Julius Caesar [Cliff notes to correcting common pop culture misconceptions]

Caesar was:

  • A great leader, the embodiment of what Rome wanted their politicians to be

    Votes: 5 25.0%
  • A flawed but justified leader

    Votes: 4 20.0%
  • I didn't read the thread, he was a power mad dictator right?

    Votes: 4 20.0%
  • None of the above

    Votes: 7 35.0%

  • Total voters
    20
Status
Closed
Jul 2019
592
New Jersey
How does pointless obstructionism help a Republic at all?
How was Cato a pointless obstructionist? Did not Caesar ultimately prove his point? Cato represented what was left of the virtues which made the Romans great. After the collapse of the Republic, the Roman character went only downhill.
 

Caesarmagnus

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
3,572
Australia
How was Cato a pointless obstructionist? Did not Caesar ultimately prove his point?
That’s like me saying to my neighbour “one day you’re going to kill me”, then breaking into his house with a gun and bemoaning my fate after he shoots me in self-defence. It only becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy if you make it. Did you read my opening post at all? Caesar wasn’t trying to take over the state, he was forced to.
 

Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
4,463
Dispargum
What virtues made the Romans great?
According to one historian who was also a part time humorist (or was he a humorist who was also a part time historian?) those virtues were: gravitas, pietas, simplicitas, and adultery.
 

aggienation

Ad Honorem
Jul 2016
9,738
USA
The list of consuls is engraved in stone and is used verbatim by historians. Google "list of Roman consuls" and it'll come up. You can also see the specific artefact here: Fasti Capitolini - Wikipedia
It affirms 1 Julian consul in 275 years. I obviously can't reference a negative such as the absence of evidence as to them serving as praetors, but the ggf and gf are referred to as senators whenever mentioned, and there is no reference to them being praetors (which is standard in ancient histories), so minus any evidence they were praetors the assumption is they were not. It's also unclear when they'd have served as such, no proposed timeline I've seen works. His father we are told made praetor. You can find this in literally any book on Julius Caesar. I will google a few basic books you can read when I am home (I am out of town and don't have my books with me), but those same basic books will note the Julian family hadn't been in the limelight lately (which is kind of obvious from the 275 year figure I alluded to). That seemed to turn around at the same time the marriage to Marius happened, for what reason we can't be totally sure. If you're in a hurry, just google "biography of Caesar" or "biography of Marius", any of the main books to come up will likely mention it. If someone asks me when WW2 happened I'll know to tell them 1939 without remembering the specific book I first/last read it in, because it's basic knowledge that you have ingrained for a topic. But this took me 2 minutes to find:
Julius Caesar
Or read this:
Sulla
There you go. Enjoy. Like I said, pretty basic stuff here.
:confused: I literally provided that exact list of consuls a few pages back, here, and now you're throwing it back out to Historum members like you found it through diligent academic search.

No, there is not master list of praetors, there was for consuls because that was how they recorded the years.

The Julii were an ancient gens, but the Caesari were a very late branch of the Julii. There is no known evidence that the Caesari had achieved Roman magistrate level positions until the late 3rd Cent BC (though considering how little of Roman history was preserved that doesn't even prove anything in of itself). But what we do know, because the ancients recorded it and it survived, was that within a century the Caesari produced multiple consuls and praetors, with all members of the family being Senators, and all before Marius came along.

And for the fourth time now, of the Julii Caesari that came to power in the late 2nd Cent BC/early 1st Cent BC, only one was a known ally of Marius (Gaius), one was unknown (Sextus), and two were KNOWN ENEMIES (Lucius and Gaius Strabo, both of whom were murdered by Marian supporters in the civil war). You're attempting to claim, with zero sources, that Marius raised the Julii Caesari. But the names of the above shows that at least half of them were enemies of Marius, and the fact that they'd been a consular and praetorian family throughout the 2nd Cent BC shows you're wrong.

