Life of Gaius Julius Caesar

Party time Caesar style


Although the war was over again, another one was growing in Spain. But Caesar for once wanted to put off making war and demonstrate his power to the people of Rome, in whose name he "officially" did all his deeds. To do so he would hold the greatest victory celebrations that the city ever saw to that time. He had 2 months to prepare. One thing he did was call Cleopatra to Rome. Officially she was to negotiate a treaty, but obviosly Caesar wanted the people of Rome to see the woman who could well be his next wife. She did have a son by him. Caesar of course knew he had a son, and this would be the first time he would see him. Before Caesar entered Rome he waited until the Senate and people had passed the many honors they deemed fit for him. A 40 day thanksgiving was granted as was the right to appear in triumph on a chariot drawn by white horses and be accompanied by all Lictors of his current and prior dictatorships. Also the right to sit in a Curule chair with the consuls in the Senate, and the right to speak first. Other grants were the right to start all races in the Circus Maximus, and a statue on the Capitol facing the god Jupiter. Another was the power of "Overseer" of all citizens for 3 years. This was basically a Censorship but twice as long and with more power. But the most important decree was the power of a Dictator for 10 successive years, which he likely accepted in July when he entered the city.

One of his preperations for the settling of the state was to give a speech in the senate in which he overly states he only wished to be a benevolent but all powerfull leader. He states that he has the last century of history to learn from (those that conqured factions to gain liberty ended up acting like those they originaly fought). In other words Caesar didn't want to end up an Optimate, but stay a Populare in the eyes of everyone. Many were relieved but wanted proof. One bit of proof was the huge four part triumph that was celebrated in the last 10 days of September (September 20-29). In the first over the Gauls, their former leader Vercingetorix was led in chains. He was the showpiece of Rome's conquest of the barbarians in Gaul. Afterwards he was taken to the Mamertine prison and ritualy strangled. Just one more of the million or more Gauls who shared death at the hands of Caesar. But in this triumph Caesar had a bit of an accident when the axle on his chariot broke while he was riding through the Velabrum, beside the temple of Fortune. Undaunted, Caesar was still able to climb the steps of the capitol to the temple of Jupitor Optimus Maximus on his knees. This was done at night with the torchlight of 40 elephants below him. This was the most lavish triumph. In the next triumph, over Egypt, Cleopatra's younger sister Arsinoe was led in chains. The Romans were stunned by the act of parading a woman in chains. She was released. The amount of lictors in the procession was stunning. In the next triumph over Pharnaces of Pontus, a painting was shown showing Pharnaces fleeing from Caesar, making the crowd laugh. Also was the sign bearing the slogan "VENI VEDI VICI". In the last triumph, over Juba, the 4 year old son of the dead king was paraded. The little boy was described as the most happy captive ever. He was of course released. The only bad thing in this triumph was the fact that many Roman citizens were killed by Caesar in that campaign. To the troops that survived in Caesar's legions, they were granted land and 20,000 sesterces apiece. Centurions received 40,000 and Military Tribunes reveived 80,000 sesterces. For the masses of the people in Rome he layed out 22,000 dining couches for a public dinner. They received 400 sesterce each along with free grain and oil. For their further entertainment he held gladiator matches in the Circus Maximus, along with a mock sea battle in the Campus Martius, in honor of his dead daughter Julia. Also Caesar was able to see his new forum that beared his name, along with the new temple of Venus. Caesar had now, in his mind, won the people over. As long as he thought the people of Rome supported him, he felt he could deal with anything.

Caesar first had to deal with the land settlement. But he had an easier time with this. It is clear that the countryside in Italy and the provinces had been vastly depopulated in the carnage of the civil war. Caesar was able to disperse land in Italy among many of his soldiers. To further the recovery of the farming in Italy and the provinces, he cut the grain dole that was given to the poor in the city of Rome; from 320,000 he cut it to 150,000. This meant that people would have incentive to farm land for food than just overrun Rome for free grain. In the provinces Caesar would begin to set up colonies in conquered lands. Both soldiers and poor citizens would be sent away from Rome. Caesar also set up criminal courts that only had Senators and Equestrians (knights) sitting as judges. But Caesar's most famous act at this time was the reform of the Roman calendar. This overcomplicated calendar hadn't been reliable and was prone to corruption (unless something went on that we don't know about). Acting on advice from Sosigenes of Alexandria, Caesar issued an edict that 67 additional days in two months be inserted between November and December. With the proper incalendary month of 23 days installed earlier this year after February, this last year of confusion contained 445 days. The next year had 10 days added to the months, giving 365 days, making it solar based. The intercalendary month was no longer used and one day would be added to February every fourth year. For it was set that the festivals would occur in their proper seasons, and the 1st day of January for the following year (45 BC) would occur on the new moon after the winter solstice.

