Many people associate the ‘Ides of March’ with the play ‘Julius Caesar.’ ; That particular day, March 15 th in 44 BC, Rome lost not only a future king, but also a strong political and military leader. Julius Caesar’s life, his accomplishments, and his unfortunate assassination have etched out a place in textbooks worldwide. Caesar’s childhood was filled with many changes in the Roman Empire. Gaius Julius Caesar was born in Rome, Italy on July 12 th or 13 th in the year 100 BC. When he was young, Caesar lived through one of the most horrifying decades in the history of the city of Rome. The city was assaulted twice and captured by Roman armies, first in 87 BC by the leaders of the popular es, his Uncle Marius and Cinna.
Cinna was killed the year that Caesar had married Cinna’s daughter Cornelia. The second attack upon the city was carried out by Marius’ enemy Sulla, leader of the optima tes, in 82 BC on Sulla’s return from the East. The confiscation of property resulted from the massacre of political opponents on each occasion. At the time of Caesar’s birth, the number of patricians was small, and their status no longer provided political advantage. (Sahlman).
Caesar’s family was part of Rome’s original aristocracy, although they were neither rich nor influential. (Sahlman).
Caesar’s father died when Caesar was only 16 years old. It was Caesar’s mother, Aurelia, who proved to influence young Caesar. (Sahlman).
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With his mother’s blessing, Caesar sought out to gain notoriety for his family name. To obtain distinction for himself and his family, Caesar sought election to public office. In 86 BC, Caesar was appointed flamen dial is with the help of his uncle by marriage, Gaius Marius. (Sahlman).
In 84 BC Caesar married Cornelia, daughter of Lucious Cornelius Cinna. (Sahlman).
In 82 BC Caesar was ordered to divorce his wife by Lucious Cornelius Sulla, an enemy of the radicals. (Sahlman).
Caesar traveled to Rhodes in 78 BC to study rhetoric and did not return until 73 BC.
During his journey to Rhodes pirates managed to capture him. Caesar convinced his captors to raise his ransom, which increased his prestige. He then raised a naval force, overcame his captors, and had them crucified. In 69 or 68 BC Caesar was elected quae stor. (Sahlman).
His wife died shortly thereafter. Soon after his wife’s death, Caesar met and fell in love with Pompeia, a relative of Caesar’s then friend, Pompey. Pompey later married Caesar’s daughter Julia in 59 BC. Caesar’s own attachment to Pompey and Pompey’s marriage to Julia ended when she died in 54 BC.
The marriage to Pompeia ended in 62 BC. Caesar divorced his wife because of the allegation that she had been implicated in the offense of Publius Cladius, who was awaiting trial for breaking into Caesar’s house the previous December. He was disguised as a woman at the festival of the Bona Dea, which no man is allowed to attend. Caesar had secured for five years the governorship of three provinces.
The provinces were Cisalpine Gaul, Transalpine Gaul, and Illyricum. He left Rome and remained in Gaul until his invasion of Italy. He continued north of the Alps each summer and left his armies there in garrison each winter while he came south to conduct the civil administration of Cisalpine Gaul and Illyricum and to keep in contact with Rome. Caesar became determined to conquer and make a province of the whole of Gaul. After his defeat of the Belgic tribes in the north and the submission of the maritime tribes on the Atlantic seaboard, he believed that the task had all but been accomplished. Caesar decided to make two short reconnaissance expeditions, one across the Rhine and the other across the Straits of Dover to Britain.
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In a longer and more serious invasion of Britain he crossed the Thames and received the submission of the supreme commander of the southeastern Britons, Cassivellaunus. Caesar had avoided recall to Rome at the end of the five years of command voted to him by coming to a fresh agreement with Pompey and Crassus at Luca. The optima tes in control of the senate, now awake to the immense increase in Caesar’s personal power, wealth, and prestige, kept Pompey in Italy, allowing him to govern his Spanish provinces by deputies. The following year Caesar was made governor of Further Spain. (Sahlman).
When he returned to Rome the next year, he joined forces with Crassus and Pompey. After his return from a successful year administrating Spain, Caesar was elected consul in 59 BC through political alliance through Pompey and Crassus. This alliance was called the first triumvirate. Caesar’s purpose was to gain a big military command.
