Monday, 13 June 2005

The Rise of Julius Caesar

Gaius Julius Caesar was born on the13th of July 100 B.C to a well known patrician family. He was brought up in the Subura, one of the poor districts of Rome. There he learnt to mix with people of all classes and to speak Hebrew and Gallic dialects. Although his family were of a distinguished line, they were not rich. He was very close to his mother Aurelia. In 85 B.C. when he was only 15, his father died in Pisa, while on military duty. He was an epileptic and would often have seizures at awkward moments. He was extremely clever.

As a young man, he left Rome to do his military service in Asia and Cilicia. During the battle of Miletus he showed great bravery and saved the lives of many legionaries, which led him to be awarded the corona civica (oak crown). This was the highest honour that could be awarded to a non-commander; when in public people would have had to stand up and applaud him.

In 78 B.C. Caesar began his political career as an advocate in the Forum. He became notorious for his excellent oratory skills and his disdain for corrupt officials. Even Cicero, who was considered to be a great orator, commented: “Does anyone have the ability to speak better than Caesar?”. In 75 B.C, on his way to Rhodes, Caesar was kidnapped by Cilician pirates. It is said that when they pirates asked for a ransom of 20 talents in order to release him, he laughed out loud and exclaimed that they obviously didn’t know who they had got and told them to ask for fifty. In 69 B.C. he lost his wife Cornelia after she had delivered a stillborn son and then his aunt Julia. He broke tradition by giving both women large public funerals. That same year he was elected quaestor. He was 30 years old now and keen to make his name great. In 67 he married Sulla’s granddaughter, Pompeia, an alliance he made in order to further his political career. When he became magistrate a few years later, he got himself into enormous debt by staging games for the people and managing the Circus Maximus. However, he knew that this would enhance his popularity with the people considerably and although he ended his aedile-ship bankrupt, which would normally be a great obstacle to his career, he instead got elected Pontifex Maximus (high priest). This was a lifetime position, and although not political as such, it provided a very good income, (helping to clear his debts) and involvement with the Senate and legislation. He also got the office of urban praetor by 63 B.C. He soon got himself into terrible debt again but when he was assigned to be Proconcular governor of Spain his creditors backed off as the income from this position could be considerable. Caesar was now on his way to fulfilling his ambitions.


ResoluteReader said...

It's an interesting insight into the man that Caesar deliberetly spent many years commanding his troops in Gaul - this meant two things - he could cover himself in glory for successful wars with the barbarians, and avoid being tainted with the political schenanigans between the various ruling emperors and their cliques until the time was ripe for his return.

Caesar was an artful politician, and it's no wonder that he has leant his name to many would be leaders since then.

Alterior said...

Yes, he was a leader that many have attempted to immitate, badly