Perhaps the one thing that shows how high Caesar was riding in favour of the people was that he was to be elected consul for a fourth time for 45 BC. Towards the end of 46 the master of the horse, Marcus Aemelius Lepidus, had urged the people to elect Caesar consul. He was to hold the position without a colleague, like Pompey had ealier done. As well at this time Caesar was preparing for the future. Caesar understood that his time was running out. He was 55 and most men died before this stage in life. So Caesar took his grand-nephew Gaius Octavius into his care. The young man was a pontifex (since 48 BC) as Caesar had been. In the triumphs of September the young man rode in a chariot closely behind Caesar. In public he was with Caesar and regarded as the heir apparent to the dictator. But again Caesar wouldn't have much time in Rome. For the last 1 1/2 years Spain had revolted, beginning with Quintus Cassius Longinus. He had dispised the Spanish from the first and provoked revolt. Even his replacements were unable to prevent more rebellion. Caesar had sent troops and ships to Spain but it soon became clear that he would have to command the war in person, since his generals Quintus Fabius Maximus and Quintus Pedius were not up to the task. His enemies were the two sons of Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus.

Just one......more fight


As stated before, the anti-Caesar faction was still alive. But it was clearly in serious condition. By going to Spain the enemy found themselves simply cornered. Things likely would have been much different if the sons of Pompey ended up in Transalpine Gaul. But they ended up in Spain and Caesar thought it wouldn't be difficult. However the locals, as all ancients who dealt with the Romans, ended up supporting the power that was on the scene. However the situation now required that Caesar arrive in person. That he did after leaving Rome during the extended time between November 1 and December 1. Again his troops would have to fight and survive in a winter campaign. But the suddeness of his moves and unexpected timing gave Caesar an edge on all occasions. Caesar arrived in Spain before his enemies even heard he was approaching. The sons of Pompey were attempting to secure better strongholds to protract the war. It is clear that Caesar had the manpower and moral advantage. But the enemy had a tough territory to camp in. This made sieges of cities and camps difficult. But none the less Caesar quickly took to taking the fight to the enemy. Gnaeus Pompey was besieging Ulia and Caesar took to force him from there. This was done by Lucius Julius Paciecus in a night attack. Meanwhile Caesar marched on Corduba where Sextus Pompey was in command. When Gnaeus marched to save him Caesar hoped for a battle outside the city and end the war. However it ended up being a stalemate on the banks of the Guadalquivir river. So in the midst of winter (the soldiers had to stay in primitive huts) Caesar marched to take the city of Ategua, which was a strong enemy post and had stored grain he could appropriate. Corduba was held by Pompey and marched to meet Caesar, in which would succesfully kill a number of Caesar's horse. However, Caesar was able to take the city after some time on February 19. This seems to have convinced many locals to submit to Caesar. It should be noted that Caesar was ill during the winter. As well Pompey was getting advised by Titus Labienus, who knew Caesar better than anyone on the enemy side. The fighting going on now were bloody skirmashes that would end in a final battle. It was clear that it was a fight to finish all, since both sides were executing those captured. There was too much at stake.

Munda


The two Roman armies eventually manuevered themselves into the plains of Munda. This is somewhere near the city of Osuna. The two armies camped across from each other. Caesar hoped that the enemy would decend into the plain and meet Caesar on equal ground. But the enemy stayed still and Caesar would have to fight uphill to meet them. Pompey had 13 legions, 6000 light troops, cavalry and auxiliaries. Caesar had now 8 legions and 8000 cavalry. The day was March 17, the festival of Bacchus, four years to the day (by the then incorrect calendar) that Pompey the Great escaped from Brundisium. The younger Pompey's troops moved forward slightly and then the shout for battle was raised. As the two armies met Caesar and Pompey were watching from respective elevated positions. The battle was a vicious one by any standards. The fighting was sword to sword, shield to shield, man to man. No one side had the advantage and both sides were bent on fighting to the death. It seemed that both sides thought they were losing and the commanders (Caesar and Pompey) chose to fight with their men. Caesar ran through his ranks which were not making a defence against the enemy as he would prefer. He had the fear of death in his manner. Passing through the soldiers he yelled if they were "ashamed to deliver him into the hands of boys". The troops forgot their fears and fought alongside their General. The battle was going nowhere until Caesar's right wing, containing the 10th legion, pushed the enemy back. With the balance tipped in Caesar's favour the enemy reinforced their left with a legion from their right. Seeing the opportunity the cavalry on the left of Caesar attacked the right wing of Pompey's line. It was now Caesar winning and then (according to Dio) Bogud, the king of Mauretania, sallied to attack the camp of Pompey. At his position on the line Labienus saw this and pulled away to prevent this. Seeing their cavalry pull back with the only man who knew Caesar's tactics, they began thier flight. Now in the horrible fight Caesar had lost 1000 men and the other side at least that. But in the flight many more were to die. Many died defending their own ramparts, others fleeing to the city, others defending the walls of Munda. In the end the carnage was total. 30,000 men died on this day, a great many being Roman citizens. So great was the dead that Caesar walled up the town with the corpses of the enemy. This was the bloodiest battle in Caesar's experience, and the only one which he fought personally to save his life, not to just gain victory.

