All Rights Reserved.
Site last updated
26 June, 2013
"Men willingly believe what they wish."
- De Bello Gallico
Caesar, Gaius Julius (102-44 B.C.), the great Roman soldier and statesman, was born on the 12th of July 102 B.C.1 His family was of patrician rank and traced a legendary descent from Iulus, the founder of Alba Longa, son of Aeneas and grandson of Venus and Anchises. Caesar made the most of his divine ancestry and built a temple in his forum to Venus Genetrix; but his patrician descent was of little importance in politics and disqualified Caesar from holding the tribunate, an office to which, as a leader of the popular party, he would naturally have aspired. The Julii Caesares, however, had also acquired the new nobilitas, which belonged to holders of the great magistracies. Caesar's uncle was consul in 91 B.C., and his father held the praetorship. Most of the family seem to have belonged to the senatorial party (optimates); but Caesar himself was from the first a popularis. The determining factor is no doubt to be sought in his relationship with C. Marius, the husband of his aunt Julia. Caesar was born in the year of Marius's first great victory over the Teutones, and as he grew up, inspired by the traditions of the great soldier's career, attached himself to his party and its fortunes. Of his education we know scarcely anything. His mother, Aurelia, belonged to a distinguished family, and Tacitus (Dial. de Orat. xxviii.) couples her name with that of Cornelia, the mother of the Gracchi, as an example of the Roman matron whose disciplina and severitas formed her son for the duties of a soldier and statesman. His tutor was M. Antonius Gnipho, a native of Gaul (by which Cisalpine Gaul may be meant), who is said to have been equally learned in Greek and Latin literature, and to have set up in later years a school of rhetoric which was attended by Cicero in his praetorship 66 B.C. It is possible that Caesar may have derived from him his interest in Gaul and its people and his sympathy with the claims of the Romanized Gauls of northern Italy to political rights.
1 In spite of the explicit statements of Suetonius, Plutarch and Appian that Caesar was in his fifty-sixth year at the time of his murder, it is, as Mommsen has shown, practically certain that he was born in 102 B.C., since he held the chief offices of state in regular order, beginning with the aedileship in 65 B.C., and the legal age for this was fixed at 37-38.
In his sixteenth year (87 B.C.) Caesar lost his father, and assumed the toga virilis as the token of manhood. The social war (90-89 B.C.) had been brought to a close by the enfranchisement of Rome's Italian subjects; and the civil war which followed it led, after the departure of Sulla for the East, to the temporary triumph of the populares, led by Marius and Cinna, and the indiscriminate massacre of their political opponents, including both of Caesar's uncles. Caesar was at once marked out for high distinction, being created famen Dialis or priest of Jupiter. In the following year (which saw the death of Marius) Caesar, rejecting a proposed marriage with a wealthy capitalist's heiress, sought and obtained the hand of Cornelia, the daughter of Cinna, and thus became further identified with the ruling party. His career was soon after interrupted by the triumphant return of Sulla (82 B.C.), who ordered him to divorce his wife, and on his refusal deprived him of his property and priesthood and was induced to spare his life only by the intercession of his aristocratic relatives and the college of vestal virgins.
