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Julius Caesar – Introductory Notes
 Gauis Julius Caesar: b. 102 B.C.E.; d. 44 B.C.E. on 15 March (the “Ides of
 In Virgil’s Aeneid Aeneas founds a community which would later become
Rome after his return from the Trojan War. The twins Romulus and Remus
are sons of Mars, the Roman god of War, and are the mythical founders of
Rome itself in 753 B.C.E. (the former ends up killing the latter).
Romulus and Remus suckling from the she-wolf. The facts that these twins were
the issue of Mars, were raised by a wolf, and that one ended up killing the other
tells us a lot about what the Romans privileged in their culture.
 Rome was a monarchy under the Tarquin kings (who were Etruscans) until
509 B.C.E.when Lucius Junius Brutus expelled Tarquinius Superbus
(“Tarquin the Arrogant”).
 Rome then became a “Republic” which, while commoners did have political
voice, was effectively run by wealthy and powerful noble families
(“patricians”) versus the common people (“plebeians”). The wealthy were
the only ones who could afford not to work and dedicate their lives to public
affairs including holding important political offices and sitting in the Senate.
 Leadership of Rome during the Republic was by election and power shared
equally by two patrician “Consuls” who held their position for one year
only. By 366 B.C.E. plebeians could run for Consulship. Many, many other
political offices also existed, but the Consuls were the two most important.
 The Roman republic had very effective checks and balances to prevent any
one individual from gaining too much power. Every single decision, right
up to those of a Consul, could be vetoed by someone else.
 In very rare circumstances a “Dictator” could be appointed, upon the
approval of the Senate and then nominated by a Consul, to act with highly
special powers in times of emergency (especially when Rome or, later, Italy
was threatened militarily). This individual had ultimate power, did not need
approval for his decisions by the Senate, could not be vetoed by anyone, and
could not later be prosecuted for his actions. This very special position
lasted for only six months (later extended to a year under Caesar).
 In 60 B.C.E. an unofficial “triumvirate” (three-man rule) of Caesar, Crassus,
and Pompey was formed to govern the expanding Roman empire and
senators effectively fell into one of the three camps.
 In 58 B.C.E. Julius Caesar was made governor of the part of Gaul (modern
day France) that was within Roman power, and over the next decade
proceeded to conquer all of it. He was an incredibly successful military
figure and had the unquestionable support of the troops under his command,
who began to act for him rather than the Roman Republic.
 After the death of Crassus, there was an open rivalry between Pompey and
Caesar. Pompey convinced the Senate to order Caesar to disband his army.
In 49 B.C.E. Caesar, in direct defiance of the Senate, crossed the Rubicon
(the river separating Gaul from Italy) at the head of his army and effectively
threatened the city of Rome itself, an almost unheard of act since generals
were forbidden to have armies within Rome.
 Caesar effectively became absolute ruler of Rome as Pompey fled with his
army and was shortly afterwards defeated by Caesar’s forces.
 Recognising his power (and extreme popularity amongst the people) the
Senate in 46 B.C.E. first makes Caesar dictator for one year. This is then
shortly followed by a decision to make him dictator for the next successive
nine appointments (effectively ten years in total).
In 44 B.C.E. the Senate elects to make Caesar “Dictator for Life” (dictator
perpetuus), effectively marking a type of end to the Roman Republic
(though it didn’t officially end until Octavian was named Caesar Augustus in
27 B.C.E.).