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Saturday, July 6, 2013

Julius Caesar was the usurper

Gaius Julius Caesar

Gaius Julius Caesar, raised in a well-known patrician family, was the one responsible for the fall of the Roman Republic. Nevertheless, he is regarded as a great leader and politician who after a campaign against Pompey became a consul. He is also famous for conquering Gaul and marvellously written diaries describing his war efforts. All Rome's sovereigns after him took the "Caesar" title, probably hoping that a part of his fame would become their as well.

Julius Caesar's youth

Julius Caesar's history begins on 12.07.102 or 100 BC,when he was born in a family which was a part of the Julius dynasty, which is said to be found by Aeneas. Caesar's father was working as a praetor and died when Caesar was at the age of 16 orphaning him and his two sisters. So the future conqueror was raised by his mother - Aurelia. At the age of 17 he married Cornelia, a granddaughter of Cornelius Cinna, who was the leader of the radical party. But his happiness didn't last long. In 82 BC, after Lucius Cornelius Sulla led the successful counter-revolution, Sulla ordered Caesar to divorce Cornelia. Caesar refused to carry out this order and was going to be banished and all his treasury to be taken away and losing the title of "flamens Dialis" - a priest of Jupiter. Caesar's friends and family pleaded for him and thanks to that he was found not guilty. Discouraged, Caesar went east and joined the army. He proved to be a superb soldier and fought in many battles and even got a laurel wreath "korona vita" for valour.

The beginning of Caesar's political career

In 79 BC, when Sulla died, Caesar returned to Rome to start his political career in the conventional way, by acting as a prosecuting advocate- of course, in his case, against prominent Sullan counter-revolutionaries. But this action didn't result in any positive way - Caesar didn't became famous nor did he had bigger chances of being chosen for an office, so he set out for Rhodes in 78 BC. He was kidnapped by pirates during his trip and released after 40 days after the ransom had been paid. He returned to Miletus where he quickly raised a naval force and started a war against the rulers of the sees - he won and had his captors crucified. He came back to Rome in 68 BC to his daughter Julia's funeral, which he used for political reasons. This encountered his wife's opposition, but Caesar didn't pay attention to it. His wife died the same year. Afterwards, Caesar travelled around the Empire trying to start a revolution. After his plans had failed he returned to Rome and married Pompeia, a distant relative of Pompey. It was a political marriage, which allowed Ceasar to become Pompey's closer associate. At the same time Caesar established a agreement with Pompey's enemy - Marcus Licinius Crassus. In 65 BC Caesar became one of the curule aediles. He took many loans at that time and organised olympics, thanks to which he became famous. Two years later he became the head priest, but this election was highly controversial. Caesar also was a part of Catiline's conspiracy, which aimed for coup d'etat. This plot also failed, due to Cicero's actions, but Caesar has been known as a conspirator since then.

The first triumvirate

After Cicero's abduction Caesar became a praetor. Unfortunately, he was often criticised and decided to abduct, but was chosen as governor of Spain. But when he tried to leave Rome he was stopped by his creditors and only thanks to Marcus Licinius Crassus's guarantee he could leave. During the year he spent in Spain he led a military expedition beyond the north-west frontier of his province, where he looted enough to pay his soldiers and still have quite a fortune for himself. He wanted to use the gold to get an office, but senate didn't allow him to start his own election campaign. So Caesar used the money to pay his debts and established an agreement with Pompey and Marcus Licinius Crassus in 60BC. A famous richman and a commander and a candidate for the consul office established a triumvirate to ensure that nothing, that could do any harm to them, would happen in the Roman Empire. Thanks to this agreement Caesar became a consul in 59 BC. He introduced many reforms which delighted his partners. At the same time Caesar became Gaul's governor.

