Julius Caesar

Gaius Julius Caesar (100 BC – 44 BC)

His name is synonymous with the titles ‘Dictator’; Kaiser, Czar, Tsar, etc. Interestingly, when he was a young man, Caesar had his first major political confrontation with a dictator, Lucius Cornelius Sulla. In the political tumult of Sulla’s rule, he twice marched his armies into Rome and assumed dictatorial powers. Ultimately, he restored the government and resigned the dictatorship, but during this period he dealt ruthlessly with political opponents and their families.

Sulla ordered a young Julius Caesar to divorce his wife, Cornelia, or go on the proscription list and lose his life. Caesar nobly refused to divorce her and went into hiding. Later, his mother’s family, who were supporters of Sulla, interceded for him and Sulla relented.

Cornelia died in 69 BC. After her funeral he travelled to Spain to serve his term as quaestor. While there, he is said to have become upset when he came across a statue of Alexander the Great, reminding him that Alexander had already conquered the world when he was his age. Caesar returned to Rome and pursued his political career with great skill combined with the liberal use of bribery. In doing so, he amassed a great amount of debt. To help resolve his situation, he entered into a political arrangement with Marcus Licinius Crassus, one of the richest men in Rome. Caesar agreed to support Crassus against his political enemy, Pompey the Great, in return for Crassus’ financial support.

Later, in 60 BC, he brought the Crassus and Pompey together, and they secretly formed The First Triumvirate which was known only to them. Pompey and Crassus agreed to support Caesar in his run for election for consul, and he agreed to support their interests once he was consul. This worked for a while. When his term of office was up, Caesar went to Gaul (current France) where he achieved great military success. Crassus went east with his army and was severely defeated by the Parthians who beheaded him. After Caesar invaded Britain, his military accomplishments made him a threat to Pompey and his standing as Rome’s greatest military leader. Also, the Senate was fearful that Caesar would return from Gaul and take away their power by military force. In 50 BC, they ordered him to disband his army, telling him that his term of governor was over.

Caesar knew that the Senate would prosecute him upon his return to Rome. So, he surprised them and crossed the Rubicon River into northern Italy in 49 BC. Hearing of this, Pompey immediately fled to Greece with his newly recruited army. Caesar left Mark Antony in charge in Rome and followed after Pompey, defeating him  later that year in the Battle at Pharsalus. Pompey fled to Egypt to seek asylum but was instead murdered by young King Ptolemy. When Caesar arrived in Egypt, he became angry with Ptolemy. Though Pompey was his political enemy, he was still a Roman nobleman, and it was not the place of  a lowly Egyptian boy king to murder him. Caesar then began a relationship with young Cleopatra and supported her in her civil war against Ptolemy.

Upon his return to Rome, Caesar forgave many of those who’d fought against him on the side of Pompey and put them back in positions of power. This proved to be his undoing. Among those he forgave were Brutus and Cassius, the leaders of the group of conspirators who assassinated him on the Ides of March, 44 BC.