Released from his religious obligations, Caesar now (81 B.C.) left Rome for the East and served his first campaign under Minucius Thermus, who was engaged in stamping out the embers of resistance to Roman rule in the province of Asia, and received from him the "civic crown" for saving a fellow-soldier's life at the storm of Mytilene. In 78 B.C. he was serving under Servilius Isauricus against the Cilician pirates when the news of Sulla's death reached him and he at once returned to Rome. Refusing to entangle himself in the abortive and equivocal schemes of Lepidus to subvert the Sullan constitution, Caesar took up the only instrument of political warfare left to the opposition by prosecuting two senatorial governors, Cn. Cornelius Dolabella (in 77 B.C.) and C. Antonius (in 76 B.C.) for extortion in the provinces of Macedonia and Greece, and though he lost both cases, probably convinced the world at large of the corruption of the senatorial tribunals. After these failures Caesar determined to take no active part in politics for a time, and retraced his steps to the East in order to study rhetoric under Molon, at Rhodes. On the journey thither he was caught by pirates, whom he treated with consummate nonchalance while awaiting his ransom, threatening to return and crucify them; when released he lost no time in carrying out his threat. Whilst he was studying at Rhodes the third Mithradatic War broke out, and Caesar at once raised a corps of volunteers and helped to secure the wavering loyalty of the provincials of Asia. When Lucullus assumed the command of the Roman troops in Asia, Caesar returned to Rome, to find that he had been elected to a seat on the college of pontifices left vacant by the death of his uncle, C. Aurelius Cotta. He was likewise elected first of the six tribuni militum a populo, but we hear nothing of his service in this capacity. Suetonius tells us that he threw himself into the agitation for the restoration of the ancient powers of the tribunate curtailed by Sulla, and that he secured the passing of a law of amnesty in favour of the partisans of Sertorius. He was not, however, destined to compass the downfall of the Sullan regime; the crisis of the Slave War placed the Senate at the mercy of Pompey and Crassus, who in 70 B.C. swept away the safeguards of senatorial ascendancy, restored the initiative in legislation to the tribunes, and replaced the Equestrian order, i.e. the capitalists, in partial possession of the jury-courts. This judicial reform (or rather compromise) was the work of Caesar's uncle, L. Aurelius Cotta. Caesar himself, however, gained no accession of influence. In 69 B.C. he served as quaestor under Antistius Vetus, governor of Hither Spain, and on his way back to Rome (according to Suetonius) promoted a revolutionary agitation amongst the Transpadanes for the acquisition of full political rights, which had been denied them by Sulla's settlement.
Caesar was now best known as a man of pleasure, celebrated for his debts and his intrigues; in politics he had no force behind him save that of the discredited party of the populares, reduced to lending a passive support to Pompey and to the Crassus. But as soon as the proved incompetence of the
senatorial government had brought about the mission of Pompey to the East with the almost unlimited powers conferred on him by the Gabinian and Manilian laws of 67 and 66 B.C. (see POMPEY), Caesar plunged into a network of political intrigues which it is no longer possible to unravel. In his public acts he lost no opportunity of upholding the democratic tradition. Already in 68 B.C. he had paraded the bust of Marius at his aunt's funeral; in 65 B.C., as curule aedile, he restored the trophies of Marius to their place on the Capitol; in 64 B.C., as president of the murder commission, he brought three of Sulla's executioners to trial, and in 63 B.C. he caused the ancient procedure of trial by popular assembly to be revived against the murderer of Saturninus. By these means, and by the lavishness of his expenditure on public entertainments as aedile, he acquired such popularity with the plebs that he was elected pontifex maximus in 63 B.C. against such distinguished rivals as Q. Lutatius Catulus and P. Servilius Isauricus. But all this was on the surface. There can be no doubt that Caesar was cognizant of some at least of the threads of conspiracy which were woven during Pompey's absence in the East. According to one story, the enfants perdus of the revolutionary party - Catiline, Autronius and others - designed to assassinate the consuls on the 1st of January 65, and make Crassus dictator, with Caesar as master of the horse. We are also told that a public proposal was made to confer upon him an extraordinary military command in Egypt, not without a legitimate king and nominally under the protection of Rome. An equally abortive attempt to create a counterpoise to Pompey's power was made by the tribune Rullus at the close of 64 B.C. He proposed to create a land commission with very wide powers, which would in effect have been wielded by Caesar and Crassus. The bill was defeated by Cicero, consul in 63 B.C. In the same year the conspiracy associated with the name of Catiline came to a head. The charge of complicity was freely levelled at Caesar, and indeed was hinted at by Cato in the great debate in the senate. But Caesar, for party reasons, was bound to oppose the execution of the conspirators; while Crassus, who shared in the accusation, was the richest man in Rome and the least likely to further anarchist plots. Both, however, doubtless knew as much and as little as suited their convenience of the doings of the left wing of their party, which served to aggravate the embarrassments of the government.
As praetor (62 B.C.) Caesar supported proposals in Pompey's favour which brought him into violent collision with the senate. This was a master-stroke of tactics, as Pompey's return was imminent. Thus when Pompey landed in Italy and disbanded his army he found in Caesar a natural ally. After some delay, said to have been caused by the exigencies of his creditors, which were met by a loan of £200,000 from Crassus, Caesar left Rome for his province of Further Spain, where he was able to retrieve his financial position, and to lay the foundations of a military reputation. He returned to Rome in 60 B.C. to find that the senate had sacrificed the support of the capitalists (which Cicero had worked so hard to secure), and had finally alienated Pompey by refusing to ratify his acts and grant lands to his soldiers. Caesar at once approached both Pompey and Crassus, who alike detested the existing system of government but were personally at variance, and succeeded in persuading them to forget their quarrel and join him in a coalition which should put an end to the rule of the oligarchy. He even made a generous, though unsuccessful, endeavour to enlist the support of Cicero. The so-called First Triumvirate was formed, and constitutional government ceased to exist save in name.
