Julius Caesar history, biography and images

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Julius Caesar

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What if Ancient Rome, Greece and Egypt were invented during Renaissance?
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  • Caesar's youth

  • Caesar's early career

  • Caesar's consulship

  • Wars in Gaul
  • Civil wars
  • Domestic policy

  • Constitutional problems

  • Caesar's inheritance

  • Caesar and Cleopatra

  • Vercingetotix

  • Greek Gods

  • Alexander the Great

  • The Roman Empire


    Social standing in the Roman Empire was based in part on heredity, property and wealth, Roman citizenship, and freedom. The specific class designations included Senators, Patricians, Equestrians, Plebeians, Slaves, Freedmen, and non-Roman citizens - all of which were ruled by the Emperor. The boundaries between these classes were legally enforced, although it was possible to move up the social ladder as one's financial circumstances improved. During the Empire, entry into the higher classes could be gained upon acquisition of property and wealth, or at the pleasure of the Emperor - in one famous incident, Caligula even raised a horse to Senatorial rank.


    The name "Patrician" comes from the Latin word patres, or "fathers," and the Patricians were a privileged group of families that dominated the political, religious, and military leadership of the Empire. The majority were wealthy landowners from old Roman families, although the Emperor could raise anyone he chose to Patrician status.
    Patrician status was required for ascent to the throne, but otherwise the class had few privileges other than reduced military obligations, and the ability to serve in certain priesthoods.
    The education of a Patrician son would center on literature, poetry, mythology, history, geography, Greek, and, most importantly, public speaking. Older youth would continue on to study law, in preparation for a political or administrative career.


    The Senate in Imperial Rome consisted of 600 men, who were either sons of senators, or Roman citizens over the age of 25 with both military and administrative experience, who were elected to the quaestorship - a low-ranking magistracy position. These potential candidates were nominated by the Emperor, and the elections were merely a formality. Once elected, a Senator's career path through various magistracies - including the quaestorship, the aedileship, the praetorship, and the consulship - determined his Senatorial rank.

    Wedding Customs

    Marriage in Roman times was not often a romantic affair, but a personal agreement between families. As sons reached their mid-twenties, and daughters their early teens, spouses were chosen by their parents - in consultation with friends - with an eye towards improving the family's financial position or class.
    The betrothal was formal ceremony between the two families where gifts were exchanged, the dowry was agreed upon, an agreement was signed, and the deal sealed with a kiss. The actual wedding date was chosen carefully. Although June was the preferred month, weddings took place throughout the year.
    On the wedding day, the groom would lead a procession to his bride's family home. Bridesmaids would escort the bride to meet her groom. She would be wearing a tunica recta - a white woven tunic - belted with an elaborate "Knot of Hercules," elaborately arranged hair, an orange wedding veil, and orange shoes. Following the signing of the marriage contract, there was a great marriage feast. The day ended with a noisy procession to the couple's new home, where the bride was carried over threshold so she wouldn't trip - an especially bad omen.


    Though slavery was a prevailing feature of all Mediterranean countries in antiquity, the Romans had more slaves and depended more on them than any other people.