What is most disturbing isn't that you don't actually know this, but how arrogant and condescending you are while ignorant. For instance, you still refuse to provide any actual sources about any of this. Historum policy is, when asked, to provide sources to back up your claims. You telling individuals to google "Caesar biography" or "Marius biography" is not sourcing, and is as unhistorical as it comes, and you should be ashamed of yourself! No, this is not basic human knowledge, because we're talking about long dead individuals whose lives are only known because of historical works that spoke about them. This is not religion or philosophy where you can pronounce something based on faith and then argue it, this is history, which is "the study of past events, particularly in human affairs" done primarily through written primary and secondary sources. Where are yours?
 

aggienation

Ad Honorem
Jul 2016
9,738
USA
For the benefit of the uninitiated could you point me to the body of thought that forms the historical consensus (that the Julii were doing badly politically before Marius) ?

Also, as an outsider to the conversation so far, I wouldn't mind if you could reference your sources on the exact number of political appointments for the family for the few generations before Julius Caesar. At the moment we (the uninitiated) seem to have divergent opinions of which only one has been referenced.
There is no written evidence to support what CM is suggesting, its unfounded speculation that is most touched on by fictional novelists, not historians.

The history of the Julii Caesari was never pieced together fully in the ancient times, not even in Caesar Dictator or Augustus' ancient biographies, who made up far more than was true (like stating that Caesar Dictator grew up poor, when that was definitely not the case).

From various surviving sources modern historians have been able to piece together a web of info about the larger Caesari branch of the Julii, which encompassed numerous distinct families that were fully allied with one another (for example, Caesar Dictator's branch and that of his distant cousin Lucius Julius Caesar, who shared a great great grandfather, making them third cousins or thereabouts). I'm not trying to suggest they didn't consider themselves family, for instance most know that Caesar Dictator acknowledged the blood link between he and Marcus Antonius, from the latter's mother who was a Julia, daughter of the consul L. Julius Caesar who was murdered by Marius' supporters during the Civil War. So there was definitely kinship within the family, but they don't appear to be heavily politically linked. Which is not particularly odd, as Roman history of the great families is rife with stories about how brothers opposed brothers, so even within one nuclear family there was still opposition.

So in the case of Marius and his role, what did he do to the Julii Caesari? Historians have no clue.

He was married into the family, around 110 BC or thereabouts. He definitely was allied with Gaius Julius Caesar, Father of the Dictator, who was a praetor and pro-consular governor of a province. But Marius was not known to have been a supporter of Sextus Caesar, uncle of the Dictator, who was a consul. And Marius definitely was not a supporter of the other branch of the Julii Caesari, that spawned L. Caesar the murdered Consul, nor his brother G. Caesar Strabo the praetor, also murdered by Marian supporters.

More so, when exactly was Marius even powerful? He was not powerful until he managed to win his first consulship, in 107 BC. He most at his height of his power among the Senate and People from 104-100 BC, where he held five consecutive consulships in a row, during the Cimbri War and immediately after. But Marius fell from favor after his sixth consulship in 100 BC, after a nasty civil disturbance in Rome that Marius helped create, where eventually he had to turn on his own creation, the People's Tribune L. Appuleius Saturninus, and his mob of supporters, many of whom were also Marius' supporters, allying with the Senate and elite of Rome in crushing the mob, while also failing miserably in an attempt a land redistribution for his own veterans that failed. Following that year, Marius actually quit Rome for an extended "vacation" to the East, which lasted for years. I bring this up because we know that it was during this time that Gaius Caesar and Sextus Caesar came into being praetors. So if Marius was responsible, he used his influence at the time he had the least clout and popularity.

Marius definitely played a large part in Gaius Caesar's life, because we know how much that Caesar Dictator linked himself heavily with his uncle. But does that really mean a close connection? Caesar Dictator also professed his close relationship with Venus, who his family history was supposed descended of. Just because Caesar promoted it, doesn't make it true. More likely, Caesar Dictator, having chosen the role of Populares, to win power by appealing to the baser People of Rome against the oligarch, chose to use his uncle's fame to gain power for himself.
 

Menshevik

Ad Honorem
Dec 2012
9,279
here
According to Cato the Younger, those associated with Stoicism.
According to one historian who was also a part time humorist (or was he a humorist who was also a part time historian?) those virtues were: gravitas, pietas, simplicitas, and adultery.
Well, I'm taking issue with Abraham's suggestion that Roman virtues (whatever they are) and Roman greatness went downhill post Republic. I don't see how that's necessarily true or accurate. It's a bold (and vague!) claim, me thinks..... perhaps he would care to explain?
 
