The Life of Gaius Julius Caesar

Gaius Julius Caesar was an esteemed politician and military general in the Roman Republic. He later brought about the end of the Roman Republic and became the first Emperor. Julius Caesar is best known for how he became emperor, his reforms in economic, political and social matters as he established the fledgling empire, and most memorably, his betrayal and murder at the hands of his comrades.

Caesar was known for his military conquests in northern Europe, particularly the invasion of Britain and the Gallic Wars. His success increased his military affluence and power, and threatened the standing of his rival, Pompey, who was popular among the Senate body in Rome. “With the Gallic Wars concluded, the Senate ordered Caesar to step down from his military command and return to Rome. Leaving his command in Gaul meant losing his immunity from being charged as a criminal for waging unsanctioned wars. As a result, Caesar found himself with no other options but to cross the Rubicon… leaving his province and illegally entering Roman Italy under arms.” (Wikipedia contributors, Julius Caesar) His actions resulted in civil war, and Caesar’s triumph in that war gave him tremendous power. This power resulted in his becoming dictator, and eventually emperor.

As emperor, Caesar began a series of reforms in every aspect a philosopher who happened to have been appointed dictator for life would put his valuable attention to.  These reforms spanned economics, politics and even the calendar of the empire. The three major reforms attempted by Julius Caesar are as follows: the rewriting of the constitution, the construction of bridges, roads and aqueducts throughout the empire, and the Julian calendar.

First, the rewriting of the Roman Constitution. “When Julius Caesar began reshaping Rome’s constitutional framework, he had three goals: suppress the resistance occurring in the provinces, unite the republic into a single unit, and establish a strong central government. Provincial conflicts ended when Caesar defeated Pompey. However, to achieve the other two goals, he needed to increase his own power.” (What were some of Caesar’s reforms? eNotes) The reforms controlled the processes by which candidates were selected for magisterial offices. This meant choosing his own supporters to fill the Senate seats, as to prevent hostility. These political reforms were not seen fully by Julius Caesar before his murder, but were instead finalized by future emperors.

Next, Julius began the construction of the empires extensive road, bridge and aqueduct system, a practice that future emperors would assume as part of their duties.  The roads greatly aided the movement of troops, of goods and services, the spread of news, and hundreds of years later, the Christian faith. Julius was also the first emperor to construct an aqueduct outside Rome, near Antioch in Syria.

Finally, the replacement of the Roman Calendar by the Julian Calendar. This calendar sought to fix the problems discovered with the more rudimentary Roman calendar. It was the established calendar in the European and American world from 45 BC until 1582 AD, when it was replaced by the Gregorian calendar. The solar year had been known to be approximately slightly less than 365.25 twenty-four-hour days long, which the Roman calendar did not account for, and the calendar lost days as opposed to the solar year. The Julian calendar was a slight improvement, but had the opposite issue. Every four years would be a leap year, but this meant as the “calendar year gain(ed) about three days every four centuries compared to observed equinox times and seasons.” (Wikipedia contributors, Julian Calendar)

Despite all of Julius Caesar’s reforms, his attempts at political reform had angered the nobility. They still wanted to preserve the former Roman Republic and most importantly, the power and prestige they once held within it. Thus, the plot began to thicken. “According to Plutarch, as Caesar arrived at the Senate, Lucius Tillius Cimber presented him with a petition to recall his exiled brother… Both Plutarch and Suetonius say that Caesar waved him away, but Cimber grabbed Caesar’s shoulders and pulled down Caesar’s toga. Caesar then cried to Cimber, “Why, this is violence!” (“Ista quidem vis est!”) At the same time, Casca produced his dagger and made a glancing thrust at the dictator’s neck… Within moments, the entire group, including Brutus, were stabbing the dictator. Caesar attempted to get away, but, blinded by blood in his eyes, he tripped and fell; the men continued stabbing him as he lay defenseless on the lower steps of the portico… Caesar was stabbed 23 times.” (Wikipedia Contributors, Assassination of Julius Caesar)

The aftermath of Caesar’s assassination was that Caesar’s cowardly friend, Mark Antony, began to wage war with Brutus and Cassius in Greece, and in the resulting civil war, Antony defeated Brutus, married Caesar’s lover, Cleopatra of Egypt, and ruled over Rome until his defeat by the great Octavian. This third civil war was ended at the naval battle of Actium, where Octavian soundly defeated Antony and Cleopatra’s navy. The losing monarchs committed suicide, and Octavian took up the name Caesar Augustus, becoming a Roman deity and the next Emperor.

So, what was the legacy of Julius Caesar? During his short reign of five years as dictator, he forever ended the Roman Republic, and issued Rome into a new age of empire and conquest. He took the city out of a state of passive defense, and began the journey to it’s becoming a polished machine of world conquest that would nearly last another thousand years. He began the revisions to the constitution necessary to make future emperors have absolute, centralized power. Caesar also began the construction of roads to enable greater mobility of troops and resources throughout the empire; he constructed aqueducts through the furthest corners of the empire to establish greater prosperity in cities and enable the better growth of crops. By the time of his murder, the wheels of something far greater were already turning. Not even Gaius Julius Caesar could have seen the end of what his original plan for self-survival would have brought to his beloved city of Rome.

References:

“What were some of Caesar’s reforms?” eNotes, 16 Sep. 2016, https://www.enotes.com/homework-help/what-some-caesars-reforms-779736. Accessed 16 Oct. 2018.

Wikipedia contributors. “Assassination of Julius Caesar.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 11 Oct. 2018. Web. 17 Oct. 2018.

Wikipedia contributors. “Julian calendar.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 25 Sep. 2018. Web. 17 Oct. 2018.

Wikipedia contributors. “Julius Caesar.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 16 Oct. 2018. Web. 17 Oct. 2018.

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