Julius Caesar (?102-44 B.C.) is one man who could rightfully make the claim he changed the course of history. As a general his greatest achievement was the conquest of Gaul, which he described himself with great eloquence in his campaign memoirs. His popularity was such that he was able to bring his armies into Rome, end Roman republican government and declare himself dictator for life, ushering in four centuries of Roman emperors.
Possessing enormous political ambition and superb oratory skills, Julius Caesar maneuvered his way to the position of consul of Rome in 59 B.C. and then for the next 15 years shook up the Roman political scene, extended its territory and did as much as anyone ro make Rome an empire before he was assassinated. As a statesman he brought Roman culture to much of Europe and the Middle East and set up an effective administration system that would allow the Romans to rule over one of the largest and most enduring empires the world would ever know.
The period between 80 B.C. and A.D. 40, which was largely shaped by Caesar, was one of the most pivotal and memorable in Roman and world history. It was when the Roman republic ended and was replaced by the Roman Empire and it was filled with larger-the-life characters like Caesar, Cleopatra, Spartacus, Marc Antony, Augustus, Jesus and Caligula. Among those who have mined it for material have been Shakespeare, George Bernard Shaw and Robert Graves.
Websites on Ancient Rome: Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Rome sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Late Antiquity sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Forum Romanum forumromanum.org ; “Outlines of Roman History” forumromanum.org; “The Private Life of the Romans” forumromanum.org|; BBC Ancient Rome bbc.co.uk/history; Perseus Project - Tufts University; perseus.tufts.edu ; Lacus Curtius penelope.uchicago.edu; Gutenberg.org gutenberg.org The Roman Empire in the 1st Century pbs.org/empires/romans; The Internet Classics Archive classics.mit.edu ; Bryn Mawr Classical Review bmcr.brynmawr.edu; De Imperatoribus Romanis: An Online Encyclopedia of Roman Emperors roman-emperors.org; British Museum ancientgreece.co.uk; Oxford Classical Art Research Center: The Beazley Archive beazley.ox.ac.uk ; Metropolitan Museum of Art metmuseum.org/about-the-met/curatorial-departments/greek-and-roman-art; The Internet Classics Archive kchanson.com ; Cambridge Classics External Gateway to Humanities Resources web.archive.org/web; Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy iep.utm.edu; Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy plato.stanford.edu; Ancient Rome resources for students from the Courtenay Middle School Library web.archive.org ; History of ancient Rome OpenCourseWare from the University of Notre Dame /web.archive.org ; United Nations of Roma Victrix (UNRV) History unrv.com
Book: “Caesar, Life of a Colossus” by Adrian Goldsworthy (Yale University Press, 2006)
Writings of Julius Caesar
Works by Julius Caesar: “War Commentaries”: 1) “The African Wars”, 2) “The Alexandrian Wars”, “The Civil Wars”, “The Gallic Wars”, “The Spanish Wars” — all translated by W. A. McDevitte and W. S. Bohn
Suetonius wrote: “He left memoirs too of his deeds in the Gallic war and in the civil strife with Pompeius; for the author of the Alexandrian, African, and Hispanic Wars is unknown; some think it was Oppius, others Hirtius, who also supplied the final book of the Gallic War, which Caesar left unwritten.
“With regard to Caesar's memoirs Cicero, also in the Brutus speaks in the following terms: "He wrote memoirs which deserve the highest praise; they are naked in their simplicity, straightforward yet graceful, stripped of all rhetorical adornment, as of a garment; but while his purpose was to supply material to others, on which those who wished to write history might draw, he haply gratified silly folk, who will try to use the curling-irons on his narrative, but he has kept men of any sense from touching the subject."
Of these same memoirs Hirtius uses this emphatic language: "They are so highly rated in the judgment of all men, that he seems to have deprived writers of an opportunity, rather than given them one; yet our admiration for this feat is greater than that of others; for they know how well and faultlessly he wrote, while we know besides how easily and rapidly he finished his task." [Source: Suetonius (c.69-after 122 A.D.): “De Vita Caesarum, Divus Iulius” (“The Lives of the Caesars, The Deified Julius”), written A.D. c. 110, Suetonius, 2 vols., translated by J. C. Rolfe, (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, and London: William Henemann, 1920), Vol. I, pp. 3-119]
“Asinius Pollio thinks that they were put together somewhat carelessly and without strict regard for truth; since in many cases Caesar was too ready to believe the accounts which others gave of their actions, and gave a perverted account of his own, either designedly or perhaps from forgetfulness; and he thinks that he intended to rewrite and revise them. He left besides a work in two volumes De Analogia, the same number of Anti-Catones ['Against Cato'], in addition to a poem, entitled Iter ['The Journey']. He wrote the first of these works while crossing the Alps and returning to his army from Gallia Citerior, where he heard lawsuits; the second about the time of the battle of Munda, and the third in the course of a twenty-four days' journey from Rome to Hispania Ulterior.