The first prize which fell to Caesar was the consulship, to secure which he forewent the triumph which he had earned in Spain. His colleague was M. Bibulus, who belonged to the straitest sect of the senatorial oligarchy and, together with his party, placed every form of constitutional obstruction in the path of Caesar's legislation. Caesar, however, overrode all opposition, mustering Pompey's veterans to drive his colleague from the forum. Bibulus became a virtual prisoner in his own house, and Caesar placed himself outside the pale of the free republic. Thus the programme of the coalition was carried through. Pompey was satisfied by the ratification of his acts in Asia, and by the assignment of the Campanian state domains to his veterans, the capitalists (with whose interests Crassus was identified) had their bargain for the farming of the Asiatic revenues cancelled, Ptolemy Auletes received the confirmation of his title to the throne of Egypt (for a consideration amounting to £1,500,000), and a fresh act was passed for preventing extortion by provincial governors.
It was now all-important for Caesar to secure practical irresponsibility by obtaining a military command. The senate, in virtue of its constitutional prerogative, had assigned as the provincia of the consuls of 59 B.C.the supervision, of roads and forests in Italy. Caesar secured the
passing of a legislative enactment conferring upon himself the government of Cisalpine Gaul and Illyria for five years, and exacted from the terrorized senate the addition of Transalpine Gaul, where, as he well knew, a storm was brewing which threatened to sweep away Roman civilization beyond the Alps. The mutual jealousies of the Gallic tribes had enabled German invaders first to gain a foothold on the left bank of the Rhine, and then to obtain a predominant position in Central Gaul. In 6o B.C. the German king Ariovistus had defeated the Aedui, who were allies of Rome,. and had wrested from the Sequani a large portion of their territory. Caesar must have seen that the Germans were preparing to dispute with Rome the mastery of Gaul; but it was necessary to gain time, and in 59 B.C. Ariovistus was inscribed on the roll of the friends of the Roman people. In 58 B.C. the Helvetii, a Celtic people inhabiting Switzerland, determined to migrate for the shores of the Atlantic and demanded a passage through Roman territory. According to Caesar's statement they numbered 368,000, and it was necessary at all hazards to save the Roman province from the invasion. Caesar had but one legion beyond the Alps. With this he marched to Geneva, destroyed the bridge over the Rhone, fortified the left bank of the river, and forced the Helvetii to follow the right bank. Hastening back to Italy he withdrew his three remaining legions from Aquileia, raised two more, and, crossing the Alps by forced marches, arrived in the neighbourhood of Lyons to find that three-fourths of the Helvetii had already crossed the Saline, marching westward. He destroyed their rearguard, the Tigurini, as it was about to cross, transported his army across the river in twenty-four hours, pursued the Helvetii in a northerly direction, and utterly defeated them at Bibracte (Mont Beuvray). Of the survivors a few were settled amongst the Aedui; the rest were sent back to Switzerland lest it should fall into German hands.
The Gallic chiefs now appealed to Caesar to deliver them from the actual or threatened tyranny of Ariovistus. He at once demanded a conference, which Ariovistus refused, and on hearing that fresh swarms were crossing the Rhine, marched with all haste to Vesontio (Besancon) and thence by way of Belfort into the plain of Alsace, where he gained a decisive victory over the Germans, of whom only a few (including Ariovistus) reached the right bank of the Rhine in safety. These successes roused natural alarm in the minds of the Belgae - a confederacy of tribes in the north-west of Gaul, whose civilization was less advanced than that of the Celtae of the centre - and in the spring of 57 B.C. Caesar determined to anticipate the offensive movement which they were understood to be preparing and marched northwards into the territory of the Remi (about Reims), who alone amongst their neighbours were friendly to Rome. He successfully checked the advance of the enemy at the passage of the Aisne (between Laon and Reims) and their ill-organized force melted away as he advanced. But the Nervii, and their neighbours further to the north-west, remained to be dealt with, and were
crushed only after a desperate struggle on the banks of the Sambre, in which Caesar was forced to expose his person in the melee. Finally, the Aduatuci (near Namur) were compelled to submit, and were punished for their subsequent treachery by being sold wholesale into slavery. In the meantime Caesar's lieutenant, P. Crassus, received the submission of the tribes of the north-east, so that by the close of the campaign almost the whole of Gaul - except the Aquitani in the south-west - acknowledged Roman suzerainty.
