The period of Roman history which saw the ascension to power and glory of julius caesar was also the period of Cicero the great Orator and Senator. In their time, both men were hailed as “Father of his country” and both ended their lives assassinated. Both remain amongst the greatest names of ancient Rome although that of Caesar is the one to which the greatest men throughout history have aspired.
The name “Caesar” became synonymous with “leader” even in northern countries such as Germany (Kaiser) and last but not least even a chicken salad was called “Caesar”! One of the first writers to make use of the name “Caesar” was Suetonius to whom we owe much of our knowledge of the “Twelve Caesars”.
Caesar’s War Commentaries
Caesar was born of an old patrician family and had been a keen and daring follower of the great general Marius (who achieved the heady heights of being made Consul seven times). He was also married to the daughter of the consul Cinna a great ally of Marius who came to government representing the people of Rome.
As good a start as this might appear for Caesar this in fact turned out to be potentially fatal. Sulla’s counter-coup and destruction of Marius and Cinna’s hold on power clearly meant that all those who had followed them were short listed for capital punishment, the young Caius Julius Caesar amongst them. However he was lucky enough to escape such punishment thanks to the intervention of many friends. In spite of this Caesar refused to oblige Sulla and divorce from Cinna’s daughter whom he loved.
Caesar later had the opportunity to place images and trophies of general Marius in the Capitol; an act for which many persons, particularly the general’s many veterans were overjoyed. Caesar then became “Aedile”, which made him responsible for the public games. Given the Roman population’s feverish love for “bread and circus” this was a position of great prestige. Caesar clearly took every political advantage of this and organised some of the greatest and most memorable public games, with wild beasts from distant countries such as Africa, captives from wars and Gladiators.
The organisation of these games cost somewhat more than his personal budget permitted and in the end Caesar was forced to ask help of his extremely rich friend Crassus in order to repay his creditors. When his post as Aedile was over he was appointed governor of Spain where he was successful in war but also governed the natives more justly and fairly than they had previously been used to. The period in Spain opened up great opportunities for him to satisfy his ambitions primary amongst which were possession of an army under his own command so that he might make military conquests.
Julius Caesar together with Crassus and Pompey formed the first Triumvirate.
The ancient Roman republican system was showing signs of weakness as the class struggle for power became increasingly vicious. A useful compromise was found by sharing leadership amongst three men who represented different interests. One motive was that of achieving a balance of power and safeguard the republican system.
Several years later the balance collapsed, partly due to the death of Crassus in his campaign against the Parthians which put Caesar and Pompey and their two factions head to head. This resulted in Caesar crossing the Rubicon river from Gaul into Italy with his troops: the famous quote “alea jacta est” – the die is cast – says it all. The assassination and treatcherous decapitation of Pompey on Egyptian shores marked the end of the Triumvirate and the beginning of Caesar’s dictatorship which itself ended shortly after when Caesar was murdered by Republican idealists..
Of the first Triumvirate, Crassus had much influence in Rome. He was both rich and of a becoming character. The latter helped him greatly given that much of his wealth was generally recognised as stemming from the misfortunes of many: He had the wealth and power to buy up cheaply the belongings of those who fell into misfortune and through utilisation of his many slaves he could afford cheap restoration of the property purchased; consequently making great returns on his investments.
Pompey represented military strength supported by his great popularity: He was a great general who had brought peace after the long war with Mithridates and had the support of the many friends he had placed in positions of high rank within those regions and provinces he had conquered. Pompey married Caesar’s daughter Julia.