“Some letters of his to the senate are also preserved, and he seems to have been the first to reduce such documents to pages and the form of a note-book [i.e., to book form], whereas previously consuls and generals sent their reports written right across the sheet [i.e., without columns or margins, but across the sheet without rhyme or reason]. There are also letters of his to Cicero, as well as to his intimates on private affairs, and in the latter, if he had anything confidential to say, he wrote it in cipher, that is, by so changing the order of the letters of the alphabet, that not a word could be made out. If anyone wishes to decipher these, and get at their meaning, he must substitute the fourth letter of the alphabet, namely D, for A, and so with the others. We also have mention of certain writings of his boyhood and early youth, such as the Laudes Herculis ["Praises of Hercules"], a tragedy Oedipus, and a Dicta Collectanea ["Collection of Apophthegms"]; but Augustus forbade the publication of all these minor works in a very brief and frank letter sent to Pompeius Macer, whom he had selected to set his libraries in order.”
Violence and Upheaval in First Century B.C. Rome
Fernando Lillo Redonet wrote in National Geographic History magazine: “Born around 100 B.C., Caesar’s boyhood was marked by the Social Wars, a series of struggles in which Rome’s Italian allies fought for the right to Roman citizenship and its privileges. In 81 B.C. Sulla was appointed dictator. Sulla defended the rights of Rome’s increasingly discredited noble rulers against the populares, the Senate faction who represented the interests of non-noble citizens clamoring for reform... Social tensions created by the rapid expansion of Roman territory had plunged the political system into crisis for much of Caesar’s life. During his youth, generals and politicians often exploited their military victories to take political control of the state.” [Source: Fernando Lillo Redonet, National Geographic History magazine, March-April 2017 /*\]
According to the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: For the most part, the early half of the 1st century B.C. “was a period of nearly non-stop violence: a time of civil wars, grueling overseas campaigns, political assassinations, massacres, revolts, conspiracies, mass executions, and social and economic chaos. Even a brief chronology of the times paints a grim picture of devastation, with each decade bearing witness to some new disturbance or uprising. [Source: Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (IEP) <^>]
In 100 B.C., riots erupted “in the streets of Rome; two public officials, the tribune L. Appuleius Saturninus and praetor C. Servilius Glaucia, are murdered. 91 B.C. : the so-called Social War (between Rome and her Italian allies) breaks out. No sooner is this bitter struggle ended (88 B.C.) than Lucius Cornelius Sulla, a ruthless politician and renegade army commander, marches on Rome, and an even more convulsive and bloody Civil War begins. 82 B.C. : Sulla becomes dictator. His infamous proscription results in the arrest and execution of more than 4000 leading citizens, including 40 senators. In 71 B.C., Spartacus' massive slave revolt (involving an army of 90,000 former slaves and outlaws) is finally put down by Cassius and Pompey. More than 6000 of the captured rebels are crucified and their bodies left for display along the Appian Way. In 62 B.C. is the defeat and death of Catiline. By this point in his career this former lieutenant of Sulla had become a living plague upon Roman politics and a virtual byword for scandal, intrigue, conspiracy, demagoguery, and vain ambition.” <^>
The Roman historian Suetonius (c.69-after 122 A.D.) wrote: There were two main factions in Rome, “one that of Sylla, which was very powerful, the other that of Marius, which was then broken and in a low condition” (See Below). Caesar “undertook to revive this and to make it his own. And to this end, whilst he was in the height of his repute with the people for the magnificent shows he gave as aedile, he ordered images of Marius and figures of Victory, with trophies in their hands, to be carried privately in the night and placed in the capitol. Next morning when some saw them bright with gold and beautifully made, with inscriptions upon them, referring them to Marius's exploits over the Cimbrians, they were surprised at the boldness of him who had set them up, nor was it difficult to guess who it was. The fame of this soon spread and brought together a great concourse of people. Some cried out that it was an open attempt against the established government thus to revive those honours which had been buried by the laws and decrees of the senate; that Caesar had done it to sound the temper of the people whom he had prepared before, and to try whether they were tame enough to bear his humour, and would quietly give way to his innovations. On the other hand, Marius's party took courage, and it was incredible how numerous they were suddenly seen to be, and what a multitude of them appeared and came shouting into the capitol. Many, when they saw Marius's likeness, cried for joy, and Caesar was highly extolled as the one man, in the place of all others, who was a relation worthy of Marius. Upon this the senate met, and Catulus Lutatius, one of the most eminent Romans of that time, stood up and inveighed against Caesar, closing his speech with the remarkable saying that Caesar was now not working mines, but planting batteries to overthrow the state. But when Caesar had made an apology for himself, and satisfied the senate, his admirers were very much animated, and advised him not to depart from his own thoughts for any one, since with the people's good favour he would ere long get the better of them all, and be the first man in the commonwealth.”
