Julius Caesar: History, Accomplishments and Facts
In following in the footsteps of his uncle, Caesar continued his political career on a positive path. In 59 BCE he contested and won a seat in the consul. Caesar’s exceptional negotiating skills meant that he was capable of uniting former arch-rivals Pompey (a renowned political leader) and Crassus (the wealthiest man in Rome) together. His alliance with Pompey and Crassus helped boost his political aspirations. The trio went ahead to establish the First Triumvirate.
The triumvirs together were able to have a significant influence on Roman politics and business. The union of Caesar’s daughter, Julia, with Pompey consolidated their informal association. Caesar also wedded Calpurnia, the daughter of a very influential senator.
Caesar was appointed as governor in charge of the Illyricum( the Southeastern part of Europe) and Cisalpine Gaul (Northern part of Italy). An additional province was added under his jurisdiction- Transalpine Gaul (the Southern part of France).
Early Rule and his Invasion of Gaul
With Caesar having several legions under his control, he saw the need to expand his territories farther and also ensure that security was tight in areas that were relatively unstable. He also sought to tackle tribes that posed a threat to Roman allies around his jurisdiction.
He began by defeating the tribes that had troubled Roman’s Gallic allies and also he conquered all other tribes that posed a threat to Rome. In 56 BCE, Caesar’s governorship was lengthened for an additional five years as he continued to expand and secure the Northern provinces. Before 51 BCE, Caesar had accomplished a lot, with notable successes in the Gallic wars, and extending Rome’s provinces to Britain and Rhine areas.
The End of the First Triumvirate
Whiles Caesar was away from Rome, his daughter Julia and wife of Pompey passed away during childbirth. After Julia’s death, Caesar in his bid to restore the bond with Pompey offered his niece in marriage to Pompey. However, Pompey declined Caesar’s offer and instead married the daughter of Caesar’s arch-political rival. This occurrence weakened the bond between Caesar and Pompey, putting the Triumvirate in serious jeopardy.
To make matters worse for the Triumvirate, Crassus passed away during an attempted invasion of the East. Crassus passing away had resulted in the final collapse of the Triumvirate.
For an emergency measure in Caesar’s absence and Crassus death, Pompey was appointed as a sole consul for Rome.
Invasion of Rome- the Battle against Pompey
In 50 BCE, the Senate, under the leadership of Pompey gave an order that Caesar, whose term had expired, to disperse his army and come back to Rome. He was also accused of mutiny and treachery. Fearing that he would be persecuted upon his return to Rome, Caesar decided to launch an attack on Rome, crossing the Rubicon River when he famously said: “the die is cast”.
Upon Caesar’s invasion of Rome, Pompey and several Senate members fled to Spain and Greece. Caesar pursued them. In his absence, he left Mark Anthony in charge of Italy. In Spain, Caesar defeated the allies of Pompey and continued his chase of Pompey, who had initially fled to Greece, where he (Pompey) was resoundingly defeated.
Pompey fled to Egypt and Caesar returned to Rome to preside over his election as consul (thus his second consulship). Mark Anthony was appointed as his second in command (Master of the Horse).
Caesar Follows Pompey to Egypt
Caesar resumed his pursuit of Pompey as he tracked him down to Egypt. However, upon his arrival, he learned that his former ally had been murdered. He was presented with the detached head of Pompey and his seal-ring. Caesar was really hurt by this and decided to assassinate Pompey’s murderers.
Alliance with Cleopatra
Caesar presence and the execution of Pompey’s killers got him involved in a civil war in Egypt. He established an alliance with Cleopatra (a co-regent queen of Egypt). Caesar supported Cleopatra in the 47 BCE Battle of the Nile where the army of Pharaoh was defeated and Cleopatra became the queen of Egypt. Caesar and Cleopatra celebrated their triumph in a lavish style. Legend has it that Caesar had an affair with Cleopatra and it was also alleged that he was the father of Cleopatra’s son Caesarion.
Caesar continued his battles, enjoying resounding victories over Pontus in the Middle East in 47 BCE and Cato in 46 BCE (which lead to Cato committing suicide).
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Back in Rome, in 46 BC, Caesar gradually grew into a dictator; and this time around it was for a period of ten years. He made his will in 45 BCE, stating that Gaius Octavian (who was later referred to as Augustus) should be his chief successor. He also stated in his will that should Octavian pass on before him (Caesar) then his successor should be Decimus Junius Brutus Albinus ( Caesar’s friend and alleged son, who would later go on to assassinate him). In his will, he also left a huge amount of estates for Roman citizens.
During his reign, Caesar made several key amendments to the constitution he inherited. The previous constitution, which to a lot of chaos and rendered the Roman Republic dysfunctional was replaced by Caesar’s reformed constitution. What did Caesar’s new constitution offer Rome? Well, the reformed constitution aimed at restoring order in Rome, thus, by suppressing all forms of armed oppositions in the region. This, he achieved by eliminating all of Pompey’s allies.
The second and third aim of the reforms was to strengthen Rome’s Central Government and also to bring all of Rome’s provinces under a single umbrella. He aimed to achieve these goals by consolidating his authority in Rome, whiles reducing the authority of other institutions. Thus, making his power an undisputed one (that of a dictator).
As part of his reforms, the Roman calendar, which was controlled by the movement of the moon, was changed. He introduced the Egyptian calendar, which was controlled by the sun and had a length of 365 1/4 days every year and 366 days every four years (thus, adding one leap day in every four years). This new calendar was named the Julian calendar and it officially opened on the 1st of January 45 BC. In Caesar’s honor, the month of Quintilis was given the name, July, which was named after him.