Julius Caesar is a historical figure known for his political ambition, as well as the spotlight thrust upon him thanks to Williams Shakespeare’s play, The Tragedy of Julius Caesar. Julius Caesar was born on July 13, 100 B.C. There is not much documentation on the childhood of Julius Caesar. He was born into privilege in a family that claims lineage from the son of Venus, the goddess. His father was a praetor and his mother was from an affluent family as well. However, even with their political connections, they were not politically influential (wikipedia.org).
Caesar’s father died unexpectedly and he found himself as the man of the house. At this time, his uncle was involved in a war between his uncle and Sulla. It was during this time that Caesar was nominated to be a high priest and he was married to Cornelia. When his uncle was defeated, however, Caesar lost all of his titles, as well as his inheritance. He was supposed to divorce his wife but he refused and went into hiding. His mother’s family had connections to Sulla and they lifted all threats against him and he was able to move back into the public light. However, he did not feel safe to be so close to Sulla, his uncle’s enemy, so he moved away from Rome and started his military career. He went back to Rome only after the death of Sulla, when he truly felt safe.
Caesar finally gets a taste of politics when he is elected to the military tribune. During this time, his Aunt Julia passed away, as well as his wife, Cornelia. This would set the stage for Caesar’s ultimate goal. After her funeral, Caesar went to serve in Spain and it is here that he encounters a statue of Alexander the Great. Caesar pondered his life and realized that he really has not accomplished much in his life. When he returned to Rome, he married Pompeia. He soon divorced her after her involvement in a religious scandal. He decided to run for the title of Pontifex Maximus. Using his political savvy, it was an easy win for him.
Later on, he ran for the position on consul and he won. Caesar was indebted to a man named Crassus, who did not get along with Pompey. Caesar wanted the men to get along because combined, the men had enough money and influence to control public business. This is how the first triumvirate was formed – it was an informal group. Eventually this triumvirate fell apart as Caesar and Pompey were engaged in a civil war against each other. Caesar’s authority and political influence are sealed here. He is appointed dictator and he conquers many tribes and nations.
Caesar experienced a time of greatness. Everything seemed good. Everyone was celebrating the many victories Caesar had accumulated. During his dictatorship, Caesar had many contributions. He set out to make Rome a true Republic. One on his greatest and most influential changes had to do with changing the calendar. The calendar was once based on the movement of the moon. Caesar opted to follow the Egyptian example and based the calendar on the movement of the sun, including adding room for a leap year.
Caesar had amassed some enemies during his climb to the top. Instead of punishing them, however, he forgave them. He actually formally pardoned them. This allowed them to still hold political offices and to remain close to Caesar. This action made his ultimate demise that much more of a true backstabbing: these men were supposed to be his friends. Some of these very men were part of the conspiracy to assassinate him. Caesar was set to appear before the Senate that day, on the Ides of March, which according to Shakespeare, he probably would have been better off staying at home. There were around sixty men involved in the assassination. Some were involved with the actual stabbing, others were responsible for making sure Caesar made it to his meeting with the Senate, while others were responsible for keeping other people away from Caesar so they would not interfere. Caesar was approached by Tillius Cimber with a paper asking for the reinstatement of his exiled brother. It was during this time that Caesar was attacked. He was stabbed twenty three times. Even though he was stabbed so many times, only one wound actually killed him: the dagger struck in the chest. Caesar was left to lay on the steps for three hours until somebody finally came to collect his body.
The assassination of Julius Caesar was supposed to be a major political move by the members of the Senate. However, they were blinded by their political agenda. Caesar may not have been very popular among the Senate or among Rome’s richest because of the reforms that he passed that were not beneficial to them. They failed to recognize how popular Caesar was with the lower and middle class of Rome. Caesar’s reforms were beneficial to them and they were now angry because Caesar, who fought for them, was taken away by the Senate and as they saw it, the upper class. This ignited several civil wars and signaled the end of the Roman Republic.
Julius Caesar’s life reads like a Hollywood tabloid. It is full of fame, fortune, drama, scandal, and then backstabbing. He started his life with no real political savvy, even though his family was upper class. He then found himself on the wrong side of the law and had no money and was in debt. A chance meeting with a statue of Alexander the Great put him on the path to greatness, where, surrounded by friends, he meets his gruesome end.
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