In 56 B.C., however, the Veneti of Brittany threw off the yoke and detained two of Crassus's officers as hostages. Caesar, who had been hastily summoned from Illyricum, crossed the Loire and invaded Brittany, but found that he could make no headway without destroying the powerful fleet of high, flat-bottomed boats like floating castles possessed by the Veneti. A fleet was hastily constructed in the estuary of the Loire, and placed under the command of Decimus Brutus. The decisive engagement was fought (probably) in the Gulf of Morbihan and the Romans gained the victory by cutting down the enemy's rigging with sickles attached to poles. As a punishment for their treachery, Caesar put to death the senate of the Veneti and sold their people into slavery. Meanwhile Sabinus was victorious on the northern coasts, and Crassus subdued the Aquitani. At the close of the season Caesar raided the territories of the Morini and Menapii in the extreme north-west.
In 55 B.C. certain German tribes, the Usipetes and Tencteri, crossed the lower Rhine, and invaded the modern Flanders. Caesar at once marched to meet them, and, on the pretext that they had violated a truce, seized their leaders who had come to parley with him, and then surprised and practically destroyed their host. His enemies in Rome accused him of treachery, and Cato even proposed that he should be handed over to the Germans. Caesar meanwhile constructed his famous bridge over the Rhine in ten days, and made a demonstration of force on the right bank. In the remaining weeks of the summer he made his first expedition to Britain, and this was followed by a second crossing in 54 B.C. On the first occasion Caesar took with him only two legions, and effected little beyond a landing on the coast of Kent. The second expedition consisted of five legions and 2000 cavalry, and set out from the Portus Itius (Boulogne or Wissant; see T. Rice Holmes, Ancient Britain and the Invasions of Julius Caesar, 1907, later views in Classical Review, May 1909, and H. S. Jones, in Eng. Hist. Rev. xxiv., 1909, p. 115). Caesar now penetrated into Middlesex and crossed the Thames, but the British prince Cassivellaunus with his war-chariots harassed the Roman columns, and Caesar was compelled to return to Gaul after imposing a tribute which was never paid.
The next two years witnessed the final struggle of the Gauls for freedom. Just before the second crossing to Britain, Dumnorix, an Aeduan chief, had been detected in treasonable intrigues, and killed in an attempt to escape from Caesar's camp. At the close of the campaign Caesar distributed his legions over a somewhat wide extent of territory. Two of their camps were treacherously attacked. At Aduatuca (near Aixla-Chapelle) a newly-raised legion was cut to pieces by the Eburones under Ambiorix, while Quintus Cicero was besieged in the neighbourhood of Namur and only just relieved in time by Caesar, who was obliged to winter in Gaul in order to check the spread of the rebellion. Indutiomarus, indeed, chief of the Treveri (about Troves), revolted and attacked Labienus, but was defeated and killed. The campaign of 53 B. C. was marked by a second crossing of the Rhine and by the destruction of the Eburones, whose leader Ambiorix, however, escaped. In the autumn Caesar held a conference at Durocortorum (Reims), and Acco, a chief of the Senones, was convicted of treason and flogged to death.
Early in 52 B.C. some Roman traders were massacred at Cenabum (Orleans), and, on hearing the news, the Arverni revolted under Vercingetorix and were quickly joined by other tribes, especially the Bituriges, whose capital was Avaricum (Bourges). Caesar hastened back from Italy, slipped past
Vercingetorix and reached Agedincum (Sens), the headquarters of his legions. Vercingetorix saw that Caesar could not be met in open battle, and determined to concentrate his forces in a few strong positions. Caesar first besieged and took Avaricum, whose occupants were massacred, and then invested Gergovia (near the Puy-de-Dome), the capital of the Arverni, but suffered a severe repulse and was forced to raise the siege. Hearing that the Roman province was threatened, he marched westward, defeated Vercingetorix near Dijon and shut him up in Alesia (Mont-Auxois),which he surrounded with lines of circumvallation. An attempt at relief by Vercassivellaunus was defeated after a desperate struggle and Vercingetorix surrendered. The struggle was over except for some isolated operations in 51 B.C., ending with the siege and capture of Uxellodunum (Puy d'Issolu), whose defenders had their hands cut off. Caesar now reduced Gaul to the form of a province, fixing the tribute at 40,000,000 sesterces (£350,000), and dealing liberally with the conquered tribes, whose cantons were not broken up.
