- This article is about the ancient Roman writer. For the play by William Shakespeare, see Julius Caesar (play)
Julius Caesar (Latin: Gaius Iulius Caesar; July 100 BCE - March 15, 44 BCE) was a Roman general, politician, non-fiction author and poet. Although he was never emperor himself, he is considered central to the events which brought about the end of the Roman Republic and the beginning of the Roman Empire.
In 60 BCE, Caesar formed a political alliance with Marcus Licinius Crassus and Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus (known in English as Pompey). The three men dominated Roman politics for many years, largely through actions designed to appeal to the common people of Rome which were opposed by more traditionalist Roman politicians, chief amongst which were Cato the Younger and Marcus Tullius Cicero.
Caesar became more popular than Pompey as a result of his military conquests, which expanded the territory that was under Roman control. By 51 BCE, Caesar had completely conquered the area known as Gaul (which corresponds to modern France, Belgium and Luxembourg as well as parts of modern Switzerland, northern Italy, Germany and the Netherlands). Caesar had also invaded Britain but failed to establish a permanent Roman colony there.
After the death of Crassus in 53 BCE, Pompey realigned himself with the more conservative elements in the Senate. The wars in Gaul having finished, the Senate ordered Caesar to give up his military command and return to Rome unarmed. Instead, in 49 BCE, Caesar crossed the Rubicon river and entered Italy at the head of his troops. A civil war followed, in which Caesar eventually defeated Pompey and became sole ruler of Rome.
Caesar was appointed "dictator in perpetuity" in 48 BCE. His rule was marked by a series of social and bureaucratic reforms. However, the tensions which had led to the civil war still remained. On March 15, 44 BCE, Caesar was stabbed to death by a group of senators headed by Marcus Junius Brutus. Caesar's death brought about another series of civil wars. Julius Caesar's nephew and adopted son Octavian (later known as Augustus) emerged victorious in 42 BCE and was declared the first Emperor of Rome in 27 BCE.
Nearly all subsequent Roman emperors adopted the surname Caesar, whether they were related to Julius Caesar or not, and the word became a synonym for "emperor". The German word "kaiser" and the Russian word "czar" are also versions of Caesar's name.
Career as a writer
During his lifetime, Julius Caesar was considered to be amongst the finest writers and public speakers of his age. His works are still studied by students in their first and second years of Latin classes because of his clear and direct style.
The only works of Caesar which survive in full are his war commentaries. They were written and published for each year of the campaign, either while the war was still going on or shortly after it had finished. Caesar's war memoirs were probably presented to the people of Rome at public readings. They would have been important in mainatining Caesar's popularity and improving his reputation during the long periods in which he was away from Rome.
The texts of these works of Julius Caesar have survived in full:
- The Gallic War (Commentarii de Bello Gallico), seven books which deal with Caesar's wars in Gaul and southern Britain, an eighth book was written by Aulus Hirtius
- The Civil War (Commentarii de Bello Civili) Caesar's perspective on his war against Pompey
The following works were traditionally believed to have been written by Julius Caesar but many modern historians doubt that he wrote them:
- On the Alexandrine War (De Bello Alexandrino)
- On the African War (De Bello Africo)
- On the Hispanic War (De Bello Hispaniens)
Well-known lost works of Caesar include the speech that he delivered at the funeral of Julia, his aunt, and the Anticato, an attack on his political rival Cato the Younger.
Several ancient sources refer to poems by Caesar, only fragments of which survive.