Julius Caesar is one of those rare elects of the history, whose image does not tarnish in the time, and whose fame is going through centuries. He is an outstanding military leader, not less outstanding statesman, a versatile genius – the not challenged verdict of a number of generations. In the frame of such epithets and in the glare of such assessments, Caesar went down in history. The military-political and literary activities of Caesar, his outstanding abilities, and finally, his bright personality attracted and attract historians. Julius Caesar seizes the hand of the writer and holds the attention on his personality, no matter how he took the time. Thus, the paper presents the main stages of the life and work of the dictator and gives them the analysis relying on ancient sources in order to determine what brought to the historical significance of Caesar and how it influenced the society.
The youth of Julius Caesar was during the first civil war in Rome, and the dictatorship of Sulla. Being the offspring from a noble patrician family of Julio he aspired to power and glory, and the satisfaction of his ambitions already in his youth. When Caesar was not yet twenty years old, he had been subjected to political repression by the dictator Sulla, as he was the nephew of the famous Gaius Marius and son-in of Cornelius Cinna – the Sulla’s main rivals in the fight for power. Only thanks to the patronage of influential relatives Caesar received forgiveness.
After being the dictator a few years, Sulla renounced his powers in favor of the restoration of the republic. The interesting story is related with his departure. When after the resignation, Sulla was walking around Rome, one young man threw a stone at him, Sulla said that because of people like him, the next dictator would not give up his power. Thus, Caesar’s youth was at the terrible times of civil war, in the era of proscriptions and dictatorships. It had left a mark on his consciousness.
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Generally, the first civil war, dictatorship, the triumvirate, the second civil war and the rise to power of Caesar, all this was a consequence of the crisis of the republic. The fact is that the Roman Republic was created as a polis state, and when Rome expanded and a large number of new areas became the part of it, including far away from Italy, the republican unit did not meet the new challenges. All this was exacerbated by the struggle within the Roman society. Against this background, Caesar began his career.
Shortly before the election of Caesar as a consul or shortly after that, emerged the circumstance, which had a decisive importance for the further course of events: three political figures of Rome – Pompey, Caesar and Crassus – concluded a secret agreement (the initiative is usually unequivocally attributed to Caesar), known in literature as the first triumvirate. This “alliance of three” (triumvirate) broke the resistance of the Senate oligarchy and, making Caesar the consul when he was 59, established the de facto dictatorship of its members in the republic. The establishment of triumvirate has traditionally been considered one of the major political successes of Caesar. Thus, three the most powerful men in the country decided the future of the distribution of posts even before the elections. And all of this is framed by the democracy. It had the great importance for the future. Later, this will repeat not just once or twice in the history of civilization, when decisions will be made, and then they will be given a legitimate appearance.
Additionally, having chosen Gaul as the province after his consulship, therefore Caesar opened the era of the Gallic Wars. But among the rich and varied arsenal of political and diplomatic methods used by the Caesar, was gradually distinguished one slogan particularly carefully cultivated by him, which was a mild and fair treatment to the enemy, especially the defeated, – the slogan of Mercy (dementia). However, it became crucial only in the era of the civil war, but undoubtedly appears earlier during the stay of Caesar in Gaul.
When carefully reading the “Notes,” it is not difficult to see how increasingly frequent and insistently is said about the mercy of Caesar year by year . This trait is now declared as indisputable, self-evident, and as the long and widely known. And Aulus Hirtius comes to considering even barbaric, cruel deeds of Caesar towards defenders of Uksellodun as unable to shake supposedly existing general opinion about the natural gentleness and justice of Caesar. Thus, the slogan “dementia” becomes consciously held principle of Caesar’s diplomacy and politics. And this slogan has yet to play a special, exceptional and at the same fateful role in the history of all further activity and life of Caesar.
Despite the often used cruelty, Caesar was still one of the first to understand that it is better to be merciful with the defeated and to conquer them not only with the sword but also with the culture. To be fair, it is important to mention that Alexander the Great came to the same conclusions, but the implementation of the Romans turned out to be better. The significance is that such policy of Caesar’s followers has led to the Romanization of Western Europe.
However, allegedly uttering the historic phrase “The die is cast,” Caesar nonetheless passed the Rubicon with his staff. Plutarch even informs even such a detail: the famous phrase was said in Greek. By the way, if it was ever said, it is quite plausible, as the phrase is a quotation from Menander whom Caesar knew and even liked. Furthermore, Plutarch and Suetonius mention any miraculous signs that accompany the passing, as if justifying that fatal step. Julius secretly sent to Ariminum – the first major city in Italy, which lies on the road from Gaul – a small detachment of the most valiant soldiers and centurions armed only with daggers to capture it with surprise attack without the noise and bloodshed. Caesar himself spent the day in front of everyone and even was present at the exercises of gladiators. By the evening, he took a bath and then had dinner together with the guests. When it got dark, complaining of malaise or simply asking to wait him, he left the room and guests. Taking with him the few closest friends, he went to Ariminum in the hired a carriage first intentionally (in another version – getting lost) in the wrong way, and only at dawn overtook the cohort expelled forward at the Rubicon River.
This small and hitherto unremarkable river was considered, although, the boundary between Cisalpine Gaul and Italy itself. The passage of that border with the troops actually meant the beginning of the Civil War. Therefore, all historians unanimously note Caesar’s hesitation. Thus, Plutarch says that Caesar knew that the passage will be the beginning of disaster and how the offspring will appreciate that move. Suetonius says that Caesar turned to his companions and said that it was not too late to go back, but when they pass that bridge, everything would decide the weapon.
Caesar was not a pioneer; Sulla entered troops to Rome even before him. But it was Caesar who finally destroyed the republic. Thus, the significance is in the precedent of liquidation of the republican system and the destruction of democracy that Julius Caesar created.