Caesar’s Connection to Marius and Sulla (Sylla)
Caesar was related by family ties to Marius and Cinna, the old leaders of the people. Though born of patrician stock, he was wise enough to see that the cause of the people was in the ascendancy. When he became powerful, he aroused the sympathies of the Italians by favoring the extension of the Roman franchise to cities beyond the Po. He appealed to the populace by the splendor of the games which he gave as curule aedile. He allied himself to Crassus, whose great wealth and average ability he could use to good advantage. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~\]
Caesar’s aunt was the wife of Gaius Marius (157 - 86 B.C.), a Roman general and statesman who held the office of consul an unprecedented seven times during his career. He was also noted for his important reforms of Roman armies, authorizing recruitment of landless citizens, eliminating the manipular military formations, and reorganizing the structure of the legions into separate cohorts. Marius defeated the invading Germanic tribes, for which he was called "the third founder of Rome." His life and career were significant in Rome's transformation from Republic to Empire. [Source: Wikipedia +]
Marius’s rival was Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix (138– 78 B.C.), known commonly as Sulla or Sylla, a Roman general and statesman. He had the distinction of holding the office of consul twice, as well as reviving the dictatorship. Sulla was a skillful general, achieving numerous successes in wars against different opponents, both foreign and Roman. He was awarded a grass crown, the most prestigious Roman military honor, during the Social War. Sulla's dictatorship came during a high point in the struggle between optimates and populares, the former seeking to maintain the Senate's oligarchy, and the latter espousing populism. In a dispute over the eastern army command (initially awarded to Sulla by the Senate but withdrawn as a result of Gaius Marius's intrigues) Sulla marched on Rome in an unprecedented act and defeated Marius in battle. In 81 BC, after his second march on Rome, he revived the office of dictator. +
Plutarch wrote in “Lives”: A clearer instance of their favour appeared upon his making a magnificent oration in praise of his aunt Julia, wife to Marius, publicly in the forum, at whose funeral he was so bold as to bring forth the images of Marius, which nobody had dared to produce since the government came into Sylla's hands, Marius's party having from that time been declared enemies of the state. When some who were present had begun to raise a cry against Caesar, the people answered with loud shouts and clapping in his favour, expressing their joyful surprise and satisfaction at his having, as it were, brought up again from the grave those honours of Marius, which for so long a time had been lost to the city. It had always been the custom at Rome to make funeral orations in praise of elderly matrons, but there was no precedent of any upon young women till Caesar first made one upon the death of his own wife. This also procured him favour, and by this show of affection he won upon the feelings of the people, who looked upon him as a man of great tenderness and kindness of heart. “ [Source: Suetonius (c.69-after 122 A.D.): “De Vita Caesarum, Divus Iulius” (“The Lives of the Caesars, The Deified Julius”), written A.D. c. 110, Suetonius, 2 vols., translated by J. C. Rolfe, (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, and London: William Henemann, 1920), Vol. I, pp. 3-119]
Caesar's Early Life
Not much is known about Caesar's early life. When he as a young man he was kidnaped by pirates in the eastern Mediterranean. He was told he had to come up with a ransom of 20 talents or he would be killed. Caesar reportedly laughed, “What, only 20 talents? I'll give you 50 talents for my life." While the money was being secured by messengers, Caesar told the pirates he would get his revenge. Within a few weeks after being released, Caesar captured the pirates and had them executed.
Plutarch (A.D. c.46-c.120) wrote in “Lives”: “After Sylla became master of Rome, he wished to make Caesar put away his wife Cornelia, daughter of Cinna, the late sole ruler of the commonwealth, but was unable to effect it either by promises or intimidation, and so contented himself with confiscating her dowry. The ground of Sylla's hostility to Caesar was the relationship between him and Marius; for Marius, the elder, married Julia, the sister of Caesar's father, and had by her the younger Marius, who consequently was Caesar's first cousin. And though at the beginning, while so many were to be put to death, and there was so much to do, Caesar was overlooked by Sylla, yet he would not keep quiet, but presented himself to the people as a candidate for the priesthood, though he was yet a mere boy. Sylla, without any open opposition, took measures to have him rejected, and in consultation whether he should be put to death, when it was urged by some that it was not worth his while to contrive the death of a boy, he answered, that they knew little who did not see more than one Marius in that boy. Caesar, on being informed of this saying, concealed himself, and for a considerable time kept out of the way in the country of the Sabines, often changing his quarters, till one night, as he was removing from one house to another on account of his health, he fell into the hands of Sylla's soldiers, who were searching those parts in order to apprehend any who had absconded. Caesar, by a bribe of two talents, prevailed with Cornelius, their captain, to let him go, and was no sooner dismissed but he put to sea and made for Bithynia. After a short stay there with Nicomedes, the king, in his passage back he was taken near the island of Pharmacusa by some of the pirates, who, at that time, with large fleets of ships and innumerable smaller vessels, infested the seas everywhere. [Source: Plutarch (A.D. c.46-c.120), Life of Caesar (100-44 B.C.), written A.D. 75, translated by John Dryden, MIT]
“When these men at first demanded of him twenty talents for his ransom, he laughed at them for not understanding the value of their prisoner, and voluntarily engaged to give them fifty. He presently despatched those about him to several places to raise the money, till at last he was left among a set of the most bloodthirsty people in the world, the Cilicians, only with one friend and two attendants. Yet he made so little of them, that when he had a mind to sleep, he would send to them, and order them to make no noise. For thirty-eight days, with all the freedom in the world, he amused himself with joining in their exercises and games, as if they had not been his keepers, but his guards. He wrote verses and speeches, and made them his auditors, and those who did not admire them, he called to their faces illiterate and barbarous, and would often, in raillery, threaten to hang them. They were greatly taken with this, and attributed his free talking to a kind of simplicity and boyish playfulness. As soon as his ransom was come from Miletus, he paid it, and was discharged, and proceeded at once to man some ships at the port of Miletus, and went in pursuit of the pirates, whom he surprised with their ships still stationed at the island, and took most of them. Their money he made his prize, and the men he secured in prison at Pergamus, and he made application to Junius, who was then governor of Asia, to whose office it belonged, as praetor, to determine their punishment. Junius, having his eye upon the money, for the sum was considerable, said he would think at his leisure what to do with the prisoners, upon which Caesar took his leave of him, and went off to Pergamus, where he ordered the pirates to be brought forth and crucified; the punishment he had often threatened them with whilst he was in their hands, and they little dreamt he was in earnest.