In the meantime his own position was becoming critical. In 56 B.C., at the conference of Luca (Lucca), Caesar, Pompey and Crassus had renewed their agreement, and Caesar's command in Gaul, which would have expired on the 1st of March 54 B.C., was renewed, probably for five years, i.e. to the 1st of March 49 B.C., and it was enacted that the question of his successor should not be discussed until the 1st of March 50 B.C., by which time the provincial commands for 49 B.C. would have been assigned, so that Caesar would retain imperium, and thus immunity from persecution, until the end of 49 B.C. He was to be elected consul for 48 B.C., and, as the law prescribed a personal canvass, he was by special enactment dispensed from its provisions. But in 54 B.C. Julia, the daughter of Caesar and wife of Pompey, died, and in 53 B.C. Crassus was killed at Carrhae. Pompey now drifted apart from Caesar and became the champion of the senate. In 52 B.C. he passed a fresh law de jure magistratuum which cut away the ground beneath Caesar's feet by making it possible to provide a successor to the Gallic provinces before the close of 49 B.C., which meant that Caesar would become for some months a private person, and thus liable to be called to account for his unconstitutional acts. Caesar had no resource left but uncompromising obstruction, which he sustained by enormous bribes. His representative in 50 B.C., the tribune C. Scribonius Curio, served him well, and induced the lukewarm majority of the senate to refrain from extreme measures, insisting that Pompey, as well as Caesar, should resign the imperium. But all attempts at negotiation failed, and in January 49 B.C., martial law having been proclaimed on the proposal of the consuls, the tribunes Antony and Cassius fled to Caesar, who crossed the Rubicon (the frontier of Italy) with a single legion, exclaiming " Alea jacta est."
Pompey's available force consisted in two legions stationed in Campania, and eight, commanded by his lieutenants, Afranius and Petreius, in Spain; both sides levied troops in Italy. Caesar was soon joined by two legions from Gaul and marched rapidly down the Adriatic coast, overtaking Pompey at Brundisium (Brindisi), but failing to prevent him from embarking with his troops for the East, where the prestige of his name was greatest. Hereupon Caesar (it is said) exclaimed " I am going to Spain to fight an army without a general, and thence to the East to fight a general without an army." He carried out the first part of this programme with marvellous rapidity. He reached Ilerda (Lerida) on the 23rd of June and, after extricating his army from a perilous situation, outmanoeuvred Pompey's lieutenants and received their submission on the 2nd of August. Returning to Rome, he held the dictatorship for eleven days, was elected consul for 48 B.C., and set sail for Epirus at Brundisium on the 4th of January. He attempted to invest Pompey's lines at Dyrrhachium (Durazzo), though his opponent's force was double that of his own, and was defeated with considerable loss. He now marched eastwards, in order if possible to intercept the reinforcements which Pompey's father-in-law, Scipio, was bringing up; but Pompey was able to effect a junction with this force and descended into the plain of Thessaly, where at the battle of Pharsalus he was decisively defeated and fled to Egypt, pursued by Caesar, who learnt of his rival's murder on landing at Alexandria. Here he remained for nine months, fascinated (if the story be true) by Cleopatra, and almost lost his life in an emeule. In June 47 B.C. he proceeded to the East and Asia Minor, where he "came, saw and conquered " Pharnaces, son of Mithradates the Great, at Zela. Returning to Italy, he quelled a mutiny of the legions (including the faithful Tenth) in Campania, and crossed to Africa, where a republican army of fourteen legions under Scipio was cut to pieces at Thapsus (6th of April 46 B.C.). Here most of the republican leaders were killed and Cato committed suicide. On the 26th to 29th July Caesar celebrated a fourfold triumph and received the dictatorship for ten years. In November, however, he was obliged to sail for Spain, where the sons of Pompey still held out. On the 17th of March 45 B.C. they were crushed at Munda. Caesar returned to Rome in September, and six months later (15th of March 44 B.C.) was murdered in the senate house at the foot of Pompey's statue.