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Caesarmagnus

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
3,572
Australia
Aggie believe it or not I knew about the list of Roman consuls before you mentioned it, hence the 1 in 550 figure. It's not some obscure, arcane knowledge. It's common knowledge, but since that guy asked for it I provided it. Something else I provided him, that you apparently didn't read while skimming my post, was two books that say the same thing I do about Marius helping the rise of Caesar's family (hint; try clicking the links). It is not "fiction", it is a common view in academia. I could have kept googling for more sources and found more that say the same, I recommend you try it before making absurd claims about common knowledge being merely a work of fiction. If you read people's posts clearly in future, or you know some history books, you won't embarrass yourself with claims about how "I should be ashamed" or "you're making up stuff!" What's funnier about these claims, and what makes it impossible to take you seriously, is that this tangent started with you asking me to look the source up because you had read it yourself, but couldn't remember where, and you've moved from that to claiming it was an invention of mine. You've lost the plot. I also don't think you should be lecturing anyone on the niceties of Roman families in the late republic, given you thought Sulla being a patrician assured him of greatness (something that was categorically untrue). You clearly have a lot of holes in your knowledge of this period dude.
 
Last edited:
Feb 2011
1,091
Scotland
It seems to me that we are not looking at whether Caesar was always ambitious for power, or whether he was- as he claimed- driven to it by the oppressive activities of others.

One problem is with the sources. Aside from Caesar's own commentaries- the principal contemporary source and one which puts his point that he was simply a law-abiding senator going about his duties until forced to defend himself- most other accounts of his life are written considerably later. Asinius Pollio's works are contemporary but lost and are believed to be one of the sources for Plutarch and Appian; but he was a Caesarian officer anyway. Suetonius too is writing later. Though he might have had access to official records for his life of Caesar, all later writers are affected by the fact that they are writing about the founder of the 100-year Julio-Claudian dynasty, the cause of the Principate under which they were writing, a man declared to have been a god and the father of the first Augustus. By that time, Caesar's life had taken on a hue of divine guidance and providence, the Man who Would be King. To suggest that he had been subject to overweening ambition; well, that was a stance which might appear to suggest that Caesar had perhaps not had the highest motives for the Roman state?

Indeed, under the Principate, to suggest that the 'Liberators' Brutus and Cassius had been justified, that they had been 'The last of the Romans'- well, that could get you killed, as Cremutius Cordus found out under Tiberius- and he wasn't alone.

Nevertheless, despite the official censorship of any view that Caesar had not been acting for the highest motives, it is possible to discern an alternative narrative in the information that is available.

Appian- and others- dated the commencement of the final bout of civil wars in the collapse of the Republic to 60BCE.
If Caesar was simply a candidate like any other, then why was there such determined opposition to his Consulship in 59? If he had no particular ambitions beyond illuminating his family tree with a consulship or iterations, why did he need to be drawn into the First Triumvirate to attempt to lever the state to their mutual advantage? Why did he then subsequently seek an active command, which he then pushed beyond its limits in undertaking the conquest of Gaul? In the course of this Caesar built up massive wealth, patronage and authority, as well as the most potent armed force in the Roman world, sworn in loyalty to himself and relying upon Caesar for their future benefits. Presumably Caesar did not know for certain that he would possess such talent, even though he may have been confident; but his enemies may have been hoping, for the sake of the Republic, that he would lose his army, and his life.

Instead, by 50 the Triumvirate was a rather broken Duumvirate and Pompey had been brought on board by the senate to defend the Republic. If Pompey could defeat Caesar, then the Republic would obtain some kind of stability again, with no other extant warlords to threaten it provided Pompey were content to retain the position he held. Caesar was right that at this juncture his options were to attack, or forfeit his career and maybe even his life. But he wouldn't have got himself into such a position unless he had been driven by ambition in the first place. Naturally, he was keen to blame his enemies for the war about to commence. But it seems unlikely that Marcellus, Lentulus, Cato, Cicero and co would have opposed Caesar unless they saw his ambitions as a threat.

Cicero supposedly later regretted not taking Caesar down during his consulship in 63 during the Cataline affair, when Caesar had spoken up for Cataline. Given the earlier points about Cato and his virtues, I believe it was Cato to whom Cicero referred in stating that 'He thinks he's living in the Republic of Plato when he's actually in the Crap of Romulus'.
 
Status
Closed