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Gaius Iulius Caesar

Introduction

Roman politician of patrician origins but slender means, whose military genius, as displayed in the Gallic Wars (58–50 BC), enabled Rome to extend her empire permanently to the Atlantic seaboard, but whose ruthless ambition led to the breakdown of the Republican system of government at home. Never one to allow himself to be blocked by constitutional niceties, in 60 BC he joined with Pompey and Crassus (the so-called First Triumvirate) to protect his interests in the state, and in 49 BC, to avoid being humbled by his enemies at Rome, he led his army across the R Rubicon into Italy and plunged the state into civil war. Victory over the Pompeian forces at Pharsalus (48 BC), Zela (47 BC), Thapsus (46 BC), and Munda (45 BC) left him in sole control at Rome. He did not disguise his absolute power, taking the title ‘Dictator for Life’ in 44 BC, and allowing himself to be paid extravagant honours which suggested he was aiming at regal and even divine status. This was too much for many Republican-minded Romans, and under the leadership of Brutus and Cassius they conspired to murder him. His brief period of power left him with little time to carry through the many reforms, social, economic, and administrative, that he had intended. It was left to his great-nephew and heir, Octavian (the future Emperor Augustus) to reap where he had sown, and also to learn from his mistakes.


The Life of Julius Caesar

The wife of Caesar1 was Cornelia, the daughter of the Cinna who had once held the sole power at Rome,2 and when Sulla became master of affairs,3 he could not, either by promises or threats, induce Caesar to put her away, and therefore confiscated her dowry. 2Now, the reason for Caesar's hatred of Sulla was Caesar's relationship to Marius. For Julia, a sister of Caesar's father, was the wife of Marius the Elder, and the mother of Marius the Younger, who was therefore Caesar's cousin. 3Moreover, Caesar was not satisfied to be overlooked at first by Sulla, who was busy with a multitude of proscriptions, but he came before the people as candidate for the priesthood, although he was not yet much more than a stripling. 4To this candidacy Sulla secretly opposed himself, and took measures to make Caesar fail in it, and when he was deliberating about putting him to death and some said there was no reason for killing a mere boy like him, he declared that they had no sense if they did not see in this boy many Mariuses.4 5When this speech was reported to Caesar, he hid himself for some time, wandering about in the country of the Sabines. 6Then, as he was changing his abode by night on account of sickness, he fell in with soldiers of Sulla who p445were searching those regions and arresting the men in hiding there. 7Caesar gave their leader, Cornelius, two talents to set him free, and at once went down to the sea and sailed to King Nicomedes in Bithynia.5 8With him he tarried a short time, and then, on his voyage back,6 was captured, near the island Pharmacusa, by pirates, who already at that time controlled the sea with large armaments and countless small vessels.

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