It was remarked by Seneca that amongst the murderers of Caesar were to be found more of his friends than of his enemies. We can account for this only by emphasizing the fact that the form of Caesar's government became as time went on more undisguised in its absolutism, while the honours conferred upon him seemed designed to raise him above the rest of humanity. It is explained elsewhere (see ROME: History, Ancient) that Caesar's power was exercised under the form of the dictatorship. In the first instance (autumn of 49 B.C.) this was conferred upon him as the only solution of the constitutional deadlock created by the flight of the magistrates and senate, in order that elections (including that of Caesar himself to the consulship) might be held in due course. For this there were republican precedents. In 48 B.C. he was created dictator for the second time, probably with constituent powers and for an undefined period, according to the dangerous and unpopular precedent of Sulla. In May 46 B.C. a third dictatorship was conferred on Caesar, this time for ten years and apparently as a yearly office, so that he became Dictator IV. in May 45 B.C. Finally, before the 15th of February 44 B.C., this was exchanged for a life-dictatorship. Not only was this a contradiction in terms, since the dictatorship was by tradition a makeshift justified only when the state had to be carried through a serious crisis, but it involved military rule in Italy and the permanent suspension of the constitutional guarantees, such as intercessio and provocatio, by which the liberties of Romans were protected. That Caesar held the imperium which he enjoyed as dictator to be distinct in kind from that of the republican magistrates he indicated by placing the term imperator at the head of his titles.1 Besides the dictatorship, Caesar held the consulship in each year of his reign except 47 B.C. (when no curule magistrates were elected save for the last three months of the year) ; and he was moreover invested by special enactments with a number of other privileges and powers; of these the most important was the tribunicia potestas, which we may believe to have been free from the limits of place (i.e. Rome) and collegiality. Thus, too, he was granted the sole right of making peace and war, and of disposing of the funds in the treasury of the state.2 Save for the title of dictator, which undoubtedly carried unpopular associations and was formally abolished on the proposal of Antony after Caesar's death, this cumulation of powers has little to distinguish it from the Principate of Augustus; and the assumption of the perpetual dictatorship would hardly by itself suffice to account for the murder of Caesar. But there are signs that in the last six months of his life he aspired not only to a monarchy in name as well as in fact, but also to a divinity which Romans should acknowledge as well as Greeks, Orientals and barbarians. His statue was set up beside those of the seven kings of Rome, and he adopted the throne of gold, the sceptre of ivory and the embroidered robe which tradition ascribed to them. He allowed his supporters to suggest the offer of the regal title by putting in circulation an oracle according to which it was destined for a king of Rome to subdue the Parthians, and when at the Lupercalia (15th February 44 B. C.) Antony set the diadem on his head he rejected the offer half-heartedly on account of the groans of the people. His image was carried in the pompa circensis amongst those of the immortal gods, and his statue set up in the temple of Quirinus with the inscription "To the Unconquerable God." A college of Luperci, with the surname Juliani, was instituted in his honour and flamines were created as priests of his godhead. This was intolerable to the aristocratic republicans, to whom it seemed becoming that victorious commanders should accept divine honours at the hands of Greeks and Asiatics, but unpardonable that Romans should offer the same worship to a Roman.