The Roman historian Suetonius (c.69-after 122 A.D.) wrote: “In the course of his sixteenth year” [c. 85/84 B.C.] Caesar “lost his father. In the next consulate, having previously been nominated priest of Jupiter [by Marius and Cinna, Cos. 86], he broke his engagement with Cossutia, a lady of only equestrian rank, but very wealthy, who had been betrothed to him before he assumed the gown of manhood, and married Cornelia, daughter of that Cinna who was four times consul, by whom he afterwards had a daughter Julia; and the dictator Sulla could by no means force him to put away his wife. Therefore besides being punished by the loss of his priesthood, his wife's dowry, and his family inheritances, Caesar was held to be one of the opposite party. He was accordingly forced to go into hiding, and though suffering from a severe attack of quartan ague, to change from one covert to another almost every night, and save himself from Sulla's detectives by bribes. But at last, through the good offices of the Vestal virgins and of his near kinsmen, Mamercus Aemilius and Aurelius Cotta, he obtained forgiveness. Everyone knows that when Sulla had long held out against the most devoted and eminent men of his party who interceded for Caesar, and they obstinately persisted, he at last gave way and cried, either by divine inspiration or a shrewd forecast: 'Have your way and take him; only bear in mind that the man you are so eager to save will one day deal the death blow to the cause of the aristocracy, which you have joined with me in upholding; for in this Caesar there is more than one Marius.' [Source: Suetonius (c.69-after 122 A.D.): “De Vita Caesarum, Divus Iulius” (“The Lives of the Caesars, The Deified Julius”), written A.D. c. 110, Suetonius, 2 vols., translated by J. C. Rolfe, (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, and London: William Henemann, 1920), Vol. I, pp. 3-119]
Caesar Is Influenced by the Greeks
Plutarch wrote in “Lives”: “In the meantime Sylla's power being now on the decline, Caesar's friends advised him to return to Rome, but he went to Rhodes, and entered himself in the school of Apollonius, Molon's son, a famous rhetorician, one who had the reputation of a worthy man, and had Cicero for one of his scholars. Caesar is said to have been admirably fitted by nature to make a great statesman and orator, and to have taken such pains to improve his genius this way that without dispute he might challenge the second place. More he did not aim at, as choosing to be first rather amongst men of arms and power, and, therefore, never rose to that height of eloquence to which nature would have carried him, his attention being diverted to those expeditions and designs which at length gained him the empire. And he himself, in his answer to Cicero's panegyric on Cato, desires his reader not to compare the plain discourse of a soldier with the harangues of an orator who had not only fine parts, but had employed his life in this study. [Source: Plutarch (A.D. c.46-c.120), Life of Caesar (100-44 B.C.), written A.D. 75, translated by John Dryden, MIT]
“When he was returned to Rome, he accused Dolabella of mal-administration, and many cities of Greece came in to attest it. Dolabella was acquitted, and Caesar, in return for the support he had received from the Greeks, assisted them in their prosecution of Publius Antonius for corrupt practices, before Marcus Lucullus, praetor of Macedonia. In this course he so far succeeded, that Antonius was forced to appeal to the tribunes at Rome, alleging that in Greece he could not have fair play against Grecians. In his pleadings at Rome, his eloquence soon obtained him great credit and favour, and he won no less upon the affections of the people by affability of his manners and address, in which he showed a tact and consideration beyond what could have been expected at his age; and the open house he kept, the entertainments he gave, and the general splendour of his manner of life contributed little by little to create and increase his political influence.
“His enemies slighted the growth of it at first, presuming it would soon fail when his money was gone; whilst in the meantime it was growing up and flourishing among the common people. When his power at last was established and not to be overthrown, and now openly tended to the altering of the whole constitution, they were aware too late that there is no beginning so mean, which continued application will not make considerable, and that despising a danger at first will make it at last irresistible. Cicero was the first who had any suspicions of his designs upon the government, and as a good pilot is apprehensive of a storm when the sea is most smiling, saw the designing temper of the man through this disguise of good humour and affability, and said that, in general, in all he did and undertook, he detected the ambition for absolute power, "but when I see his hair so carefully arranged, and observe him adjusting it with one finger, I cannot imagine it should enter into such a man's thoughts to subvert the Roman state." But of this more hereafter.”