Settlement of Spain


And victory it was. Labienus had died in battle and Gnaeus Pompey had escaped, making his way to the seaside town of Carteia, which is on the eastern side of Gibraltar. Word of the battle had reached Sextus Pompey in Corduba. He left that city after dark. He would eventually escape from Spain and lead a band of pirates for a couple of years. Caesar himself marched on Corduba after making sure that Munda was surrounded. At Corduba the people who supported Caesar soon surrendered to his troops outside the city. It was obvious that they thought Caesar was in a killing mood. They were correct, he was. Pompey's 13th legion entrenched themselves to defend the city along with armed, newly freed slaves. Caesar attacked and took the city. In the end a supossed 22,000 were killed. Meanwhile at the city of Munda the defenders made an unsuccessful attack on Caesar's troops. Caesar was also going to have problems with the city of Hispalis. As Caesar was marching through Spain, likely destroying everything in his path, the citizens of Carteia had second thoughts about harbouring Gnaeus Pompey. In a fight in the city that broke out Pompey was injured and got on his ships. Pompey got out to sea with 20 of them and Caesar's naval commander Gaius Didius left Gades to go after him. Pompey hadn't taken on any supplies during the escape from Carteia. He would soon have to land somewhere. Didius soon captured and destroyed much of Pompey's ships, and he escaped again. But his location was soon betrayed and surrounded by forces under Caesennius Lento. After the Romans took this last stronghold, Pompey was hiding in a cave. He was injured in the leg and soldier and had a sprained ankle. According to Caesar he was found in the cave and killed. His head was chopped off and brought to Hispalis on April 12. That town Caesar gained through petending to make a sloppy siege and the defenders ran out and attacked at night. Caesar ambushed them and killed them all. Pompey's head was than displayed in public at Gades, with Caesar present. However Didius hadn't much luck when he landed his fleet to make repairs and was attacked by a large body of Lusitanians. Didius fought bravely but the enemy was able to lure him from the fleet which was burnt and the Romans were surrounded and killed, along with Gaius Didius. Meanwhile the seige of Munda dragged on under the command of Quintus Fabius Maximus. Caesar in the month of April was back in Gades, where that statue of Alexander was. Caesar no doubt saw the statue again when he was in the city. Dio tells us that Caesar imposed tribute on the cities of Spain and Gades was not spared this, along with the temple of Hercules where the statue was. It is also noteworthy that Caesar seems to have felt betrayed by the people of Spain, whom he served twice as an official. The last book of Caesar's campaings, the Spanish War, abruptly ends in the middle of Caesar's speech to the citizens of Gades. The end of the book is lost and along with the detailed account of Caesar's actions after the capture of Munda and the end of the war. But we do know what happened in the end.

Word of Caesar's final victory in Spain reached Rome on the day before the Parilia, which was April 20. It was decreed that in honour of the day of the arrival of the message, games where to be held on April 21 in the Circus Maximus. This is the beginning of the honours and events that led to the death of Gaius Julius Caesar. Cassius Dio tells us plainly that Caesar was acting with much arrogance. This clearly means that Caesar's success has gone to his head. Since now all the enemies that he thought he had were either dead or of no consequence, how he acted now was of little or no matter. All the honours he would now receive would resemble slaves flattering their master. The fact that he took many of them with disregard to the dignity to the Roman people, put him in a position that was impossible for all to accept. Caesar clearly didn't realize that those who he had pardoned before would be the cause of the trouble that existed in his last year of life. But for now Caesar had to settle the situation at hand. Rome and the squabbling that was to brew within could wait for now. Among the honours given to Caesar in his absence was one that allowed him to wear special triumphal clothing on all public occasions, along with the golden laurel crown of victory. He was almost bald so he obvously didn't mind. Also a large house was to be built on state property for Caesar's use. Caesar was also allowed to use the title "Imperator" infront of his name for the rest of his life.

