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Julius Caesar

Researcher: Rachel Sahlman      Artist: Dick Strandberg


Veni, vidi, vici. 'I came, I saw, I conquered.' These are the words of the man who changed the course of Greco-Roman history.

Julius Caesar was born in Rome on July 12 or 13, in the year 100 B.C.. His father Gaius Caesar, died when Caesar was 16 years old, and it was his mother Aurelia, who proved to be quite influential in his life. Caesar's family was part of Rome's original aristocracy, called patricians, although they were not rich or particularly influential. At the time of Caesar's birth, the number of patricians was small, and their status no longer provided political advantage.

To obtain distinction for himself and his family, a Roman nobleman sought election to public office. In 86 B.C., Caesar was appointed flamen dialis with the help of his uncle by marriage, Gaius Marius. The position was one of an archaic priesthood and held no power. Nevertheless, it identified Caesar with extremist politics. Ceasar committed himself further to the radical side when he married Cornelia, daughter of Lucius Cornelius Cinna in 84 B.C.

In 82 B.C., Caesar was ordered to divorce his wife by Lucius Cornelius Sulla, an enemy of the radicals. Caesar refused and prudently left Rome for military service in Asia and Cilicia. He returned in 78 B.C. when Sulla died and began his political career as a prosecuting advocate. Caesar then traveled to Rhodes to study rhetoric and did not return to Rome until 73 B.C. During his journey to Rhodes, Caesar was captured by pirates. While in captivity, Caesar convinced his captors to raise his ransom, which increased his prestige. He then raised a naval force, overcame his captors, and had them crucified.

In 69 or 68 B.C., Caesar was elected quaestor. His wife died shortly thereafter. In a purely political maneuver, Caesar seized the opportunity to praise his uncle, Cinna and father-in-law, Marius during the funeral orations for his deceased wife. He then married Pompeia, a relative of Pompey. Caesar was elected curule aedile in 65 B.C., pontifex maximus in 63 B.C., and a praetor in 62 B.C. By this time, Caesar was making a name for himself as a political figure. He divorced Pompeia after a scandal.

Caesar was made governor of Farther Spain in 61 B.C. When he returned to Rome the next year, he joined forces with Crassus and Pompey and formed the first triumvirate. The alliance between Pompey and Ceasar was solidified further when Pompey married Julia, Caesar's only child.

Caesar's next step up the political ladder was to be elected consul in 59 B.C. During that year he also married Calpurnia. The following year, Caesar was appointed governor of Roman Gaul. During the next 8 years, Caesar successfully conquered Gallic Gaul to the north. In 49 B.C., Caesar was instructed by the Senate to lay down his command. Roman politics had changed following the death of Crassus in 53 B.C., and Pompey was appointed sole consul in 52 B.C.. In addition, Pompey's wife Julia died in 54 B.C., breaking the family ties between Pompey and Caesar.

On January 10-11, 49 B.C., Caesar crossed the Rubicon, a small river separating Gaul from Italy, signifying the start of the Roman Civil War. Pompey fled and within three months, Caesar ruled of all Italy. He then took Spain and continued to pursue Pompey all the way to Egypt. In 48 B.C., Pompey was murdered by an officer of King Ptolemy. Caesar remained in Egypt throughout the winter and dallied with Queen Cleopatra.

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In 48 B.C., Caesar assumed the title of dictator. He returned to Rome for a short time in 47 B.C. but then left for Africa to crush his opponents. Caesar departed for Farther Spain in 46 B.C. to put down resistance there. In 45 B.C., Caesar returned to Rome to put his empire in order.

On March 15, 44 B.C., a day known as the Ides of March, Caesar entered the Senate House. An assassination plot had been hatched by a group of 60 senators, including Gaius Cassius and Marcus Junius Brutus. As Caesar entered the Senate, he was stabbed 23 times. After Ceasar was assassinated, Rome experienced another 13 years of civil war.

Bibliographic Citation Format:

Author's last name, first name, middle initial. "Title of biography." SPECTRUM Home & School Magazine. [http://www.incwell.com/Spectrum.html] (date accessed). © K. B. Shaw

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