The Gaul's conquest

In 58 BC Caesar started his the conquest of Gaul. His main purpose was to get as rich as possible. To establish a safe position on the front he had to get rid of the Germans, who also wanted to conquer the Gaul, and after that he attacked Britain. It took 7 years for Caesar to conquer whole Gaul and only due to his excellent strategic talent the campaign was so short. Not only did Caesar receive a lot of treasures but also the loyalty of his soldiers, who were expecting him to lead them to other successful battles. After this campaign Caesar decided to stay in Gaul with his army until he would be chosen as the new consul, what drove the senators mad. His political opponents wanted him to get back to Rome and be prosecuted for the things he had done when he was a consul. Caesar had made a decision, which resulted in the fall of Roman republic. He lead his armies across the river of Rubicon and said the well-known "Alea iacta est" and started his march towards Rome in January of 49BC.
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The fall of Roman Republic

Caesar's action resulted in a civil war. To excuse himself, he said he wants to defend the tribunes, who were recently cast out from Rome. Pompey had to leave Rome with senators to escape from Ceasar's army. One of Caesar's closest associates, Labienus, left him, but Caesar forgave him. Caesar's army during its march towards Rome encountered hardly any resistance. In fact, Pompey's army scattered or joined Caesar. As a result of this war, Caesar became the conqueror of Italy. But this wasn't enough for him, he set out for Spain, where Pompey was. It resulted in peace between the legion's commanders and Caesar and the war with Spain ended without any bloodshed. In December of 49 BC Caesar returned to Rome, but only for 11 days. This was the required amount of time to become elected as the new consul. Shortly after he led his armies east and fought series of battles in Greece. Pompey escaped to Egypt, where he was murdered by Ptolemeus, who wanted to have Caesar on his side.

Caesar and Cleopatra

At the same time there was a civil war in Egypt between Cleopatra and her brother. Cleopatra, knowing that Caesar has a huge army, wanted him on her side. But when he joined her, they weren't as successful as they had expected - they ended up in the Alexandria's palace, which was surrounded by mad local population. Relief came in 47 BC. Shortly after Caesar has left Egypt, Cleopatra gave birth to Caesar's son, Cesarion.

Caesar's wars

Caesar's aim was the conquer the whole world. He went on with his wars and won victory over an usurper in the kingdom of Piemont. After this victory he said another famous phrase "veni, vidi, vici" - I came, I saw, I won. In 46 BC Caesar was conquering north Africa and the following year Spain, where he fought against Pompey's sons. Between battles Caesar returned to Rome, but he had problems with establishing fundamental of his reign.

The plot against Caesar

Since 59 BC Caesar had been elected a consul five times and a dictator three times. Finally, in 44BC he became an eternal dictator. It was meant to be a lifelong title and it was in fact. On 15 March 44BC he was assassinated. He received 23 blows by dagger and only one was leathal. Most important conspirators were Gaius Cassius Longinus and Marcus Junius Brutus. "Et tu, Brute" ("You too, Brutus") was Caesar's expression of his particular anguish at being stabbed by a man whom he had forgiven, trusted, and loved. They were Caesar's closest associates, but he underestimated them. Thanks to Caesar they had gathered a fortune and high positions, what they couldn't stand. That's why they had murdered him. Formally, Ceasarion wasn't Caesar's son, so before he died Caesar had chosen Gaius Octavius, his sister's grandson, as his successor. On first January 42BC Caesar has been formally declared a god named Divus Iulius (Divine Julius).

Usurper of reformer?

How to recap Caesar's life? He definitely was an usurper. He reached his position thanks to his army and it was his reign's main foundation. He had limitless power, which was his aim for his whole life. But thinking about Caesar we see not only an usurper but also a great mastermind and reformer. He did everything he could to ensure law and order in Rome, which was beginning to fall apart after many years long anarchy. Caesar's best description are by Cicero, one of his political enemies, words: "Those are the attributes: calm and kind nature; delight in great minds; he listens to right and just requests and doesn't care about the careeriest's ones; he is clever and forward-looking... I admire his dignity and justice and intelligence". As a commander and politician he got rid of hatred towards his enemies. Some received high positions and fortunes. Caesar was also a writer - he wrote diaries and he was interested in grammar and he collected pieces of art. His best works are Diaries from the Gaul War and Diaries from the civil war. Both of them are written in excellent and beautiful Latin. They were examples of how to write your thoughts down for many centuries afterwards.

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