Additionally, Caesar was surrounded by the honorary guard of the senators and knights; what is more, senators had to swear to protect his life. For one of the oldest holidays – Lupercalia, along with collegiums Luperci Quintiliani and Fabiani, now was created the third collegium – Luperci Iuliani. In all public places and shrines sacrifices and consecration to Caesar were performed; honor a variety of games were arranged in his honor throughout Italy, in the provinces and in all countries which were in friendship with Rome. The month Quintilis was renamed in July and one of the tribes received Iulia name, and finally, a number of temples, including one general – to Caesar (as Iuppiter Julius) and to dementia (as the Goddess of Mercy) were devoted to Caesar. All of that honors were decided to write with gold letters on silver columns, set at the foot of the Capitoline Jupiter.
Thus, the actual deification of Caesar does not cause any doubts. This question has repeatedly been raised in recent historiography; what is more, the most controversial can be considered the following point: whether Caesar has strived to being considered a God during his lifetime himself, or he still remained within the traditions and did not lose the political prudence and tact. Sometimes it is considered that the idea of deification is just the flip side of Caesar’s passionate dreams of the royal diadem.
Geshe comes to rather compelling and interesting conclusions in his work specifically devoted to the study of this range of problems. Firstly, it is quite correctly points out that various authors often put different content to the term “deification” or, more precisely, mean acts of very diverse nature and importance by this term. So then it says, it is advisable to use two terms: “deification” and “idolization,” setting definite and firm distinction between them.
By “deification” the author suggests to understand the awarding of honors in the same spirit as it is done with respect to the gods, but the esteemed in the sacral-legal sense is not included in the composition of state gods, reaching only a special honor and “increasing rank.” Under the “idolization” should be understood an official, authorized by the sacred law and on the initiative of the state carried out the inclusion in the composition of the state gods. And in this case, all the requirements that characterize the position of the rest of the state gods must be fulfilled, ie, there must be:
- a cultic name,
- a place of worship and, finally,
- functioning, ie, cult sent by priest.
These formal conditions were of utmost importance in Rome, and without performing all three prerequisites, the “idolization” could not take place. Thus, leading own deification, Julius Caesar laid the cult of the monarch’s sacredness.
Moreover, the Caesar’s rule became an important stage in Roman history and provided a transition from republic to an imperial form of government. Following the footsteps of Sulla, Caesar created a regime that was the first specific form of the Roman military monarchy, the transitional form of government, which had features of both the Republic and the Empire, but was neither the one nor the other in its pure form.
Finally, the underestimating of the danger from the conservative senate circles by Caesar, the insufficient strength of his social base located more in the formative stage, and the certain political miscalculations have led to the dictator’s assassination and the fall of his regime. When the assassination was committed, in the Senate started a real panic. The Brutus attempts to appeal to the senators with the speech did not work, as everyone fled in terror. The panic and confusion spread quickly in the city. Everyone was tightly closing the doors, preparing to defend themselves even from the rooftops, though no one knew who was attacked and from who they should protect. Many shops were looted. Antony and Lepidus, as the closest people to Caesar, hid in someone else’s houses. At the same time, the conspirators trying to attract the sympathy of the population, solemnly headed to the Capitol shouting that they killed the tyrant, calling for the restoration of “order of fathers”. But the population, as Appian says, did not follow the conspirators. Thus, dying, Caesar became a martyr in the eyes of contemporaries and descendants, and that is what laid the foundation for future monarchies . Besides, the assassination of Gaius Julius Caesar became the reason for the resumption of civil strives, to the disintegration of the Roman Republic and the birth of the Roman Empire.
The Ancient Roman civilization is left in the past, but its achievements, in particular Julius Caesar’s, have a great influence on the society and that people enjoy today. The most durable innovation of Caesar is reform of the calendar in 46 year: the dictator has replaced the Roman lunar calendar, which lagged behind the real sun stroke, with Hellenistic solar calendar of 365 days, which was used until the reforms of Pope Gregory XIII in 1582. The calculations for the new calendar made the Alexandria astronomer Sosigenes, who was its main creator. Instead of 10, the year is now consisted of 12 months, and the month Quintilis, the birthtime of the dictator, was named Julius (or July).
Furthermore, despite his rough political activities and private life, Caesar found the time to practice in poetry, drama, philosophy and science. The most known his historical works are “Notes on the Gallic War” in 7 books and “Notes on the Civil War” in 3 books. Besides, he left for society the immortal aphorisms: “I came, I saw, I conquered”, “Every Man is a blacksmith of his fate”, “The die is cast” and many others. Its very name is firmly established in the languages of many countries. From the word “Caesar” came the German “Kaiser” and Russian “Tsar,” i.e. dictator became the embodiment of a strong government.
In conclusion, Julius Caesar was a major historical figure, the extraordinary personality and has played an important role in the history of Ancient Rome and European civilization. He not only became one of the main founders of the Roman Empire and the instrument of Romanization of Western Europe, but also contributed to the formation of the political practices of Western civilization. Caesar managed to create an authoritarian regime, dressed in a Republican skin, and he tried to provide the regime with popular character, creating a heterogeneous social base. This is the main “phenomenon” of Caesar as a politician. However, it should be noted that in the creation of a new form of government (Caesarism) Caesar largely followed the practice of his predecessors – Scipio Africanus,
Marius and Sulla, and Pompey. Besides, a dictator undertook the reform of the calendar, contributed to the development of military art, created a particular style of military memoir literature. Thus, the role of Julius Caesar in the history of civilization, his contribution to the development of the political practices of the West, and his influence on the society should be recognized as substantial.
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