1. Suetonius, Jul. 76, errs in stating that he used the title imperator as a praenomen.
Thus Caesar's work remained unfinished, and this must be borne in mind in considering his record of legislative and administrative reform. Some account of this is given elsewhere (see ROME: History, Ancient), but it may be well to single out from the list of his measures (some of which, such as the restoration of exiles and the children of proscribed persons, were dictated by political expediency, while others, such as his financial proposals for the relief of debtors, and the steps which he took to restore Italian agriculture, were of the nature of palliatives) those which have a permanent significance as indicating his grasp of imperial problems. The Social War had brought to the inhabitants of Italy as far as the Po the privileges of Roman citizenship; it remained to extend this gift to the Transpadane Italians, to establish a uniform system of local administration and to devise representative institutions by which at least some voice in the government of Rome might be permitted to her new citizens. This last conception lay beyond the horizon of Caesar, as of all ancient statesmen, but his first act on gaining control of Italy was to enfranchise the Transpadanes, whose claims he had consistently advocated, and in 45 B.C. he passed the Lex Julia Municipalis, an act of which considerable fragments are inscribed on two bronze tables found at Heraclea near Tarentum.3 This law deals inter alia with the police and the sanitary arrangements of the city of Rome, and hence it has been argued by Mommsen that it was Caesar's intention to reduce Rome to the level of a municipal town. But it is not likely that such is the case. Caesar made no far-reaching modifications in the government of the city, such as were afterwards carried out by Augustus, and the presence in the Lex Julia Municipalis of the clauses referred to is an example of the common process of "tacking" (legislation per saturam, as it was called by the Romans). The law deals with the constitution of the local senates, for whose members qualifications of age (30 years) and military service are laid down, while persons who have suffered conviction for various specified offences, or who are insolvent, or who carry on discreditable or immoral trades are excluded. It also provides that the local magistrates shall take a census of the citizens at the same time as the census takes place in Rome, and send the registers to Rome within sixty days. The existing fragments tell us little as to the decentralization of the functions of government, but from the Lex Rubria, which applies to the Transpadane districts enfranchised by Caesar (it must be remembered that Cisalpine Gaul remained nominally a province until 42 B.C.) we gather that considerable powers of independent jurisdiction were reserved to the municipal magistrates. But Caesar was not content with framing a uniform system of local government
for Italy. He was the first to carry out on a large scale those plans of transmarine colonization whose inception was due to the Gracchi. As consul in 59 B.C. Caesar had established colonies of veterans in Campania under the Lex Julia Agraria, and had even then laid down rules for the foundation of such communities. As dictator he planted numerous colonies both in the eastern and western provinces, notably at Corinth and Carthage. Mommsen interprets this policy as signifying that "the rule of the urban community of Rome over the shores of the Mediterranean was at an end," and says that the first act of the "new Mediterranean state" was "to atone for the two greatest outrages which that urban community had perpetrated on civilization." This, however, cannot be admitted. The sites of Caesar's colonies were selected for their commercial value, and that the citizens of Rome should cease to be rulers of the Mediterranean basin could never have entered into Caesar's mind. The colonists were in many cases veterans who had served under Caesar, in others members of the city proletariat. We possess the charter of the colony planted at Urso in southern Spain under the name of Colonia Julia Genetiva Urbanorum. Of the two latter titles, the first is derived from the name of Venus Genetrix, the ancestress of the Julian house, the second indicates that the colonists were drawn from the plebs urbana. Accordingly, we find that free birth is not, as in Italy, a necessary qualification for municipal office. By such foundations Caesar began the extension to the provinces of that Roman civilization which the republic had carried to the bounds of the Italian peninsula. Lack of time alone prevented him from carrying into effect such projects as the piercing of the Isthmus of Corinth, whose object was to promote trade and intercourse throughout the Roman dominions, and we are told that at the time of his death he was contemplating the extension of the empire to its natural frontiers, and was about to engage in a war with Parthia with the object of carrying Roman arms to the Euphrates. Above all, he was determined that the empire should be governed in the true sense of the word and no longer exploited by its rulers, and he kept a strict control over the legati, who, under the form of military subordination, were responsible to him for the administration of their provinces.
2. The statement of Dio and Suetonius, that a general cura legum et morum was conferred on Caesar in 46 B.C., is rejected by Mommsen. It is possible that it may have some foundation in the terms of the law establishing his third dictatorship.
3. Since the discovery of a fragmentary municipal charter at Tarentum (see ROME), dating from a period shortly after the Social War, doubts have been cast on the identification of the tables of Heraclea with Caesar's municipal statute. It has been questioned whether Caesar passed such a law, since the Lex Julia Municipalis mentioned in an inscription of Patavium (Padua) may have been a local charter. See Legras, La Table latine d'Heraclee (Paris, 1907).