Pompey, for his part, sought the ratification of his eastern settlement and land allotments for his discharged troops. Crassus sought a revision of the contract for collecting taxes in the province of Asia. An agrarian bill authorizing the purchase of land for Pompey’s veterans was passed in January of 59 BC, at a disorderly public assembly. It was at this assembly that Caesar’s fellow consul, Calpurnius Bibulus, was thrown from the platform and his consular insignia was broken. Bibulus tried to stop Caesar and his supporters from passing any further laws, but was only able to postpone the creation of the new laws by saying that the stormy skies would not permit it knowing that they were very superstitious. Caesar disregarded Bibulus’ behavior allowing the remainder of the legislative program of the triumvirate to be carried through.
As a result of this action Caesar and his friends induced bitter attacks. Their political opponents continued to claim that the whole of the legislation was unconstitutional and invalid. Although Caesar was busy with political arrangements he still had time to meet and fall in love with Calpurnia. That same year he married her. The following year, Caesar was appointed governor of Roman Gaul.
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He returned to Rome for a short time in 47 BC, but then left for Africa to crush his opponents. Caesar became increasingly interested in public affairs, and tried to gain the favor of the people. In 65 BC, he was elected to the office of aedile and organized public games. Caesar returned Marius’ trophies to their former place of honor in the capitol, thus lying claim to leadership of the popular es. He won favor because he spent much money to provide recreation for the people, although he went heavily into debt to do so. In 62 BC, Caesar became praetor, the office next in rank to consul.
Catiline, a dissatisfied Roman politician, plotted a revolt. In breaking up this plot, leading aristocrats sought to disgrace the entire group of popular leaders, including Caesar, but they failed to hurt his political prospects. In 60 BC, Caesar allied himself with Marcus Licinius Crassus and Gna eus Pompey in the First Triumvirate, an alliance that held considerable power in Rome. Crassus was a man of enormous wealth and political ambition. In 49 BC, Caesar had himself appointed dictator and consul after he defeated Pompey’s troops in many battles. From the time that he had first faced battle and discovered his own military genius, Caesar was evidently fascinated and obsessed by military and imperial problems.
He gave them an absolute priority over the more delicate, but no less the fundamental task of revising the Roman constitution. He met Pompey’s army in Greece where, at Pharsalus in 48 BC, he defeated Pompey’s forces but Pompey escaped to Egypt. Caesar followed him later to find out that Pompey had been murdered. Within sixty days, Cae sar became master of Italy. It took him nearly five years to complete the conquest of Pompey and his followers.
As an orator, Caesar ranked second only to Cicero, the great Roman statesman and philosopher. Caesar is also famous as a writer. His Commentaries on the Gallic War describe his conquests in Gaul. The clear direct style of his work makes it a model of historical writing. Caesar used wisely the power he had won, and made many important reforms.
He tried to control dishonest practices in the Roman and provincial governments. He improved the calendar, cleaning up confusion that had existed for hundreds of years. Caesar gave poor people in Rome an outlet to improve their way of living by establishing colonies, notably at Carthage and Corinth. Caesar had proved he was capable of governing Rome and its vast possessions. Yet, many of Caesar’s actions offended Roman pride.
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Caesar treated the Senate as a mere advisory council, and the senators resented this disrespect. He also offended many Romans by assuming the office of dictator. He returned in 78 BC when Sulla died and began his political career as prosecuting advocate. (Sahlman).
By training, Caesar was a politician rather than a soldier, but he knew he needed military victories to gain greater fame. Caesar gained military force and a loyal army from a campaign to conquer Gaul in 58 BC. It soon became clear that he was a military genius. Caesar had now become undisputed master of the Roman world. He pardoned the followers of Pompey.
The people honored Caesar for his leadership and triumphs by granting him the powers of dictator for 10 years. Later, he was made dictator for life. In 49 BC, the conservatives ordered Caesar to give up his army. Caesar did not surrender his army to leave them defenseless, but instead did the opposite.
Caesar used his army to invade Britain twice in 55 and 54 BC. He won this battle to lead to the conquering of Gaul, which included present day France and Belgium, as well as parts of Holland, Germany, and Switzerland in 50 BC. (Dunn 184).
Caesar then led his army of 5000 soldiers across the Rubicon, a stream that separated his provinces from Italy. This caused the start of the Roman Civil War. He conquered all territories east to the Rhine River, drove the Germans out of Gaul, and then crossed the Rhine to show the great might of Rome.
He won this war to make Cleopatra ruler of Egypt. A year after this victory, Cleopatra was driven away from the throne. While this was happening, Julius Caesar was invading Alexandria, Egypt’s capitol. Caesar had come to Alexandria in pursuit of Pompey, who was a rival in Caesar’s struggle to become the ruler of Rome.
