Rome

Julius Caesar


   The First Triumvirate, consisting of Julius Caesar, Crassus, and Pompey, came to power in 59 BC when Caesar was elected consul. The Triumvirate reform program was enacted and Caesar got himself appointed governor of Illycrium and Gaul. The way to power in Rome was through military conquest; this gave the general a loyal army, wealth (from the conquered), and popularity and prestige at home. So the governorship of Illycrium and Gaul allowed Caesar to become the general and conqueror he so desperately desired to become.

   Now the Romans really had no reason to conquer northern and central Europe; the people who lived there, the Germans and the Celts, were a tribal, semi-nomadic people. The province of Illycrium provided enough of a territorial buffer to defuse any threat from these people. But Julius embarked on a spectacular war of conquest anyway. In a series of fairly brilliant campaigns, Julius added a considerable amount of territory to the Roman Empire in northern France, Belgium, and even southern Great Britain, subjugating the Celts in all these territories. When he had finished his conquests, however, the Triumvirate had dissolved. Crassus had died in a war against the Parrhians in the Middle East, and Pompey had turned against Julius and had roused the Senate against him. The Senate declared Julius an enemy of the state and demanded that he hand over his generalship and province. Julius, however, decided on a different course of action. His troops were fiercely loyal to him; so in 49 BC, Caesar ordered his troops to cross the Rubicon River, which separated his province from Italy, thus committing a grave crime against the state. The Civil War started the minute the first of his legions had finished crossing the Rubicon.

   The war was fought between these two great generals, Pompey and Caesar, but in 48 BC, Caesar defeated Pompey at Pharsalus in Greece. Shortly thereafter Pompey was assassinated by the Egyptians among whom he had sought refuge. Caesar then turned his forces towards Asia Minor in a conquest that was so swift that Caesar described it in three words: "Veni, vidi, vici" ("I came, I saw, I conquered").


   Caesar returned to Rome in 46 BC and had the Senate appoint him dictator for ten years; he was given imperium over the Roman Empire and was, for all practical purposes, above the law and the constitution. Two years later he was appointed dictator for life, and he quickly assumed all the important offices in the government. He reformed the government in many ways, but these reforms were functionally meaningless considering his absolute power. Caesar's absolute power, imperium for life (which made him imperator , or Emperor, of Rome), looked suspiciously like a monarchy, which, for all practical purposes, it was. The Romans, proud of their Republican tradition, deeply resented his power, and in 44 BC, on the Ides of March (March 15), a group of conspirators, led by Gaius Cassius Longinus and Marcus Junius Brutus, assassinated Caesar as he entered the Senate in his usual manner: with no bodyguards or protection.


   The conspirators were striking a blow for the Republic, fully confident that the Republic would magically reconstitute itself. Caesar had, after all, ruled Rome for a mere two years. Their dreams, however, disappeared in a brutal civil war that would last for thirteen years. At the end of the war, the Roman Republic would come to a shattering end and never again appear on the stage of history.

Richard Hooker



The Age of Augustus

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1996, Richard Hooker
Updated 10-2-97