“Et tu Brutus” is not just any dramatic phrase known and used by many in the world but it marks the very last words said by perhaps the most famous and popular of any roman emperor Julius Caesar. The man who became the supreme and was known for his immense political capabilities certainly lived his live majestic and is a matter of interest to many. This Roman military and political genius was born on July 12th 100 BC in Rome into a patrician family believed to trace its ancestry to Iulus, the son of the Trojan prince Aeneas. An
interesting believe is that Cesar was born by caesarean section, though the factual evidence is lacking in this regard. His family was not a rich one and can only be considered as one among the ordinary families in Rome. His father Gaius Julius Cesar and mother Aurelia Cotta however had always cared for their children. The paternal aunt of Caesar, Julia was married to the talented general and the reformer in the Roman army, Gaius Marius and because of such influence the Caesar family gained wealth in later stage.
However towards the 86 BC things started changing in the adverse direction when Roman politics was grossly divided into two broad major fraction – the Populares including Marius and the Optimates including Lucius Cornelius Sulla. The former believed in some radical changes while the later wanted to be the same as the prevailing conditions. The difference was such that it led to the civil war and ultimately sulla’s dictatorship. Julius Caesar was on the Populares side not only by the virtue of being nephew of Marius but also because of the fact that he was married to Cornelia, the daughter of Lucius Cornelius Cinna a supporter of Marius and enemy of Sulla. Caesar was father less at the mere age of 15, but by that time he had enough property in his name by the way of will of his father and Marius. In 82 BC Sulla, now in power ordered Caesar to divorce Cornelius which was refused by him and led him to flee from Rome. The next destination of Cesar was Asia and Cilicia. At this point of his life Cesar did wonders in political and military skills performance however certain controversy resulted in the due course which followed him like a shadow throughout his life. During the Roman siege of Mytilene, on the island of lesbos he was dispatched to Bithynia to persuade the king Nicomedes, IV Philopator to make his fleet available to Marcus Minucius Thermus. The deal was finalized but the ease with which it is agreed led many a believe that it was against some sexual favours. The controversy remained till the end of Caesar’s life.
Caesar was not only a man of words but also of action. He was awarded the corona civica for extraordinary bravery showed in the siege of Miletus in 80 BC, in saving the lives of the legionaries. The award was highest honour in the non-commander section and the mere presence of a person wearing the crown would force everybody in the Roman senate to stand and applaud. Meanwhile things started to change in the empire as after two years of power Sulla disbanded his legion and formed the consular government. He resigned from his
post and led a private life of peace which led him to his death by his own two years later. This was the chance of Caesar to return to Rome and start his political career in 78 BC. He started as an advocate to the popularis and soon gained the fame as an excellent orator with an impassionate gesture and high pitched voice. His prosecutions against the former governors who were charged with extortion and corruption gained him much popularity. Caesar believed in self development a lot and this perhaps led him to Rhodes in the year 75 BC for philosophical and oratorical studies with the famous teacher Apollonius Molon. The determination of Caesar was also admired for on one incidence he is believed to be kidnapped by sea pirates on a ransom of 20 talents of gold. He laughed and told that he is worth 50 talents and later after the payment he captured them with the help of a fleet. The governor of Asia Minor could not give justice to his satisfaction and so he himself took them out and crucified.
Caesar believed in the creation of his fate and would never let go any chance given by luck. In 63 BC Quintus Caecilius Metellus Pius, the Pontifex Maximus of Sulla died and Caesar put his name forward for the election. He fought against Quintus Lutatius Catulus and Publius Servilius Vatia Isauricus and won the election. The move was believed to be important for Caesar as the post held immense political and religious authority. In the year 62 BC he was elected for the post of Praetorship after which he became the governor of outer Spain. This proved to be successful for Rome itself as he expanded the Roman Empire during this period. He soon gained support for triumph and simultaneously stands for consulship. He however selected the consulship. The growth after this was great. Caesar soon got allies in the form of the great general Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus and the rich Marcus Licinius Crassus. Pompey later married the only daughter of Caesar, Julia.
The next posting of Proconsular governor of Transalpine Gaul and Illyria proved to be a great success for Caesar as he started the famous gallic war in which he concurred the entire gaul and amazingly in 52 BC he defeated Vercingetorix who led the Union of Gauls. The entire campaign was of great magnitude with approximately 800 conquered cities, about 200 subdued tribes and several million men either slaved or dead in the battlefield, but no doubt about it that the campaign is the greatest and can be compared with that of
Alexander the great. Caesars term of Proconsular was extended for another five years in the year 55 BC as the duo Pompey and Crassus were elected consuls in Rome. But things soon changed in 54 BC when Julia died in childbirth and Crassus was killed. Pompey married Cornelia, daughter of Metellus Scipio who was Caesars greatest enemy. The following years moved very fast and was full of events. Caesar was ordered to return to Rome and disband his army in 50 BC. He returned but not alone and with one legion he crossed Rubicon on January 10 49 BC. He ignited civil war. The Optimates escaped to the south and Pompey managed to elude him. Caesar however defeated Pompey in the year 48 BC and was appointed the dictator with Mark Anthony as his master of the horse. But he resigned after eleven days and was elected as second term of consul. He pursued Pompey to Alexandria where the later was murdered by an officer of King PtolemyXIII. He then was involved in the civil war between Ptolemy and his sister and took the side of his sister the famous Cleopatra VII. Soon he defeated the Ptolemic forces and installed Cleopetra as a ruler.