Caesar’s Marriages and Family Matters
Caesar married three times. His long-suffering wife Calpurnia had to put up with Caesar's numerous "alternative wives" which included Cleopatra. Around the time Caesar became Consul (a kind President) of Rome the first time in 59 B.C. he married Calpurnia. On the arrangements behind this, Suetonius wrote: “At about the same time he took to wife Calpurnia, daughter of Lucius Piso, who was to succeed him in the consulship, and affianced his own daughter Julia to Gnaeus Pompeius, breaking a previous engagement with Servilius Caepio, although the latter had shortly before rendered him conspicuous service in his contest with Bibulus. And after this new alliance he began to call upon Pompeius first to give his opinion in the senate, although it had been his habit to begin with Crassus, and it was the rule for the consul in calling for opinions to continue throughout the year the order which he had established on the Kalends of January. Backed therefore by his father-in-law and son-in-law, out of all the numerous provinces he made Gallia his choice, as the most likely to enrich him and furnish suitable material for triumphs. [Source: Suetonius (c.69-after 122 A.D.): “De Vita Caesarum, Divus Iulius” (“The Lives of the Caesars, The Deified Julius”), written A.D. c. 110, Suetonius, 2 vols., translated by J. C. Rolfe, (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, and London: William Henemann, 1920), Vol. I, pp. 3-119]
Later on the period when Caesar was in Gaul in the early 50s B.C., Suetonius wrote: “To retain his relationship and friendship with Pompeius (Pompey), Caesar offered him his sister's granddaughter Octavia in marriage, although she was already the wife of Gaius Marcellus, and asked for the hand of Pompeius' daughter, who was promised to Faustus Sulla. When he had put all Pompeius' friends under obligation, as well as the great part of the senate, through loans made without interest or at a low rate, he lavished gifts on men of all other classes, both those whom he invited to accept his bounty and those who applied to him unasked, including even freedmen and slaves who were special favorites of their masters or patrons. [Source: Suetonius (c.69-after 122 A.D.): “De Vita Caesarum, Divus Iulius” (“The Lives of the Caesars, The Deified Julius”), written A.D. c. 110, Suetonius, 2 vols., translated by J. C. Rolfe, (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, and London: William Henemann, 1920), Vol. I, pp. 3-119]
“In short, he was the sole and ever ready help of all who were in legal difficulties or in debt and of young spendthrifts, excepting only those whose burden of guilt or of poverty was so heavy, or who were so given up to riotous living, that even he could not save them; and to these he declared in the plainest terms that what they needed was a civil war. He took no less pains to win the devotion of princes and provinces all over the world, offering prisoners to some by the thousand as a gift, and sending auxiliary troops to the aid of others whenever they wished, and as often as they wished, without the sanction of the senate or people, besides adorning the principal cities of Asia and Graecia with magnificent public works, as well as those of Italia and the provinces of Gallia and Hispania.”
Caesar and Women—and Men
Caesar’s modern biographer Adrian Goldsworthy called Caesar a “serial seducer of married women” including the wives of his greatest political allies. He is said been attracted to particularly spirited women and was a homosexual. Some called him the the "Queen of Bithynnia." One of Caesar's wives was only 11 when she married him.
Suetonius wrote: “There was no stain on his reputation for chastity except his intimacy with King Nicomedes, but that was a deep and lasting reproach, which laid him open to insults from every quarter. I say nothing of the notorious lines of Licinius Calvus: ‘Whate'er Bithynia had, and Caesar's paramour.’[Source: Suetonius (c.69-after 122 A.D.): “De Vita Caesarum, Divus Iulius” (“The Lives of the Caesars, The Deified Julius”), written A.D. c. 110, Suetonius, 2 vols., translated by J. C. Rolfe, (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, and London: William Henemann, 1920), Vol. I, pp. 3-119]
“I pass over, too, the invectives of Dolabella and the elder Curio, in which Dolabella calls him 'the queen's rival, the inner partner of the royal couch,' and Curio, 'the brothel of Nicomedes and the stew of Bithynia.' I take no account of the edicts of Bibulus, in which he posted his colleague as 'the queen of Bithynia,' saying that 'of old he was enamored of a king, but now of a king's estate.' At this same time, so Marcus Brutus declares, one Octavius, a man whose disordered mind made him somewhat free with his tongue, after saluting Gnaeus Pompeius as Rex [or 'king'] in a crowded assembly, greeted Caesar as Regina ["queen"].
"But Gaius Memmius makes the direct charge that he acted as cup-bearer to Nicomedes with the rest of his wantons at a large dinner-party, and that among the guests were some merchants from Rome, whose names Memmius gives. Cicero, indeed, is not content with having written in sundry letters that Caesar was led by the king's attendants to the royal apartments, that he lay on a golden couch arrayed in purple, and that the virginity of this son of Venus was lost in Bithynia; but when Caesar was once addressing the senate in defence of Nysa, daughter of Nicomedes, and was enumerating his obligations to the king, Cicero cried: "No more of that, pray, for it is well known what he gave you, and what you gave him in turn." Finally, in his Gallic triumph his soldiers, among the bantering songs which are usually sung by those who follow the chariot, shouted these lines, which became a by-word:
"All the Gauls did Caesar vanquish, Nicomedes vanquished him;
Lo! now Caesar rides in triumph, victor over all the Gauls,
Nicomedes does not triumph, who subdued the conqueror."