While in pursuit, Caesar met Cleopatra and fell in love. He defeated her rivals to make her regain power of the throne. Caesar asked Cleopatra to journey to Rome with him to pursue a love affair. Cleopatra accepted. This led to the birth of Caesar ion, a boy she claimed to belong to Caesar. While Cleopatra was giving birth in 47 BC, Julius Caesar was off claiming his next victory.
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He had successfully defeated Pharnaces II, King of Pontus. Caesar gave a brief, but meaningful statement to the Roman senate to report his victory at Zelda. He stated, ‘Veni, viii, vic i,’ ; which means, ‘I came, I saw, I conquered.’ ; (Abbott 214).
The following year, 46 BC, Caesar won another battle after decisively defeating Pompey’s forces at Thapsus in southern Africa.
Cato the Younger, one of Pompey’s supporters, killed himself when he heard of the defeat. Julius Caesar once again gained a victory over his opponents in 45 BC. It was this year at Munda, in Spain, where Caesar defeated two of Pompey’s sons. This was Caesar’s final battle. The calendar used in the time of Caesar was three months ahead of the seasons. Of course Caesar wanted to fix this problem.
In 46 BC, Caesar talked with the astronomer Sosigenes to remedy the problem. Caesar told the Romans to disregard the moon in calculating their calendars. He divided the year into 12 months of 31 and 30 days, except for February, which had only 29 days. The Romans renamed the month Quintiles to honor Caesar, giving us the month of July. The Julian calendar was used for more than 1, 500 years. This proved to be a well-known accomplishment for Caesar.
On the night of March 14, 44 BC, Caesar and his wife, Calpurnia, both fell victim to dreams that now seem to be a warning of the impending danger that faced Caesar. He dreamt of floating to the skies to be received by Jupiter, while his wife dreamt of him being stabbed to death by a robber. The following morning on March 15, a day referred to as the ‘Ides of March,’ Caesar was called to a meeting at the senate house. Calpurnia urged Caesar not to attend the meeting because she feared something terrible would take place. Caesar was also hesitant to attend. Dec imus Brutus, a conspirator to the death of Caesar, calmed Caesar’s hesitance by reminding him that the senators were gathered to accept him as their king.
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Caesar was not aware that Brutus and a large number of gladiators had plotted to kill him at the meeting. On his journey to the senate house, Caesar was handed a letter from Artemidorous, a Greek teacher. Artemidorous had learned of the plot through conspirators who were his pupils. Through confusion and distraction of other letters, Caesar never read Artemidorous’ warning to him. Caesar, being unaware of a plot to murder him, took his seat in the senate chair. As the meeting progressed, Caesar was handed a petition by one of the conspirators.
As expected, he declined granting the petition, thus making crowds gather around him to urge him to agree upon it. With further reluctance the first blow was struck to Caesar’s neck. Soon all the conspirators were striking him with their swords. In all, twenty-three swords penetrated Caesar’s skin, but only one was fatal. Caesar’s last words, as he looked upon his conspirators, are translated into, ”And you too, Brutus?’ ; (Abbott 267).
At that moment of recognition, Caesar fell to his death.
The body of Julius Caesar lay for some time undisturbed where it had fallen. Of the slaves whom Caesar gathered over time, only three remained. They gathered around his body and examined the wounds. After the examination the slaves decided to carry the body home. They had found a nearby chair to place Caesar’s body on to carry him home to Calpurnia. After a provocative funeral oration by Marc Antony, Caesar’s body was burned by the mob in the forum.
At the games in his honor the following July, a comet appeared. It was regarded as evidence of his godhead and he was formally renamed as ‘div us Julius,’ ; or divine Julius. Octavius, whose name became Caesar Octavian us after his adoption by Caesar’s will, solved, by his creation of the Roman principate, the constitutional problem that Caesar failed to solve. Caesar was a strong leader for the Romans who changed the course of the history of the Greek-Roman world decisively and irreversibly. With his courage and strength he created a strong empire. Caesar’s death did not bring forth more power or liberty to the citizens of Rome.
There may have been an underlying gain for the higher ranking officials by killing Caesar, but that is unknown. It is known that the citizens, as a whole, did not gain much of an advantage by his death, except that they gained a new ruler. The people, in general, were known to prefer a leader that they could admire and look up to as a superior person. This person was called Julius Caesar.