Some people argue that Caesar was a selfish power-hungry emperor while others believe he was an intelligent strategist who developed revolutionary ideas that are still used today. To investigate these claims, several topics will be researched including the details of his rule and the many changes he made to develop Rome into an empire. Some specific research topics include Caesar’s rise to power (The First Triumvirate), Caesar’s expansion of the Roman empire, the conversion of Rome from a republic into an empire, and Caesar’s reform for the city of Rome. These topics will point out that even though the poorer classes idolized his many achievements, Caesar’s disregard for political procedures, powerful control of the military, and attempt to rule solely led to his untimely demise. The goal of the paper is to evaluate Caesar’s accomplishments and determine if he truly was a power-hungry ruler or an ambitious emperor who was too smart for his own good.
Caesar’s rise to power began on either the 12th or 13th of July 100 BC when he was born to Gaius Julius Caesar and Aurelia Cotta into the Julii family (Wheeler). The father and uncle of Julius had ties to the party of Marius which was known as the popular party (Taylor). At the age of 16, Julius became the head of his household when his father passed away. By this time, Caesar’s uncle had risen to power and was named the consul which gave him the ability to appoint Julius to the position of High Priest of Jupiter (Wheeler). This was Caesar’s first taste of a position of power, but he desired more and married into a noble family after divorcing his first wife in order to set himself in a position of higher status (Wheeler). Caesar’s uncle was overturned as emperor and Caesar was stripped of his position as the High Priest of Jupiter by Sulla who had become dictator of Rome following the defeat of the Marius at the Battle of Colline Gate because he was unwilling to divorce his new wife to marry someone in Sulla’s family (Taylor). This incident led to the fleeing of Caesar to the East where he joined the Roman army in Turkey. He received the Civic Crown in honor of his bravery in the Siege of Mytilene (Wheeler).
Caesar was then able to return to Rome following the death of Sulla in the year 78 BC, and he became a lawyer who was known for his ability to attack and defend in court (Wheeler). Caesar began his quick climb of the political ladder in 72 BC when he served as the military tribune for the year, and a quaestor in Spain, Rome following the death of his wife in 69 BC ( Wheeler). When Caesar returned from Spain, he married the granddaughter of Sulla and bribed his way into being elected Pontifex Maximus (Wheeler). Caesar later divorced this wife and was elected the governor of Spain which allowed him to create an unofficial alliance also known as the first triumvirate with Pompey and Crassus(Wheeler). This unofficial alliance was sealed when Caesar gave his daughter Julia to Pompey and was elected consul in the following year 59 BC (Wheeler). Through this election as consul, Caesar began to set the stage for his rise to power in the form of his Agrarian Bill which gave the wasteland in Italy to the soldiers and poor of Rome, gaining the support of the lower class and the soldiers. This election also set the stage for Caesar to become the governor of Roman Gaul in 58 BC (Wheeler). Caesar’s rise to power shows us the dedication and perseverance Caesar had to become something greater than what he was. We also see the abilities of Caesar in combat as he was awarded the Civic Crown and this set the stage for his success in his desire to expand the borders of Rome.
Caesar’s new position as the governor of the Roman Gaul led to his desire to expand his rule over more land and the people who inhabited these lands, so he set his sights on conquering all of Gaul which led to the Gallic Wars (Wheeler). Caesar was able to win battle after battle in the conquest of Gaul, and it wasn’t long before he was able to focus on other conquests such as extending the Roman territory deeper than ever into Germany beyond the Rhine (Wheeler). These conquests and victories groomed Caesar into a brilliant leader and strategist that would later go on to extend the empire of Rome to a magnitude greater than it had ever been before. The success that Caesar was having as a general led to unrest back home in Rome as Pompey was growing more wary of the power that Caesar was accumulating. Fights were constantly breaking out between supporters of Caesar and the supporters of Pompey, but Caesar was unaware of these events and continued to press on into Gaul in his conquest (Wheeler). As Caesar continued to extend the Roman territory into new provinces, it raised questions as to whether Caesar was fighting for his own power, or for the good of the Roman empire and the people that were in it.
This question is answered as Caesar, against the wishes of the Senate, crossed the Rubicon River. This action was very significant because it directly disobeyed the leaders in Rome and it was an act of war according to the law of the Roman Republic (Redonet). Why would Caesar choose to disobey a direct command and declare war? From the account of the historian Suetonius, it was stated that a man sent from the gods sounded a trumpet, and Caesar declared Take we the course which the signs of the gods and the false dealing of our foes point out. The die is cast (Redonet). This states that Caesar based his decision to declare war, disobey the Senate, and begin a civil war in Rome on this apparition sent from the gods. Caesar’s decision to directly disobey the law and Senate did, in fact, begin a war in Rome and began the end for the conquest of Gaul (Redonet). When Caesar subjugated Gaul, Rome gained a large increase in territory that protected it from invasions, but Caesar benefited from this victory the most in the form of war glory and Gallic gold that he used to pay off many Roman senators debt in exchange for their support (Redonet). This speaks volumes as to the man Caesar is. He disobeyed the law directly and began a war in the name of strengthening the power of Rome when the true intent was political gain and glory for himself. It shows that he was a superior war leader, but a corrupt individual with only the thirst for his own benefit. At the end of his conquest of Gaul, Pompey and his group of optimate allies obliged Caesar to give up his position as governor, dismantle his army, and lose his immunity that came with the position of governor (Redonet).