The main thing Caesar had to do now in Spain after final pacification was give the region a sense of stability. Spain was rich in resources and in an isolated section of the empire. Caesar went about to Romanize it. Here he would set up colonies for Roman citizens to live. Many were already towns in Spain, like Osuna and Hispalis. Landless citizens from Italy and veteran soldiers could live here. Around now Caesar was joined by his grand-nephew and heir apparent Gaius Octavius. The 18 year old was, as said, a sickly youth who had recently recovered from a bout of ill health. His journey to Caesar was one full of danger. Somewhere along the line he was shipwrecked. Closer to Spain he had to travel through hostile territory with few companions. Caesar was quite impressed with this show of determination and bravery. Here the young man would learn from the great Caesar of how to govern the aftermath of a civil war. But it wasn't a to be a long association. Julius Caesar in the late spring and early summer of 45 BC continued to found colonies as he worked his way back towards Italy. As he went he also granted citizenship to locals who he deemed worthy. When left left Spain in the summer he worked his way through southern Gaul and Arles was made a colony. While he was here he likely gave citizenship to Gauls. Some were even made senators. The enrolling of senators who the Romans considered half-civilized, led to a great downturn in Caesar's acceptance among the remaining aristocrats. Caesar was to leave his master of the horse, Lepidus, governor of nearer Spain and southern Gaul. In northern Italy Caesar granted the people there the citizenship they long desired, as well as founding more colonies.

By now the young Octavius had left Caesar and went on to Rome. There he saw the almost ridiculous honours granted to the great conquerer. After word of victory on April 20, it was also decreed that an ivory statue of Caesar be carried in public at religious processions at games, along with the statues of the gods. Another statue of Caesar was set up in the temple of Quirinus with the inscription "To the Invincible God". The god Quirinus seems to be the way the Romans worshipped the Deified king Romulus. The temple had been severely damaged four years before. But the statue that roused the most hatred was the one set up among the eight others on the capitol. There were seven statues of the Roman Kings, and another of the first consul Lucius Junius Brutus. Caesar's statue was set up next to this one. From kingship to consulship and then to dictatorship was the order of Roman history. Another thing was that Caesar became the first Roman to have his face on coins while he was alive. He was back in Italy in September, and likely met Octavius one last time. Caesar had been planning a campaign to conquer Parthia, Scythia, and Germany. Caesar would be dictator and Octavian would serve under him as master of the horse for what was likely the year 42 BC. Octavian went on to Apollonia to finish his education. He would never see his great uncle again. On the Ides of September 45 BC (September 13) Caesar made his will at his house at Lavicum in Latium. In that will he named the soon to be 19 year old his adoptive son. Perhaps now feeling that this was secure, Caesar left for Rome.

Home at last


Caesar likely entered Rome on October 1. Here he relinquished the office of Consul that he held for the fourth time, and the only time he held it alone. The office he turned over to the two generals who were in Spain with him. They were Quintus Fabius Maximus and Gaius Trebonius. This act was one that made clear to all that Caesar had little regard for republican tradition. Caesar is said to have said that the the Republic was an "Image", not a reality. In any event the new consuls weren't well received. In the theatre Fabius was mocked when he entered, it was shouted that he was "no consul." But Caesar's downhill slide continued. In early October Caesar celebrated his triumph over the enemy in Spain. This was a grave mistake, since this was a triumph over fellow citizens. People really didn't like this very well but Caesar as usual catered to the urban poor, or what was left of them, to another huge dinner party. The city had been quite depopulated of poor and Caesar had less of an influence. The city had removed from it about 80,000 of it's poorest people to fill the new colonies in the west and in Corinth and Carthage. For Caesar himself he was granted the title "Liberator" and a temple to Liberty was to be built in his honor. Quintus Fabius Maximus and Quintus Pedius were allowed to hold small victory celebrations of there own. Maximus' on October 13. This wasn't liked because they used wooden statues instead of ivory ones. The Senate now only showed that they had no intension of stopping Caesar. Now they let Caesar be voted consul "for the next ten years". He was also allowed to hold any office he wanted, even a Plebian one (Plebian Aedile, Plebian Tribune, ect..). It also seems that the senate was willing to let Caesar be the only Roman to hold imperium, which was ridiculous. He was also allowed to appoint half of all magistrates. But all who ran for office needed his approval. Later, Caesar himself appointed magistrates to provincial appointments. Around now Caesar began to wear the red shoes that were worn by the kings of Alba, hundreds of years before. Caesar passed a law that said that no citizen over 20 and less then 40 could be out of Italy for more than 3 years unless he was with the army. A senator's son couldn't leave unless he was serving on someones staff. When a rich person killed someone of a lower class, all their wealth was confiscated. In the country one third of a work force had to be freedmen. Also Caesar arranged for the cancellation of a quarter of all debts. Caesar did do some good.

