to save one of his legates, he engaged and decisively defeated Pompey at Pharsalus on 9 August 48 BC. Pompey then fled for Egypt; Cato fled for Africa; others, like Cicero and Marcus Junius Brutus, begged for Caesar's pardon.

Alexandrine war and Asia Minor

Cleopatra and Caesar, 1866 painting by Jean-Léon Gérôme
This mid-1st-century-BC Roman wall painting in Pompeii is probably a depiction of Cleopatra VII as Venus Genetrix, with her son Caesarion as Cupid. Its owner Marcus Fabius Rufus most likely ordered its concealment behind a wall in reaction to the execution of Caesarion on orders of Octavian in 30 BC.

Pompey was killed when he arrived in Alexandria, the capital of Egypt. Caesar arrived three days later on 2 October 48 BC. Prevented from leaving the city by Etesian winds, Caesar decided to arbitrate an Egyptian civil war between the child pharaoh Ptolemy XIII Theos Philopator and Cleopatra, his sister, wife, and co-regent queen. In late October 48 BC, Caesar was appointed in absentia to a year-long dictatorship, after news of his victory at Pharsalus arrived to Rome. While in Alexandria, he started an affair with Cleopatra and withstood a siege by Ptolemy and his other sister Arsinoe until March 47 BC. Reinforced by eastern client allies under Mithridates of Pergamum, he then defeated Ptolemy at the Battle of the Nile and installed Cleopatra as ruler. Caesar and Cleopatra celebrated the victory with a triumphal procession on the Nile; he stayed in Egypt with Cleopatra until June or July that year, though the relevant commentaries attributed to him give no such impression. Some time in late June, Cleopatra gave birth to a child by Caesar, called Caesarion.

When Caesar landed at Antioch, he learnt that during his time in Egypt, the king of what is now Crimea, Pharnaces, had attempted to seize his father's kingdom of Pontus across the Black Sea. His invasion had swept aside Caesar's legates and the local client kings but Caesar engaged him at Zela and defeated him immediately, leading Caesar to write veni, vidi, vici ("I came, I saw, I conquered"), downplaying Pompey's previous victories over such poor enemies. He then left quickly for Italy.

Italy, Africa, and Spain

Caesar's absence from Italy put Mark Antony, as magister equitum, in charge. His rule was unpopular; Publius Cornelius Dolabella, serving as plebeian tribune in 47 BC, agitated for debt relief and after that agitation got out of hand the senate moved for Antony to restore order. Delayed by a mutiny in southern Italy, he returned and suppressed the riots by force, along with his popularity. Cato had marched to Africa and there Metellus Scipio was in charge of the remaining republicans; they allied with Juba of Numidia; what used to be Pompey's fleet also raided the central Mediterranean islands. Caesar's governor in Spain, moreover, was sufficiently unpopular that the province revolted and switched to the republican side.

Caesar demoted Antony on his return and pacified the mutineers without violence before overseeing the election of the rest of the magistrates for 47 – no elections had been held – and also for those of 46 BC. Caesar would serve with Lepidus as consul in 46; he borrowed money for the war, confiscated and sold the property of his enemies at fair prices, and then left for Africa on 25 December 47 BC. Caesar's landing in Africa was marked with some difficulties establishing a beachhead and logistically. He was defeated by Titus Labienus at Ruspina on 4 January 46 BC and later took a rather cautious approach. After inducing some desertions from the republicans, Caesar ended up surrounded at Thapsus. His troops attacked prematurely on 6 April 46 BC, starting a battle; they then won it and massacred the republican forces without quarter. Marching on Utica, where Cato commanded, Caesar arrived to find that Cato had killed himself rather than receive Caesar's clemency. Many of the remaining anti-Caesarian leaders, including Metellus Scipio and Juba, died by suicide shortly afterward. However, Labienus and two of Pompey's sons had taken Spain. Caesar started a process of annexing parts of Numidia and returned to Italy via Sardinia in June 46 BC.

Caesar stayed in Italy to celebrate four triumphs in late September, supposedly over four foreign enemies: Gaul, Egypt, Pharnaces (Asia), and Juba (Africa). He led Vercingetorix, Cleopatra's younger sister Arsinoe, and Juba's son before his chariot; Vercingetorix was executed. According to Appian, Caesar paraded pictures and models of his victories in the civil wars against his fellow Romans during the triumphs, to popular dismay. The soldiers were each given 24,000 sesterces (a lifetime's worth of pay); further games and celebrations were put on for the plebs. Near the end of the year, Caesar heard bad news from Spain and, with an army, left for the peninsula, leaving Lepidus in charge as magister equitum.