“That he was unbridled and extravagant in his intrigues is the general opinion, and that he seduced many illustrious women, among them Postumia, wife of Servius Sulpicius, Lollia, wife of Aulus Gabinius, Tertulla, wife of Marcus Crassus, and even Gnaeus Pompeius' wife Mucia. At all events there is no doubt that Pompeius was taken to task by the elder and the younger Curio, as well as by many others, because through a desire for power he had afterwards married the daughter of a man on whose account he divorced a wife who had borne him three children and whom he had often referred to with a groan as an Aegisthus. But beyond all others Caesar loved Servilia, the mother of Marcus Brutus, for whom in his first consulship he bought a pearl costing six million sesterces. During the civil war, too, besides other presents, he knocked down some fine estates to her in a public auction at a nominal price, and when some expressed their surprise at the low figure, Cicero wittily remarked: "It's a better bargain than you think, for there is a third off'---and in fact it was thought that Servilia was prostituting her own daughter Tertia to Caesar [The word play is on tertia (pars)--- 'third part'---and Tertia, daughter of Servilia, in a rather low and vulgar sexual jest].
“That he did not refrain from intrigues in the provinces is shown in particular by this couplet, which was also shouted by the soldiers in his Gallic triumph:
'Men of Rome, keep close your consorts, here's a bald adulterer.
Gold in Gallia you spent in dalliance, which you borrowed here in Rome."
“He had love affairs with queens too, including Eunoe the Mauretanian, wife of Bogudes, on whom, as well as on her husband, he bestowed many splendid presents, as Naso writes; but above all with Cleopatra, with whom he often feasted until daybreak, and he would have gone through Egypt with her in her state-barge almost to Aethiopia [i.e., Kush], had not his soldiers refused to follow him. Finally he called her to Rome and did not let her leave until he had ladened her with high honors and rich gifts, and he allowed her to give his name to the child which she bore. In fact, according to certain Greek writers, this child was very like Caesar in looks and carriage. Marcus Antonius declared to the senate that Caesar had really acknowledged the boy, and that Gaius Matius, Gaius Oppius, and other friends of Caesar knew this. Of these Gaius Oppius, as if admitting that the situation required apology and defence, published a book, to prove that the child whom Cleopatra fathered on Caesar was not his. Helvius Cinna, tribune of the plebeians, admitted to several that he had a bill drawn up in due form, which Caesar had ordered him to propose to the people in his absence, making it lawful for Caesar to marry what wives he wished, and as many as he wished, 'for the purpose of begetting children' [the words liberorum quaerendorum causa are a legal formula indicating that the purpose of marriage is to beget legal heirs]. But to remove all doubt that he had an evil reputation both for shameless vice and for adultery, I have only to add that the elder Curio in one of his speeches calls him "every woman's man and every man's woman."
Julius Caesar Helps Cleopatra Seize the Egyptian Throne
Caesar Julius Caesar arrived in Alexandria days after Pompey's murder. He barricaded himself in the Ptolemies' palace, the home from which Cleopatra had been exiled. From the desert she engineered a clandestine return, skirting enemy lines and Roman barricades, arriving after dark inside a sturdy sack. Over the succeeding months she stood at Caesar's side---pregnant with his child---while he battled her brother's troops. With their defeat, Caesar restored her to the throne.
Judith Thurman wrote in The New Yorker the morning after Cleopatra finagled her way into Caesar's stronghold “her brother dashed into the streets and nearly persuaded a mob to rise against the usurpers.Caesar's Praetorians dragged him back inside, but his handlers rallied their forces...In the ensuing wars against Caesar and Cleopatra, which the world's greatest general nearly lost (until reinforcements arrived, he was severely shorthanded), Ptolemy drowned. The victors celebrated with a leisurely Nile cruise, a visit to the pyramids, and some whistlestopping in the heartland. The public honeymoon demonstrated an inspired gift for mixing business with pleasures, and both with stagecraft." [Source: Judith Thurman, The New Yorker November 15, 2010]
Giving birth to Caesar's son, Thurman wrote, “consolidated her bands with his father, and with her own people and their priests, who rejoiced at a male heir. With a son as her symbolic co-regent and caesar as her protector, Cleopatra had no need to remarry. She henceforth governed alone---uniquely so among female monarchs of her period. Her autonomy depended on the fickle good will of Rome, and her exchange of favors with two Roman leaders.
Cleopatra and Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar, who essentially the dictator of Rome in Cleopatra's time, arrived in Egypt during the civil war between Cleopatra and her brother. Caesar came to claim the debts Egypt owed Rome and Cleopatra saw in him a chance to win back her kingdom and expand it into Syria, Palestine and Asia Minor. Her alliance with Caesar seems to have been strategic, romantic and sexual. For his part Caesar made little mention of Cleopatra in his account of the Alexandrine wars.
Caesar initially didn't want to have anything to do with Cleopatra but he was delayed in his return to Rome by unfavorable winds. According to Plutarch's version of events she had herself rolled up in bedsheets and delivered to Caesar, who was so besotted with her he orchestrated a reconciliation between Cleopatra and her brother and then had Ptolemy kill his former partner Pothinus. Pliny is said to be the source the rolled-up-in-bedsheets story. Many doubt its veracity. In the 1963 film Cleopatra Elizabeth Taylor's Cleopatra spills out of Persian carpet at the feet of Caesar ready to crawl up his legs.
When Cleopatra met up with Caesar he was a balding epileptic with a lot of experience with women. He was 32 years older than her and married. The two of them sailed down the Nile together in a 300-foot barge with gardens and banquet rooms. In 47 B.C., Cleopatra gave birth to Caesar's son, Ptolemy Caesarian (“Little Caesar”) . To honor the event she had a coin minted showing her as Aphrodite nursing Eros.