    It is impossible, however, to put an accurate figure on the number of slaves owned by the Romans at any given period: for the early Empire with which we are concerned conditions varied from time to time and from place to place. Yet, some estimates for Rome, Italy, and the Empire are worth attempting. The largest numbers were of course in Italy and especially in the capital itself. In Rome there were great numbers in the imperial household and in the civil service - the normal staff on the aqueducts alone numbered 700 (Frontin. Aq. 116-7). Certain rich private individuals too had large numbers - as much for ostentation as for work (Sen. Ep.110.17). Pedanius Secundus, City Prefect in AD 61, kept 400 slaves (Tac. Ann. 14.43.4), Gaius Caecilius Isidorus, freedman of Gaius Caecilius, left 4116 in his will in 8 BC, while some owners had so many that a nomenclator had to be used to identify them (Pliny HN 33.135; 33.26). However, there is evidence to suggest that these cases were not typical - even for great houses. Sepulchral inscriptions for the rich noble gens the Statilii list a total of approximately 428 slaves and freedpersons from 40 BC to AD 65. When these figures are analysed, the number of slaves and freedpersons definitely owned by individual members of the gens is small, e.g. Statilius Taurus Sisenna (consul of AD 16) and his son had six, Statilius Taurus Corvinus (consul ordinarius of AD 45) had eight, and Statilia Messalina, wife of Nero, four or five. Seneca, a man of extraordinary wealth, believed he was travelling frugally when he had with him one cartload of slaves (most likely four or five) (Ep 87.2). References in Juvenal and the Scriptores Historiae Augustae suggest that many non-plebeian Romans had either no slave or merely one or two (Sat. 3.286; 9.64-67,142-7; S.H.A. Hadr.17.6). From evidence such as this Westermann, Hopkins and others are understandably cautious when attempting to come to a total figure for slaves in the city of Rome in the 1st century AD. Hopkins' estimate of 300,000-350,000 out of a population of about 900,000-950,000 at the time of Augustus seems plausible.

    The same kind of caution needs to be exercised in attempting to arrive at a figure for slaves in Italy for the same period. Passages in the Satyricon (e.g. 37;47;53) would suggest that some households had vast numbers. But that work is of course fiction - though the references to slave numbers there can only have point if certain private individuals did own a lot of slaves. Overall, a figure of around two million slaves out of a population of about six million at the time of Augustus would perhaps seem right (again we follow Hopkins). If so, approximately one in every three persons in Rome and Italy was a slave. And what of the Empire as a whole for this period? It is impossible to give any kind of accurate figure. We have neither statistics for the total area nor for the provinces separately. And of course the number of slaves in each province depended on the particular circumstances prevailing there. Some provincial locations had a high number of slaves: Pergamum in the 2nd century AD (we deduce this from Galen De Propr. Anim. 9) had 40,000 adult slaves and these formed (as at Rome) one third of the adult population. At Oea (Tripoli) in Africa also in the 2nd century AD the wife of Apuleius owned a familia of slaves well in excess of four hundred (Apol. 77.93; cf.102). However, other areas in the Empire had comparatively few slaves. The evidence from papyri suggests that in all likelihood slaves in Egypt never rose much above 10% of the population and in poorer areas there dropped to as low as 2%. And in other regions, particularly perhaps in the more backward provinces of the West, slaves may never have comprised a significant segment of the work force at all. What then might we assume as an approximate number of slaves in the entire empire in this period? The attractive hypothesis of Harris is ten million, i.e. 16.6%-20% of the estimated entire population of the Empire in the first century AD, i.e. one in every five or six persons would have been a slave. This of course is not a computation, merely a conjecture. Whence came these slaves? Some have presupposed that because two of the more important sources of slaves in the Republic - war and piracy - had become significantly restricted in the Empire there was a gradual diminution in the number of slaves during the first three centuries AD. However, there is no statistical proof of this, and for that reason Harris rejects it (rightly I believe), preferring to think that there was no serious drop in the number of slaves or in the demand for them - at least until AD 150. And since there is no evidence either that the cost of slaves spiralled upwards during this period, it seems sensible to infer that the supply of slaves needed annually to replenish the normal depletion of their numbers was more or less available without too much difficulty.

    Caesar's Early career

    Between 81 and 79, Caesar served in Asia Minor on the personal staff of Marcus Minucius Thermus, who was praetor in Asia Minor. Caesar was sent on a diplomatic mission to king Nicomedes of Bithynia and seems to have had a love affair with this ruler; during the conquest of the island Lesbos, Caesar gained a prize for bravery (corona civica); later, he was captured by pirates, and payed the usual ransom, 25 talents (500 kg) of silver.