At a bloody battle at Munda on 17 March 45 BC, Caesar narrowly found victory; his enemies were treated as rebels and he had them massacred. Labienus died on the field and one of Pompey's sons, Sextus, escaped but the war as effectively over. He remained in the province until June before setting out for Rome. He arrived in Rome in October of the same year and celebrated an unseemly triumph over fellow Romans. By this point he had started preparations for war on the Parthians to avenge Crassus' death at Carrhae in 53 BC with wide-ranging objectives that would take him into Dacia for three or more years; it was set to start on 18 March 44 BC.

Dictatorship and assassination

While he was still campaigning in Hispania, the Senate began bestowing honours 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 honour 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, later known as Augustus Caesar) as his principal heir, leaving his vast estate and property including his name. In his will, he also left a substantial gift to the citizens of Rome.

Between his crossing of the Rubicon 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 Republic. Second, he wanted to create a strong central government in Rome. Finally, he wanted to knit together all of the provinces 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, 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.


Green Caesar, posthumous portrait of the 1st century AD, Altes Museum, Berlin

When Caesar returned to Rome, the Senate granted him triumphs for his victories, ostensibly those over Gaul, Egypt, Pharnaces, and Juba, rather than over his Roman opponents.[citation needed] When Arsinoe IV, Egypt's former queen, was paraded in chains, the spectators admired her dignified bearing and were moved to pity.[verification needed] 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 horses, and 20 elephants – fought to the death. Again, some bystanders complained, this time at Caesar's wasteful extravagance. A riot broke out, and stopped only when Caesar had two rioters sacrificed by the priests on the Field of Mars.

After the triumph, Caesar set out to pass an ambitious legislative agenda. He ordered a census be taken, which forced a reduction in the grain dole, and decreed that jurors could come only 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.

Statue of Julius Caesar, Via dei Fori Imperiali, Rome

The most important change, however, was his reform of the Roman calendar. The traditional republican calendar was lunisolar; by replacing it with a solar Egyptian calendar, Roman farmers were able to use it as the basis of consistent seasonal planting from year to year. 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 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 theatre, 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 Dacians and Parthians, and avenge the loss at Carrhae. Thus, he instituted a massive mobilisation. Shortly before his assassination, the Senate named him censor for life and Pater Patriae (Father of the Country), and the month of Quintilis was renamed July in his honour.

He was granted further honours, 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 Antony as his high priest.

Political reforms

La clémence de César, Abel de Pujol, 1808

The history of Caesar's political appointments is complex and uncertain. Caesar held both the dictatorship and the tribunate[dubious ], but alternated between the consulship and the proconsulship. 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 11 days. In 48 BC, he was reappointed dictator, only this time for an indefinite period, and in 46 BC, he was appointed dictator for 10 years.

In 48 BC, Caesar was given permanent tribunician powers,[dubious ] 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 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.

When Caesar returned to Rome in 47 BC, the ranks of the Senate had been severely depleted, so he used his censorial powers to appoint many new senators[dubious ], 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 minimise the risk that another general might attempt to challenge him, Caesar passed a law that subjected governors to term limits.

In 46 BC, Caesar gave himself the title of "Prefect of the Morals", which was an office that was new only in name, as its powers were identical to those of the censors. Thus, he could hold censorial powers, while technically not subjecting himself to the same checks to which the ordinary censors were subject, and he used these powers to fill the Senate with his own partisans. He also set the precedent, which his imperial successors followed, of requiring the Senate to bestow various titles and honours upon him. He was, for example, given the title of Pater Patriae and imperator.

Coins bore his likeness,[dubious ] 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 Roman province and to link more tightly the other provinces of the empire into a single cohesive unit. 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.[citation needed]

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 February 44 BC, one month before his assassination, he was appointed dictator in perpetuity. Under Caesar, a significant amount of authority was vested in his lieutenants, mostly because Caesar was frequently out of Italy.

Denarius (42 BC) issued by Gaius Cassius Longinus and Lentulus Spinther, depicting the crowned head of Liberty and on the reverse a sacrificial jug and lituus, from the military mint in Smyrna. Caption: C. CASSI. IMP. LEIBERTAS / LENTVLVS SPINT.

