Sunday 31 July 2016

Julius Caesar

Gaius Julius Caesar was born into an upper-class Roman family of ancient lineage. He claimed to trace his ancestry back to kings of early Rome and the Roman goddess of love, Venus.  He grew up amid the intense political conflicts that wrecked the declining Roman Republic to become one of the greatest politician and general of Rome.

Julius Caesar

He was a blatant womanizer notorious for his affairs with married women - he may have been natural father of one of his eventual assassins, Marcus Brutus. In pursuit of public office he spent far beyond his resources and fell into debt. He was widely distrusted among the Roman elite as unprincipled in the pursuit of money and power.

In 60 BC, Caesar made a private agreement with the wealthy and powerful general and politician Marcus Licnius Crassus, and  Pompey, Rome's most successful general to work together to dominate Roman politics. He was elected to consulship and was appointed in command in the Roman provinces of Gaul(France). 

In Gaul he spent his years campaigning against the Celtic and Germanic tribes moving beyond beyond the borders of his provincial command, making forays across the Rhine in Germany and north as far as river Thames in Britain. Victories brought him wealth and renounce and his legions became more loyal to him than to the Republic.  

Julius Caesar
This imperious statue of Caesar was made in 17th century France and is now in the Louvre, France. Caesar is considered to be hero of western civilization, partly through his own accounts of his military conquest.

In late 50 BC, the Senate under the control of Pompey, called on Caesar to disband his army after 10 years command in Gaul. Instead, Caesar led his legions across River Rubicon, region dividing Gaul from Italy. Easily occupying Rome and after two years of fighting, Caesar defeated Pompey at the battle of Pharsalus in 48 BC. Pompey escaped to Egypt where he was murdered and his sons Sextus and Gnaeus were defeated in 45 BC. 

Caesar's column
This column marks the place in Rimini,Italy, where Caesar crossed the river Rubicon in 49 BC.

The Republic appointed Caesar a temporary "Dictator"; a leader with exceptional power to cope with an emergency, but he permanently assumed the role , and advertised the fact on the coins. During his brief reign, Caesar introduced a zeal for reformation and reforms. He halved the number of Roman citizens depending on handouts of bread from the state by resettling the destitute in colonies in Italy.

Coin bearing Caesar's head

In March 44 BC Caesar planned to lead an army against the Parthians in the Middle East. A group of senators led by Gaius Cassius Longinus and Marcus Junius Brutus, inspired by idealistic attachment to the Republic, and the desire to defend their own privileges, conspired to kill him before he left Rome. They stabbed him in the assembly hall, where he had come to address the Senate. 

Caesar's death

The Forum, the heart of Rome, is where Caesar's supporter Mark Antony delivered a funeral oration over his body. Mark played a critical role in transformation of Roman Republic into the Roman Empire. A temple to Caesar was later erected on the spot where he was cremated. 

Based on the lunar calendar, the Roman year was only 355 days long, and was adjusted by the occasional extra month. Caesar introduced a 12 month year of 365 days, with a 366 leap year once every 4 years. To align Roman calendar with solar cycle, the year 46 BC was made into 445 day year. It was in general use in Europe until Gregorian calendar was introduced in 1582 CE, and is still used by Greek Orthodox Church. 

Julian Calendar

Caesar's death caused riots, and ironically, brought about the end of the Republic his assassins were trying to restore. Two years after his death, Senate made him a god. He is remembered today as a skilled orator, author and military leader.  



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