Caesar's writings are treated under LATIN LITERATURE. It is sufficient here to say that of those preserved to us the seven books Commentarii de bello Gallico appear to have been written in 51 B.C. and carry the narrative of the Gallic campaigns down to the close of the previous year (the eighth book, written by A. Hirtius, is a supplement relating the events of 51-50 B.C.), while the three books De bello civili record the struggle between Caesar and Pompey (49-48 B.C.). Their veracity was impeached in ancient times by Asinius Pollio and has often been called in question by modern critics. The Gallic War, though its publication was doubtless timed to impress on the mind of the Roman people the great services rendered by Caesar to Rome, stands the test of criticism as far as it is possible to apply it, and the accuracy of its narrative has never been seriously shaken. The Civil War, especially in its opening chapters is, however, not altogether free from traces of misrepresentation. With respect to the first moves made in the struggle, and the negotiations for peace at the outset of hostilities, Caesar's account sometimes conflicts with the testimony of Cicero's correspondence or implies movements which cannot be reconciled with geographical facts. We have but few fragments of Caesar's other works, whether political pamphlets such as the Anticato, grammatical treatises (De Analogia) or poems. All authorities agree in describing him as a consummate orator. Cicero (Brut. 22) wrote: de Caesare ita judico, illum omnium fere oratorum Latine loqui elegantissime, while Quintilian (x. 1. 114) says that had he practised at the bar he would have been the only serious rival of Cicero.
The verdict of historians on Caesar has always been coloured by their political sympathies. All have recognised his commanding genius, and few have failed to do justice to his personal charm and magnanimity, which almost won the heart of Cicero, who rarely appealed in vain to his clemency.
Indeed, he was singularly tolerant of all but intellectual opposition. His private life was not free from scandal, especially in his youth, but it is difficult to believe the worst of the tales which were circulated by his opponents, e.g. as to his relations with Nicomedes of Bithynia. As to his public character, however, no agreement is possible between those who regard Caesarism as a great political creation, and those who hold that Caesar by destroying liberty lost a great opportunity and crushed the sense of dignity in mankind. The latter view is unfortunately confirmed by the undoubted fact that Caesar treated with scant respect the historical institutions of Rome, which with their magnificent traditions might still have been the organs of true political life. He increased the number of senators to 900 and introduced provincials into that body; but instead of making it into a grand council of the empire, representative of its various races and nationalities, he treated it with studied contempt, and Cicero writes that his own name had been set down as the proposer of decrees of which he knew nothing, conferring the title of king on potentates of whom he had never heard. A similar treatment was meted out to the ancient magistracies of the republic; and thus began the process by which the emperors undermined the self-respect of their subjects and eventually came to rule over a nation of slaves. Few men, indeed, have partaken as freely of the inspiration of genius as Julius Caesar; few have suffered more disastrously from its illusions. See further ROME: History, ii. " The Republic," Period C ad fin.
AUTHORITIES.-The principal ancient authorities for the life of Caesar are his own Commentaries, the biographies of Plutarch and Suetonius, letters and speeches of Cicero, the Catiline of Sallust, the Pharsalia of Lucan, and the histories of Appian, Dio Cassius and Velleius Paterculus (that of Livy exists only in the Epitome). Amongst modern works may be named the exhaustive repertory of fact contained in Drumann, Geschichte Roms, vol. iii. (new ed. by Groebe, 1906, pp. 125-829), and the brilliant but partial panegyric of Th. Mommsen in his History of Rome (Eng. trans., vol. iv., esp. p. 450 ff.). J. A. Froude's Caesar; a Sketch (2nd ed., 1896) is equally biased and much less critical. W. Warde Fowler's Julius Caesar (1892) gives a favourable account (see also his Social Life at Rome, 1909). On the other side see especially A. Holm, History of Greece (Eng. trans., vol. iv. p. 582 ff.), J. L. Strachan Davidson, Cicero (1894), p. 345 ff., and the introductory Lections in Prof. Tyrrell's edition of the Correspondence of Cicero, particularly "Cicero's case against Caesar," vol. v. p. 13 ff. Vol. ii. of G. Ferrero's Greatness and Decline of Rome (Eng. trans., 1907) is largely devoted to Caesar, but must be used with caution. The Gallic campaigns have been treated by Napoleon III., Histoire de Jules Cesar (18651866), which is valuable as giving the result of excavations, and in English by T. Rice Holmes, Caesar's Conquest of Gaul (1901), in which references to earlier literature will be found. A later account is that of G. Veith, Geschichte der Feldzuge C. Julius Caesars (1906). For maps see A. von Kampen. For the Civil War see Colonel Stoffel (the collaborator of Napoleon III.), Histoire de Jules Cesar: guerre civile (1887). There is an interesting article, "The Likenesses of Julius Caesar," by J. C. Ropes, in Scribner's Magazine, Feb. 1887, with 18 plates.
(H. S. J.)
contributed by Encyclopedia Britannica, 1911
29 December 2006