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, and all consuls and tribunes. This, in effect, transformed the magistrates from being representatives of the people to being representatives of Caesar.


On the Ides of March (15 March; see Roman calendar) of 44 BC, Caesar was due to appear at a session of the Senate. Several senators had conspired to assassinate Caesar. 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 the Theatre of Pompey, where the session was to be held, and detain him outside. (Plutarch, however, assigns this action of delaying 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.[page needed] 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 toga. Caesar then cried to Cimber, "Why, this is violence!" ("Ista quidem vis est!").

The senators encircle Caesar, a 19th-century interpretation of the event by Carl Theodor von Piloty.

Casca simultaneously produced his dagger and made a glancing thrust at Caesar'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 ("ἀδελφέ, βοήθει", "adelphe, boethei"). Within moments, the entire group, including Brutus, was striking out at him. 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 men participated in the assassination. He was stabbed 23 times.[page needed]

According to Suetonius, a physician later established that only one wound, the second one to his chest, had been lethal. Caesar's last words are not known with certainty, and are a contested subject among scholars and historians. Suetonius reports that others have said Caesar's last words were the Greek phrase "καὶ σύ, τέκνον" (transliterated as "Kai sy, teknon?": "You too, child?" in English). However, Suetonius' own opinion was that 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?"); best known from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, where it actually forms the first half of a macaronic line: "Et tu, Brute? Then fall, Caesar." This version was already popular when the play was written, as it appears in Richard Edes' Latin play Caesar Interfectus of 1582 and The True Tragedie of Richarde Duke of Yorke etc. of 1595, Shakespeare's source work for other plays.

The Death of Caesar, Jean-Léon Gérôme, 1867

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 rumour 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.[citation needed]

Aftermath of the assassination

Marc Antony's Oration at Caesar's Funeral by George Edward Robertson (late 19th or early 20th century).

The assassins seized the Capitoline hill after killing the dictator. They then summoned a public meeting in the Forum where they were coldly received by the population. They were also unable to fully secure the city, as Lepidus – Caesar's lieutenant in the dictatorship – moved troops into the city. Antony, the consul who escaped the assassination, urged an illogical compromise position in the senate: Caesar was not declared a tyrant and the conspirators were not punished.

Caesar's funeral was then approved. At the funeral, Antony inflamed the public against the assassins, which triggered mob violence that lasted for some months before the assassins were forced to flee the capital and Antony then finally acted to suppress it by force. On the site of his cremation, the Temple of Caesar was begun by the triumvirs in 42 BC at the east side of the main square of the Roman Forum. Only its altar now remains. The terms of the will were also read to the public: it gave a generous donative to the plebs at large and left as principal heir one Gaius Octavius, Caesar's great-nephew then at Apollonia, and adopted him in the will.

Resumption of the pre-existing republic proved impossible as various actors appealed in the aftermath of Caesar's death to liberty or to vengeance to mobilise huge armies that led to a series of civil wars. The first war was between Antony in 43 BC and the senate (both Caesarians and former Pompeians) which resulted in Octavian – Caesar's heir – exploiting the chaos to seize the consulship and join with Antony and Lepidus to form the Second Triumvirate. After purging their political enemies in a series of proscriptions, the triumvirs secured the deification of Caesar – the senate declared on 1 January 42 BC that Caesar would be placed among the Roman gods – and marched on the east where a second war saw the triumvirs defeat the tyrannicides in battle, resulting in a final death of the republican cause and three-way division of much of the Roman world.

Personal life

Health and physical appearance

The Chiaramonti Caesar bust, a posthumous portrait in marble, 44–30 BC, Museo Pio-Clementino, Vatican Museums

Based 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 BC. Other scholars contend his epileptic seizures were due to a parasitic infection in the brain by a tapeworm.

Caesar had four documented episodes of what may have been complex partial seizures. He may additionally have had absence seizures 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.

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 defence.

Francesco M. Galassi and Hutan Ashrafian suggest that Caesar's behavioral manifestations – headaches, vertigo, falls (possibly caused by muscle weakness due to nerve damage), sensory deficit, giddiness and insensibility – and syncopal episodes were the results of cerebrovascular episodes, not epilepsy. Pliny the Elder reports in his Natural History that Caesar's father and forefather died without apparent cause while putting on their shoes. These events can be more readily associated with cardiovascular complications from a stroke episode or lethal heart attack. Caesar possibly had a genetic predisposition for cardiovascular disease.