But his good was lost in all the bad retoric that was written down by those living long after Caesar was dead. They wrote on the premises that Caesar and his honours caused the strife and problems of their time. It is true that those that came after Caesar only wished to achieve what he had, so the good was far outweighed by the bad. Other honours that Caesar received now were ones that seemed to fit a dead hero rather than one who was alive. He was to have a tribe of the tribal assembly named after him. His birthday (July 13) was to be a national holiday. The month of Quintillius was to be renamed after Caesar, now to be "Julius." A priesthood was made specifically for him and his family. This was clearly going a little too far. And Caesar did have enemies at this point. When he celebrated the triumph in October, one of the ten Tribunes of the Plebs refused to rise when Caesar's chariot passed. His name was Lucius Pontius Aquila. Caesar was outraged and yelled out:

"Come then, Aquila, take back the Republic from me, you tribune."
He now outdid himself for a few days by insulting Aquila, saying at the end of his proposals:
"That is, if Pontius Aquila will allow me."
This more than ever shows how Caesar had lost his original purpose. He crossed the Rubicon to defend the rights of the Tribunes (although this was his legal excuse), now he was mocking them publically. Clearly, Caesar's ego had inflated out of control and the honors he was given only made it look worse to those who began to hate him. One must always remember that these enemies almost never showed their feelings in Caesar's presence. So he never really knew what they thought. Does a slave who flatters his master, really love him?

At this time Caesar also spent time with his son Caesarion and Cleopatra. They were still living in Caesar's villa outside the city. But Caesar does not seem to have worried about Cleopatra very much. She seems to have been the final piece in Caesar's plan for the world, but this was still years away. If Caesar conquered the world, he could go into a kind of semi-retirement and perhaps marry Clepatra. Clearly he didn't want to rock this boat too much with the Roman people. This is clear since Caesar didn't put Caesarion in his will. But we know that he was with Cleopatra. She would stay at one of Caesar's villas near Rome until after Caesar was dead. Cicero would, the next year in May, refer to what sounds like a miscarriage of a pregnant Cleopatra. At most she would've been 7 months pregnant. Only Caesar could be the father. So now Caesar had to deal with the politics that all were concerned about.

Troops were being prepared to march east and Caesar, who was granted command of the war, was allowed to hold elections for the next three years to keep the state stable while he was gone. Caesar was to be consul for 44 BC, along with Marcus Antonius (Mark Antony). After Caesar left for Parthia that year, he would hand over his consulship to Publius Cornelius Dolabella. This man was in his late 20's and was not well liked by Antony and others and was once married to Cicero's daughter. In December Caesar held elections for the consuls to serve in 43 BC. A real showing of contempt for government occured on December 31. On that day word was brought to Caesar that was Quintus Fabius Maximus had died. Since Caesar didn't enter his office until the next day, He disbanded the tribal assembly and convened the Centuriate assembly to elect a consul for a day (1 o'clock to sunset). The man elected was Gaius Caninius Rubilus. He was elected, served, and ended his term all on the same day. Cicero joked before paying respect to the consul: "Let us make haste, lest the man be gone out of his office before we come."

A problem with no immediate solution


One must remember that Caesar had already achieved the all power that he ever wanted. He was king and god in all but name. The question simply was: Could he hold this power and honor without lowering the dignity of the Roman government? Well, trying to answer that question is why so much is written about Caesar's life. My own opinion is that Caesar over time became too distant in having respect for the tradition of Roman equality (among the aristocracy). He seems to have believed that the empire couldn't be ruled as the city had been, by colleges of magistrates. It took an all controling influence to maintain order in this new world. Caesar's problem was that he didn't at the time make the Roman aristocrats believe what he was doing was the right thing. So the more Caesar took, the more he looked bad. And Caesar would take something that pushed the remaining aristocrats over the edge.


Continue

Home

Copyright 2001 Kevin Wheeler
1