    When Sulla died (78), Caesar felt save to return to Italy, where he started a career as a criminal lawyer. This was a normal thing to do, and Caesar stayed far from politics. In 75, he went to Rhodes for further education, and again he was captured by pirates, who asked the usual tariff. Caesar demanded this prize to doubled (after all, he was an aristocrat) and promised to kill his captors. After the ransom was payed, Caesar manned some ships, defeated the bandits and had them crucified. After this incident, he continued his studies.
    They were interrupted, however, when Mithridates of Pontus attacked Asia Minor a second time (74). On his own initiative and expenses, Caesar raised a small army and defended some towns, giving the official Roman commander Lucullus time to organize an army and attack Mithridates in Pontus. Being a war hero by now, Caesar returned to Rome in 73. A career as a general and a politician had started.

    In 68, he was elected quaestor and served in Andalusia. (A quaestor was an officer who was detached to a provincial governor and whose duties were primarily financial.) Before Caesar's departure, Marius's widow died, and he held a funeral speech in which he praised his aunt and her family. This was a way of claiming Marius' inheritance. That Caesar had developed political ambitions is shown by an incident in Spain: in Gades he saw a statue of Alexander the Great, and remarked that he had as yet performed no memorable act, whereas at his age -33 years old- Alexander had already conquered the whole world.
    After his return from Spain, Caesar was elected aedile (in 65) and responsible for "bread and circuses". He organized great games, making sure that the Roman mob would remember his name: in this way, as a true popularis, he would control their votes in the People's Assembly. This same year, he was accused of complicity in a plot to murder the consuls, but he was not sentenced. The leader of the plot, one Catilina was able to continue his career as a social reformer.

    Two years later, Caesar managed to be elected pontifex maximus or high priest. He had paid large bribes. In this capacity, he proposed a moderate line against the followers of Catilina, who had made a second attempt to seize power. This second conspiracy was discovered by the consul Cicero, who had Catilina's followers executed at the instigation of Cato the Younger, a representant of the traditionalist wing of the optimates. Caesar's opposition to the death penalty again represents his `popular' policies, and probably he knew more about the plot than he liked to show.

    Nevertheless, he was elected praetor, and the optimates became nervous for the first time, because Caesar was extremely popular with the masses. This time, they managed to rise accusations against Caesar, who they said was involved in a desecration of certain secret ceremonies. These ceremonies of the so-called Good Goddess were celebrated exclusively by women in the house of the pontifex maximus, but a man had been able to be present. The optimates argued that the high priest must have been involved too, and Caesar's only way to prevent larger troubles, was to divorce his wife.

    Caesar was bankrupt by now. He had paid for the games of 65, the lobby for the pontificate in 63 and had paid much money to get out of the Good Goddess affair. Marcus Licinius Crassus, the richest man in Rome, paid Caesar's debts (830 talents, 17,500 kg silver) and Caesar had himself elected governor of Andalusia.
    Until now, Caesar's behaviour had been more or less normal for a Roman senator with strong ambitions. From now on, however, Caesar's acts were often criminal, and Caesar's problem seems to have been that he had to possess an office or an army command, just to make sure that he had an immunity against prosecution.

    Caesar's Spanish War gives a foretaste of the Gallic Wars. There was some unrest in the province, and under the pretext of restoring order, Caesar captured several towns, looted them, and made a lightning attack along the west-coast (through modern Portugal) and plundered the silver mines of Gallicia. When a town was under siege, and surrendered, it was nonetheless ravaged. As a rich man, Caesar returned, being able to sponsor a lobby for both the consulate and the right to enter the city with his army in an official procession (triumphus). Of these two, the triumph would give him most popularity, but the consulship was a necessity: he was likely to be prosecuted as a war criminal and the only way to prevent a law suit was an office. Having both was impossible, as Cato the Younger had announced the day of the consular elections, and no account of Caesar's candidacy could be taken unless he was a private citizen. Caesar was forced to forego his triumph in order to avoid losing the necessary consulship.



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