The end of the Gallic wars marked the beginning of Caesar’s ascent to rule over Rome and the conversion of Rome from a republic to an empire. Caesar, even though he had broken Roman law would not resign his position of power as governor and decided he would remain governor and run for reelection the following year. Pompey and the optimates were set on taking away the power Caesar had accumulated and looked to the Senate to dismantle his army and elect a new governor, but once word of this reached Caesar, he decided he must defend himself politically and through his military power (Redonet). This again shows Caesar’s direct disobedience of those in positions greater than his own, supporting the idea that he was merely looking out for his own gain. He resorted to bribery in the senate to avoid losing his power and position. After the deadline for Caesar to resign his position, Pompey began to take actions against Caesar such as tricking Caesar into sending a legion of troops to Italy where Pompey then took control of them (Redonet). This only angered Caesar and the rivalry between himself and Pompey only grew until an all-out war was on the brink of occurring (Redonet). The Senate voted that Caesar and Pompey both dismantle their armies at the same time, but secretly asked Pompey to act against Caesar in order to preserve the republic (Redonet).
The senate’s desire for Pompey to take action against Caesar while also declaring a mutual peace agreement take place was against the law. This shows that it was common practice to disobey the Roman law when it was seen as for the good of Rome. In Caesar’s eyes, he may have seen it as being for the good of the people when he previously crossed the Rubicon and broke the law, but this does show his corruption as a leader that he would break the law in order to achieve success. The Senate went on to vote to make Caesar a public enemy, but Mark Antony vetoed this action because he was Caesar’s ally (Redonet). The Senate continued their votings and decided that they needed to pull armies together in order to protect Rome from any attacks, and when Antony and Quintus Cassius attempted to combat this vote, they were forced to flee for their lives to Caesar in Gaul (Redonet). Caesar felt he had no choice but to use his loyal army in order to take power over Rome to avoid losing his own power and commenced his long war with Pompey and his many followers. Caesar’s struggle to end Pompey and his supporters brought him to Egypt where Pompey was killed by the Egyptian ruler Ptolemy XIII, and this is where Caesar helped Cleopatra VII, who would later play a role in Caesar’s ultimate demise, to win the civil war that was going on in Egypt (Redonet). Caesar was finally able to return to Rome after several more battles to defeat the remaining supporters of Pompey the Roman people had only one choice, to accept him as their powerful ruler (Hussein). Caesar went on to end the republic in Rome declared himself as dictator for life (Heather).
Caesar once named the ruler of Rome drastically reformed the city of Rome in several ways. The most well-known change that took place was Caesar’s rule as the only individual with power over Rome who was self-appointed, whereas, before Caesar, they had a republic with an appointed official to rule with a set of written laws that acted as a constitution. He created a lasting effect in Rome. The name Caesar became the new name for all of the new rulers after Caesar and even carried over into many cultures (Karpf). With his new power, Caesar began the practice of placing an image of himself on the coinage, a practice that is now very common in today’s world (Karpf). He also improved how the land and grain was distributed, often giving more to the poor and to the soldiers that fought for Rome (Redonet). He also established new forms of government across Italy, putting officials into power that he felt were fit to do the job (Redonet). Caesar’s actions pleased the commoners of Rome because he gave land, food, and entertainment to them, but the other political figures in Rome grew jealous of him and the power he now had. Caesar had grown comfortable in his position of power, and was unaware of the plot that was going on around him that included his most trusted friends including Marcus Brutus “”The Assassination of Julius Caesar, 44 BC. Caesar lay dying beneath the statue of Pompey, a legendary general, a man who served the people, a corrupt politician who used bribery, and a self-proclaimed ruler of Rome. With the many reforms that Caesar had begun to make, he had only had about a year before this assassination took place. The closest friends of Caesar, the men he trusted most had deemed it the best interest of Rome to end his life, an act that again supports the idea that Julius Caesar wasn’t the compassionate, caring leader he thought himself to be.
Julius Caesar was one of the most successful war generals in Roman history who was able to extend the borders of Rome further than they had ever been before, but his success as a general led to his ultimate demise. He was a man hungry for power, so hungry that he was willing to break the laws of his people and create wars that killed many citizens in his quest for his power. The power he held caused him to change the way Rome ran, taking away the voice of the people and replaced it with what he thought was in their best interest. Julius Caesar did leave a lasting impression on the world, but it was not all in a positive way. Overall, Caesar was a power-hungry ruler who held himself above the law and ultimately caused his own downfall.
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