Roman support of Cleopatra's armies won her full control of Egypt. She married her other little brother Ptolemy XIII and then poisoned him after Little Caesar was born. Her teenage sister, Arisnoe, who had tried to dethrone, was paraded in Rome in golden shackles but at leaste she was allowed to live in exile (at least until later one when Cleopatra persuaded Antony to have her dragged from her temple and put to death). and With things under control at home, Cleopatra went to Rome with Caesar. In Rome, she lived in one of Caesar's suburban palaces and impressed some with her wit and turned off others with her arrogance. Her presence in Rome caused quite stir and triggered a fad for anything associated with Egypt. Many women adopted Cleopatra's “melon” hairstyle (rows of tight briads gathered in a low bun).
Caesar and Cleopatra hosted great parties. The Roman leader even raised a golden statue to her in the temple of Venus. Even so Cleopatra was not well liked by powerful people like Cicero and her claim to any power was tied to Caesar. In 44 B.C., as Caesar was making plans to marry Cleopatra and legitimize their child, he was assassinated. This was a clear setback for Cleopatra's larger ambitions. Caesar's great-nephew Octavian was named his heir not Ptolemy Caesarian.
Caesar's Appearance and Lifestyle
Caesar had epilepsy and a large bald spot. Seutenois wrote: "His baldness was something that greatly bothered him...and because of it he used to comb his thin locks forward over the crown of his head." Even so Caesar was regarded as a member of the "beautiful people." Casson wrote: “Caesar's togas had a longer fringe and wider purple stripe than anyone else's. He had his barber not only shave him but finish off with tweezers. His hairdresser outdid himself in devising arrangements that would cover up Caesar's nagging bald spot." [Source: Lionel Casson , Smithsonian]
In public, Caesar came across as a convivial and light hearted. He smiled a lot. He was very popular in Rome, where he sponsored big sporting events. One such event in 66 B.C. at the Circus Maximus drove him deep into debt. Caesar could be a dandy and sometimes acted as a high priest. After his death he became a god. In private Caesar was calculating and shrewd. He was an eloquent writer. His writings were famous in his time and still widely quoted today. It was said he feared dreams.
Suetonius wrote: ““He is said to have been tall of stature, with a fair complexion, shapely limbs, a somewhat full face, and keen black eyes; sound of health, except that towards the end he was subject to sudden fainting fits and to nightmare as well. He was twice attacked by the falling sickness [morbus comitialis, so-called because an attack was considered sufficient cause for the postponement of elections, or other public business. This is thought to have been epilepsy.] during his campaigns. He was somewhat overnice in the care of his person, being not only carefully trimmed and shaved, but even having superfluous hair plucked out, as some have charged; while his baldness was a disfigurement which troubled him greatly, since he found that it was often the subject of the gibes of his detractors. Because of it he used to comb forward his scanty locks from the crown of his head, and of all the honors voted him by the senate and people there was none which he received or made use of more gladly than the privilege of wearing a laurel wreath at all times.
"They say, too, that he was remarkable in his dress; that he wore a senator's tunic [Latus clavus, the broad purple stripe, is also applied to a tunic with the broad stripe. All senators had the right to wear this; the peculiarity in Caesar's case consisted in the long fringed sleeve.] with fringed sleeves reaching to the wrist, and always had a girdle [While a girdle was commonly worn with the ordinary tunic, it was not usual to wear one with the latus clavus.] over it, though rather a loose one; and this, they say, was the occasion of Sulla's mot, when he often warned the nobles to keep an eye on the ill-girt boy. [Source: Suetonius (c.69-after 122 A.D.): “De Vita Caesarum, Divus Iulius” (“The Lives of the Caesars, The Deified Julius”), written A.D. c. 110, Suetonius, 2 vols., translated by J. C. Rolfe, (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, and London: William Henemann, 1920), Vol. I, pp. 3-119]
On Caesar’s lifestyle, Suetonius wrote: “That he drank very little wine not even his enemies denied. There is a saying of Marcus Cato that Caesar was the only man who undertook to overthrow the state when sober. Even in the matter of food Gaius Oppius tells us that he was so indifferent, that once when his host served stale oil instead of fresh, and the other guests would have none of it, Caesar partook even more plentifully than usual, not to seem to charge his host with carelessness or lack of manners.” [Source: Suetonius (c.69-after 122 A.D.): “De Vita Caesarum, Divus Iulius” (“The Lives of the Caesars, The Deified Julius”), written A.D. c. 110, Suetonius, 2 vols., translated by J. C. Rolfe, (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, and London: William Henemann, 1920), Vol. I, pp. 3-119]
Caesar’ s Character
Suetonius wrote: “Neither when in command of armies nor as a magistrate at Rome did he show a scrupulous integrity; for as certain men have declared in their memoirs, when he was proconsul in Hispania, he not only begged money from the allies, to help pay his debts, but also attacked and sacked some towns of the Lusitanians although they did not refuse his terms and opened their gates to him on his arrival. In Gallia he pillaged shrines and temples of the gods filled with offerings, and oftener sacked towns for the sake of plunder than for any fault. In consequence he had more gold than he knew what to do with, and offered it for sale throughout Italia and the provinces at the rate of three thousand sesterces the pound. In his first consulship he stole three thousand pounds of gold from the Capitol, replacing it with the same weight of gilded bronze. He made alliances and thrones a matter of barter, for he extorted from Ptolemy alone in his own name and that of Pompeius nearly six thousand talents, while later on he met the heavy expenses of the civil wars and of his triumphs and entertainments by the most bare-faced pillage and sacrilege. [Source: Suetonius (c.69-after 122 A.D.): “De Vita Caesarum, Divus Iulius” (“The Lives of the Caesars, The Deified Julius”), written A.D. c. 110, Suetonius, 2 vols., translated by J. C. Rolfe, (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, and London: William Henemann, 1920), Vol. I, pp. 3-119]
“In eloquence and in the art of war he either equalled or surpassed the fame of their most eminent representatives. After his accusation of Dolabella, he was without question numbered with the leading advocates. At all events, when Cicero reviews the orators in his Brutus, he says that he does not see to whom Caesar ought to yield the palm, declaring that his style is elegant as well as transparent, even grand and in a sense noble. Again in a letter to Cornelius Nepos he writes thus of Caesar: "Come now, what orator would you rank above him of those who have devoted themselves to nothing else? Who has cleverer or more frequent epigrams? Who is either more picturesque or more choice in diction?"