The love story of Cleopetra and Caesar was quite famous for the two parented Ptolemy XV Caesar, Caesar’s only biological son. She moved to an elaborate estate in Rome but never married to Caesar as prohibited by law. The conquer story soon started in 47 BC when Caesar went to middle east and annihilated the king Pharnaces II of Pontus. History mark the swiftness of the victory by the word of Caesar “Vini, Vedi, Veci” which means I came, I saw, I conquered. The next move was towards Africa and in 46 BC Caesar gained victory over Metellus Scipio and Cato the Younger in the battle of Thapsus. The last remnants of opposition was defeated in the Munda in March 45 BC. during this time Caesar concluded his fourth term of consul.
By the end of the war Caesar now returned to Italy in September 45 BC. Among the first few things to be done he filed his will naming Octavian Augustus as the heir of everything he had including his title and next in line was Marcus Junius Brutus. By this time senate started showing honour to Caesar. In the celebration of Caesar’s victory great games and jubilations were held on April 21. Caesar got the right to wear triumphal clothing and Laurel crown on all public occasions. Caesar was also awarded a large estate at Rome’s own expense. The title of dictator became a legal title for him. An ivory statue was to be carried in all public religious processions. The aura and fame of Caesar was spreading like a fire with his statues in many places showing him as a god. But the act which happened first time in Roman history was that of Roman coins minted bearing the likeness of Caesar who was still alive.
But certain acts of Caesar were actually a disregard to the republican system like the appointments of consul which irritated the senate. However honors never stopped and were taking into bigger shapes. Caesar was to be titled as liberator in the temple of libertus. He was also elected the consul for life and allowed to hold any office of his desire. He was also to be given the right for imperium giving him the right against all prosecution and technically making him the supreme commandant of the legions. Significant changes marked even the era now as the birth month of Caesar Ouintilis was renamed to Julius and hence the English July. His birthday July 13th was observed as national holiday.
In the midst of all these honour Caesar showed that he had the best interest of the state in his heart by many reforms on various social ills. Few significant to be mentioned are the law that prohibited the citizens between 20-40 to leave Italy for more than three years until unless officiated by the military reasons, the law stating to confiscate the wealth of the social elite if he / she harms or kills the lower class, a general cancellation of one fourth of all debts etc. The social reforms were well thought to maintain the economic balance and for the greater interest of the people. Apart from these great public works were undertaken of architectural and public interest. But one of the most noted reforms was Caesar’s contribution in construction of 365 days Julian calendar with a provision of leap year every fourth year. This was established in the year 46 BC and as a result the particular year was for 445 days long.
Power has its own merits and demerits and Julius Caesar was no exception. The immense power resulted in rift between Caesar and the aristocrats. In one occasion it was believed that Caesar even insulted a group of senators came to meet him. Whether the story is true or not we don’t have factual evidence to prove it but the fact was that the conspiracy started. Eventually as the time passed the conspiracy took its brutal shape. It was on the fateful day of March 15, 44 BC a group of senators in the pretext of reading a petition invited Caesar to a room adjoining the east portico near the theatre of pompey and stabbed him to death. Casca was the first to give the blow followed by Brutus and other senators. The assassination sparked civil war between the senators and supporters of Caesar including Mark Anthony, Octavian Augustus Caesar. Caesar’s popularity among the lower and middle class proved supportive to his heirs and Octavius 19 at that time got full recognition and support from the public. But the purpose of assassination was not fulfilled as with the end of Caesar the republic system also died in Rome. At this part of the history was the formation of the second Triumvirate with Octavian, Mark Anthony and Lepidus to combat Brutus and Cassius. The era of civil war continued even after the defeat of Brutus and Cassius at Philippi. This time the war was between Octavian and Cleopatra and Anthony. With the defeat of the later group in Actium, Caesar Augustus Octavian became the first Roman Emperor in the year 42 BC and was announced as Divi filius or son of god.
Julius Caesar has also contributed a lot in the field of literature which is evident by the works like Commentarii de Bello Gallico (Commentaries on the Gallic War), Commentarii de Bello Civile (Commentaries on the Civil War), De Bello Hispaniensis (On the Hispanic War), De Bello Africo (On the African War) and De Bello Alexandrino (On the Alexandrine War).
Indeed the name Julius Caesar stands for not only immense power but also for statesmanship, courage, patriotism and honour. It is rightly said that those men who dare to dream can only change the era in which they live and leave their marks even in the future ahead of their life.