Suetonius, writing more than a century after Caesar's death, describes Caesar as "tall of stature with a fair complexion, shapely limbs, a somewhat full face, and keen black eyes".

Name and family

The name Gaius Julius Caesar

Using the Latin alphabet of the period, which lacked the letters J and U, Caesar's name would be rendered GAIVS IVLIVS CAESAR; the form CAIVS is also attested, using the older Roman representation of G by C. The standard abbreviation was C. IVLIVS CÆSAR, reflecting the older spelling. (The letterform Æ is a ligature of the letters A and E, and is often used in Latin inscriptions to save space.)

In Classical Latin, it was pronounced [ˈɡaː.i.ʊs ˈjuːl.i.ʊs ˈkae̯sar]. 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 (Kaísar), reflecting its contemporary pronunciation. Thus, his name is pronounced in a similar way to the pronunciation of the German Kaiser ([kaɪ̯zɐ]) or Dutch keizer ([kɛizɛr]).

In Vulgar Latin, the original diphthong [ae̯] first began to be pronounced as a simple long vowel [ɛː]. Then, the plosive /k/ before front vowels began, due to palatalization, to be pronounced as an affricate, hence renderings like [ˈtʃeːsar] in Italian and [ˈtseːzar] 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.

Caesar's cognomen itself became a title; it was promulgated by the Bible, which contains the famous verse "Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's". The title became, from the late first millennium, Kaiser in German and (through Old Church Slavic cěsarĭ) Tsar or Czar in the Slavic languages. The last Tsar in nominal power was Simeon II of Bulgaria, whose reign ended in 1946, but is still alive in 2023. This means that for approximately two thousand years, there was at least one head of state bearing his name. As a term for the highest ruler, the word Caesar constitutes one of the earliest, best attested and most widespread Latin loanwords in the Germanic languages, being found in the text corpora of Old High German (keisar), Old Saxon (kēsur), Old English (cāsere), Old Norse (keisari), Old Dutch (keisere) and (through Greek) Gothic (kaisar).


Julio-Claudian family tree
  • First marriage to Cornelia, from 84 BC until her death in 69 BC
  • Second marriage to Pompeia, from 67 BC until he divorced her around 61 BC over the Bona Dea scandal
  • Third marriage to Calpurnia, from 59 BC until Caesar's death
Reliefs of Cleopatra and her son by Julius Caesar, Caesarion, at the Temple of Dendera
Roman painting from the House of Giuseppe II, Pompeii, early 1st century AD, most likely depicting Cleopatra VII, wearing her royal diadem, consuming poison in an act of suicide, while her son Caesarion, also wearing a royal diadem, stands behind her
Suspected children

Some ancient sources refer to the possibility of the tyrannicide, Marcus Junius Brutus, being one of Julius Caesar's illegitimate children. Caesar, at the time Brutus was born, was 15. Most ancient historians were sceptical of this and "on the whole, scholars have rejected the possibility that Brutus was the love-child of Servilia and Caesar on the grounds of chronology".


Grandchild from Julia and Pompey, dead at several days, unnamed.


Rumors of passive homosexuality

Roman 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 stories were repeated, referring to Caesar as the "Queen of Bithynia", by some Roman politicians as a way to humiliate him. 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.

Catullus wrote a poem suggesting that Caesar and his engineer Mamurra were lovers, but later apologised.

Mark Antony 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 as Augustus.

Literary works

Julii Caesaris quae exstant (1678)
A 1783 edition of The Gallic Wars

During his lifetime, Caesar was regarded as one of the best orators and prose authors in Latin – even Cicero spoke highly of Caesar's rhetoric and style. Only Caesar's war commentaries have survived. A few sentences from other works are quoted by other authors. Among his lost works are his funeral oration for his paternal aunt Julia and his "Anticato", a document attacking Cato in response to Cicero's eulogy. Poems by Julius Caesar are also mentioned in ancient sources.


  • The Commentarii de Bello Gallico, usually known in English as The Gallic Wars, seven books each covering one year of his campaigns in Gaul and southern Britain in the 50s BC, with the eighth book written by Aulus Hirtius on the last two years.
  • The Commentarii de Bello Civili (The Civil War), events of the Civil War from Caesar's perspective, until immediately after Pompey's death in Egypt.