“He appears, at least in his youth, to have imitated the manner of Caesar Strabo, from whose speech entitled Pro Sardis he actually transferred some passages word for word to a trial address of his own. He is said to have delivered himself in a high-pitched voice with impassioned action and gestures, which were not without grace. He left several speeches, including some which are attributed to him on insufficient evidence. Augustus had good reason to think that the speech Pro Quintus Metellus was rather taken down by shorthand writers who could not keep pace with his delivery, than published by Caesar himself; for in some copies I find that even the title is not Pro Metellus, but, Quam scripsit Metello ["Which he wrote for Metellus"] although the discourse purports to be from Caesar's lips, defending Metellus and himself against the charges of their common detractors. Augustus also questions the authenticity of the address Apud milites quoque in Hispania, although there are two sections of it, one purporting to have been spoken at the first battle, the other at the second when Asinius Pollio writes that because of the sudden onslaught of the enemy, he actually did not have time to make an harangue.
Treatment of Family and Friends
Suetonius wrote: “Even when a young man he showed no lack of devotion and fidelity to his dependents. He defended Masintha, a youth of high birth, against King Hiempsal [of Numidia] with such spirit, that in the dispute he caught the king's son Juba by the beard. On Masintha's being declared tributary to the king, he at once rescued him from those who would carry him off and kept him hidden for some time in his own house; and when presently he left for Hispania after his praetorship, he carried the young man off in his own litter, unnoticed amid the crowd that came to see him off and the lictors with their fasces. [Source: Suetonius (c.69-after 122 A.D.): “De Vita Caesarum, Divus Iulius” (“The Lives of the Caesars, The Deified Julius”), written A.D. c. 110, Suetonius, 2 vols., translated by J. C. Rolfe, (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, and London: William Henemann, 1920), Vol. I, pp. 3-119]
“His friends he treated with invariable kindness and consideration. When Gaius Oppius was his companion on a journey through a wild, woody country and was suddenly taken ill, Caesar gave up to him the only shelter there was, while he himself slept on the ground out-of-doors. Moreover, when he came to power, he advanced some of his friends to the highest positions, even though they were of the humblest origin, and when taken to task for it, flatly declared that if he had been helped in defending his honor by brigands and cut-throats, he would have requited even such men in the same way.
“On the other hand he never formed such bitter enmities that he was not glad to lay them aside when opportunity offered. Although Gaius Memmius had made highly caustic speeches against him, to which he had replied with equal bitterness, he went so far as to support Memmius afterwards in his suit for the consulship. When Gaius Calvus, after some scurrilous epigrams, took steps through his friends towards a reconciliation, Caesar wrote to him first and of his own free will. Valerius Catullus, as Caesar himself did not hesitate to say, inflicted a lasting stain on his name by the verses about Mamurra; yet when he apologised, Caesar invited the poet to dinner that very same day, and continued his usual friendly relations with Catullus's father.”
Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons
Text Sources: Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Rome sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Late Antiquity sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Forum Romanum forumromanum.org ; “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~\; “The Private Life of the Romans” by Harold Whetstone Johnston, Revised by Mary Johnston, Scott, Foresman and Company (1903, 1932) forumromanum.org |+|; BBC Ancient Rome bbc.co.uk/history/ ; Perseus Project - Tufts University; perseus.tufts.edu ; MIT, Online Library of Liberty, oll.libertyfund.org ; Gutenberg.org gutenberg.org Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Live Science, Discover magazine, Times of London, Natural History magazine, Archaeology magazine, The New Yorker, Encyclopædia Britannica, "The Discoverers" [∞] and "The Creators" [μ]" by Daniel Boorstin. "Greek and Roman Life" by Ian Jenkins from the British Museum.Time, Newsweek, Wikipedia, Reuters, Associated Press, The Guardian, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, World Religions edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); History of Warfare by John Keegan (Vintage Books); History of Art by H.W. Janson Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.), Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
Last updated October 2018