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A brief summary of the political history of the twelve Caesars. Part 1, Caesar

Posted March 9th, 2017 at 10:03 AM by Tiberius Caesar

A brief and summary report on 12 Caesars activities, from Caesar to Domitian. It's not meant to complete inclusive nor complete; those are just some sketchy biographies, with an useful bibliography at the end.

1. Caesar (100-44 BC)

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The ''Green Caesar''; Altes Museum, Berlin

Caesar was born in July 13th or 12th of the year 100 or 101 BC, from a noble and ancient gens. His familia, though, wasn't relatively rich or influential. Plus, he was also a relative of both Gaius Marius and Cinna, which wasn't a good thing since Sulla was ruling as a dictator over Rome during the man's adolescence. All those events made Caesar's early life very difficult, but, after Sulla's abdication and death, he eventually managed to go through the cursus honorum (by contraing various debts). He became a foremost member of the populares, that can be compared to nowadays democrats. During his political career, he probably joined both Catilina's conspirations, but was saved by Cicero from any punishments. On the other hand, he spoke on his accomplices behalf when Cicero asked to punish them with capital sentence, but the Senate, even thanks to a Cato the Younger's speech, decided to punish them with death. At the end, he got the government of Spain, and he made profit of the occasion by enriching himself. By the time he returned Rome he was rich and ready to join Pompey, famous for his military accomplishments, and Crassus, the richest man in Rome, in the first triumvirate (60 BC), which was to take care of the res publica. Caesar got the consulate the following year with Bibulus, who bitterly opposed him and his projects, but failed and retired from public life. Caesar eventually managed to fulfill his wishes and Crassus' and Pompey's during his consulate (gave lands to Pompey's soldiers and made appalts for publicans, who were equites that were to get taxes in the provinces -- this is one of the way Crassus enriched himself) and got the proconsulate of Gaul and Illyricum the following year. During his proconsulate, he took the whole Celtic Gaul over. The casus belli was the migration of the Helvetians in the Aedui's lands. During the war, he also arrived in Britain, even crossing the Thames, but his conquests were limited and didn't last long. He also crossed the Rhine and dealt with Ariovist, but didn't conquer anything beyond the Rhine -- the expedition against the Germans was just punitive. At the end, Caesar crushed a pangallic alleance led by the king of Arverns Vergingetorix during the famous battle of Alesia. Gaul was finally a roman province. Caesar also wrote a commentarius during the war, which will be eventually published (unlike greek commentarii) as De Bello Gallico. Meanwhile, Senate in Rome were worried about Caesar's successes. Since Crassus had died while fighting in Syria in 53 BC, it put all its hopes in Pompey, who became consul sine collega to stop Caesar's ambition. The Senate gave Caesar, who had asked to become consul in absentia but eventually failed, an ultimatum, and it ordered him to come to Rome without the imperium on his troops. Caesar refused; he crossed the Rubicon, the limit of the pomerium, with his army, starting a civil war with Pompey and his faction. Pompey wanted to sorround Caesar's army through his troops in Spain, but Caesar first attacked the Pompeians in Spain; then went against Pompey, who was in Greece. Caesar's devoted and well trained army crushed Pompey's at Pharsalus in 48 BC, and Pompey fled to Lesbos and then to Egypt, where the ruling monarch Ptolomeus XIII (who was just 14) ordered to kill him, to engrace himself at Caesar's eyes. The boy misjudged Caesar, since the latter was shocked to see his rival's head sewered, even though Caesar probably didn't cry as Caesar he claims in the De Bello Civili. In Egypt, Caesar started an affair with Cleopatra VII, who probably gave him a son, Ptolomeus XV. Because of that, he supported Cleopatra VII as the sole ruler of Egypt, but he was opposed by Egyptian people and, of course, Ptolomeus XIII. After those disorders in Egypt, Caesar fought against Pharnaces II, the king of Ponthus, a Pompey's ally who had begun to attack roman cities in East, at Zela, and defeated him very quickly; then Caesar defeated Cato the Younger at Tapsus, too. Cato didn't want to live under Caesar's tyranny, and killed himself, becoming the simbol of republican ideals and stoic death. Caesar then returned to Rome, but left almost immediately to fight Pompey's sons in Spain, Gnaeus and Sextus, and Titus Labienus, an old ally of Caesar who had bertrayed him at the start of civil war. Caesar defeated them both at Munda, even with the help of his young nephew Octavius, who proved his supposed braveness. Caesar then returned to Rome and celebrated many triumphs: over Egypt, over Pharnaces, over Gaul and even over Pompey's sons, breaking the roman tradition not to celebrate any triumph over a roman. He was made dictator perpetuus in early 44 BC (he had already been made dictator in 48 BC, but only for 10 years) and added the title of imperator to his titulature. He became consul in 46, in 45 (sine collega) and in 44 BC. He raised magistrates and senators' number, maybe to supply civil war's losses, introduced Julian calendar, founded some colonies, built a Forum (Caesar's Forum). However, his unskillness to handle his own honours led some senators to believe - correctly or uncorrectly - that he was willing to become a king. Caesar was killed in March 15th, 44 BC, in the Theatre of Pompey, by a group of roughly 60 senators led by Marcus Brutus and Gaius Cassius. He was 55 or 54 years old.

This is a useful bibliography on Caesar I think you might find useful:

Ancient sources:
- Appian, Roman History, De bellis civilibus, II
- Cassius Dio
- Caesar, De Bello Gallico; De Bello Civili; ?De Bello Africo?; De Bello Alexandrino; ?De Bello Hispaniensi?
- Cicero, Epistulae ad Atticum; Orationes in Catilinam; Philippicae; Caesarian orations: Pro Marcello; Pro Ligario; Pro Rege Deiotaro
- Lucan, Pharsalia
- Plutarch, Parallel Lives, Caesar
- Sallust, De Coniuratione Catilinae
- Suetonius, De Vita Caesarum, Caesar

Secondary sources
- L. Canfora, Cesare. Dittatore democratico
- T. A. Dodge, Caesar
- A. Goldsworthy, Caesar: Life of a Colossus
- L. Keppie, L., Colonisation and Veteran Settlement in Italy, 47-14 BC
- R. Syme, The Roman Revolution
- C. Meier, Caesar
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