Other works historically have been attributed to Caesar, but their authorship is in doubt:

These narratives were written and published annually during or just after the actual campaigns, as a sort of "dispatches from the front". They were important in shaping Caesar's public image and enhancing his reputation when he was away from Rome for long periods. They may have been presented as public readings. As a model of clear and direct Latin style, The Gallic Wars traditionally has been studied by first- or second-year Latin students.



Flowers placed on the remains of the altar of Caesar in the Roman Forum of Rome, Italy

The texts written by Caesar, an autobiography of the most important events of his public life, are the most complete primary source for the reconstruction of his biography. However, Caesar wrote those texts with his political career in mind. Julius Caesar is also considered one of the first historical figures to fold his message scrolls into a concertina form, which made them easier to read. The Roman emperor Augustus began a cult of personality of Caesar, which described Augustus as Caesar's political heir. The modern historiography is influenced by this tradition.

Many rulers in history became interested in the historiography of Caesar. Napoleon III wrote the scholarly work Histoire de Jules César, which was not finished. The second volume listed previous rulers interested in the topic. Charles VIII ordered a monk to prepare a translation of the Gallic Wars in 1480. Charles V ordered a topographic study in France, to place the Gallic Wars in context; which created forty high-quality maps of the conflict. The contemporary Ottoman sultan Suleiman the Magnificent catalogued the surviving editions of the Commentaries, and translated them to Turkish language. Henry IV and Louis XIII of France translated the first two commentaries and the last two respectively; Louis XIV retranslated the first one afterwards.


Julius Caesar is seen as the main example of Caesarism, a form of political rule led by a charismatic strongman whose rule is based upon a cult of personality, whose rationale is the need to rule by force, establishing a violent social order, and being a regime involving prominence of the military in the government. Other people in history, such as the French Napoleon Bonaparte and the Italian Benito Mussolini, have defined themselves as Caesarists. Bonaparte did not focus only on Caesar's military career but also on his relation with the masses, a predecessor to populism. The word is also used in a pejorative manner by critics of this type of political rule.


Battle record

Date War Action Opponents Type Present-day areas Outcome
58 BC 58 BC Gallic Wars Arar Battle of the Arar .Helvetii Battle France Victory

58 BC 58 BC Mount Haemus Battle of Bibracte Helvetii, Boii, Tulingi, Rauraci Battle France Victory

58 BC 58 BC Vosges Battle of Vosges .Suebi Battle France Victory

57 BC 57 BC Battle of the Axona .Belgae Battle France Victory

57 BC 57 BC Battle of the Sabis Battle of the Sabis .Nervii, Viromandui,

Atrebates, Aduatuci

Battle France Victory

55 and 54 BC55 and 54 BC Julius Caesar's invasions of Britain Julius Caesar's invasions of Britain .Celtic Britons Campaign England Victory

54 BC–53 BC 54 BC–53 BC Ambiorix's revolt Ambiorix's revolt .Eburones Campaign Belgium, France Victory

52 BC 52 BC Avaricum Avaricum .Bituriges, Arverni Siege France Victory

52 BC 52 BC Battle of Gergovia Battle of Gergovia .Gallic tribes Battle France Defeat
September 52 BC Battle of Alesia Battle of Alesia .Gallic Confederation Siege and Battle Alise-Sainte-Reine, France Decisive victory

51 BC 51 BC Siege of Uxellodunum Siege of Uxellodunum .Gallic Siege Vayrac, France Victory

June–August 49 BC June–August 49 BC Caesar's Civil War Battle of Ilerda Battle of Ilerda Optimates. Battle Catalonia, Spain Victory

10 July 48 BC 10 July 48 BC Battle of Dyrrhachium (48 BC) .Optimates Battle Durrës, Albania Defeat

9 August 48 BC 9 August 48 BC Battle of Pharsalus .Pompeians Battle Greece Decisive Victory

47 BC 47 BC Battle of the Nile .Ptolemaic Kingdom Battle Alexandria, Egypt Victory

2 August 47 BC 2 August 47 BC Battle of Zela .Kingdom of Pontus Battle Zile, Turkey Victory

4 January 46 BC 4 January 46 BC Battle of Ruspina Battle of Ruspina .Optimates, Numidia Battle Ruspina Africa Defeat

6 April 46 BC 6 April 46 BC Battle of Thapsus Battle of Thapsus .Optimates, Numidia Battle Tunisia Decisive Victory

17 March 45 BC 17 March 45 BC Battle of Munda Battle of Munda .Pompeians Battle Andalusia Spain Victory


ConsulRoman military history

See also

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