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Discussion Thread 8: Caesar Consolidates Power: The Roman Civil War and the End of the Republic After such a beginning, those who knew nothing of the conspiracy were seized with consternation and horror, insomuch that they durst neither fly, nor assist, nor even utter a word. All the conspirators now drew their swords, and surrounded him in such a manner, that whatever way he turned he saw nothing but steel gleaming in his face, and met nothing but wounds. Like some savage beast attacked by hunters, he found every hand lifted against him, for they all agreed to have a share in the sacrifice and taste of his blood. Therefore Brutus himself gave a stroke in the groin. Some say he opposed the rest, and continued struggling and crying out, till he perceived the sword of Brutus; then he drew his robe over his face, and yielded to his fate. (from Plutarch’s account of the assassination of Julius Caesar) In 60 BC JULIUS CAESAR returned to Rome from victorious service in SPAIN. He constructed the FIRST TRIUMVIRATE, which was an informal coalition between himself, General POMPEY, and CRASSUS. Crassus had wealth & support: he was of the Equestrian Order. Pompey had the Military support and loyalty of his soldiers. It was Caesar’s goal to become a CONSUL, get command of an ARMY and win great military distinction, and then embark on his PUBLIC CAREER. He won, but repeatedly violated the law while a consul. Since Roman law protected him from prosecution while he remained a MAGISTRATE, he was now compelled to remain in PUBLIC LIFE. This later drove him to fight a CIVIL WAR, and become the uncrowned KING of Rome. After carefully making arrangements to avoid attack at home, Caesar left to conquer GAUL in April 58 BC. H e first had to subdue the Germanic tribes—he reserved acts of great cruelty for them, NOT the Gauls. When he finally completed the conquest, a LIGHT burden was imposed upon the Gauls. The tribute was SMALL and collected by locals instead of Roman officials. Local SELF-GOVERNMENT went on as before. No attempt was made to Romanize Gaul, but Roman Civilization spread quickly as the Gauls adopted it. Caesar had brought millions of Europeans into the Roman Empire who were now capable of joining future armies. In a wider historical sense, his actions determined for all time that the area between the Rhine, the Alps, & the Pyrenees was to be LATIN rather than GERMAN in culture. And so, Caesar was one of the most influential shapers of medieval and modern history. This was a TURNING POINT in the career of Caesar. It gave him wealth, reputation, the devotion of an army, and lifted him to a level equal to General Pompey. Because of what happened in Gaul, Caesar was no longer just a mere politician, but a general and a statesman. The TRIUMVIRATE ended when Crassus was killed during a campaign in the SYRIAN DESERT. This paved the way for the Roman Civil War. Three ambitious warlords might make a balance, but two such as JULIUS CAESAR and GNAEUS POMPEY never could. POMPEY made his first attack on CAESAR to the SENATE. He questioned the validity of Caesar’s election to the position of CONSUL, and began an anti-Caesar campaign by advocating laws that would work against Caesar (e.g., making it necessary to wait for 5 years to become pro-consul). Pompey incited more anti-Caesar sentiment in the senate. Neither side wanted WAR. Pompey wanted to force Caesar into a subordinate position which would give him control of the state. Caesar would not dare accept such a position, as he would be permanently WEAKENED. Caesar was eligible for CONSUL again in 49 BCE; he was determined to hold into his GAUL COMMAND until then. Caesar recognized that war was INEVITABLE. On January 1, 49, a letter from Caesar was read to the Senate. Caesar would disband his LEGIONS and retire to PRIVATE LIFE if Pompey would do the same. If these terms were rejected, he would MEDIATE no more, but would fight Pompey. Pompey declared that, if the senate wavered, he would no longer defend it. He obtained a Senate proclamation ordering Caesar to hand over his army to his SUBORDINANTS or be considered OUTLAWS. When Caesar’s friends sought to veto this resolution, they barely escaped with their lives, and then only by disguise. These friends were TRIBUNES, and so now Caesar could pose as a defender of PLEBIAN rights. The issue was no longer between REPUBLICANISM and MONARCHY. A MONARCHY was now inevitable. When the renegade TRIBUNES reached CAESAR, he was at the Southern Point of his command. The RUBICON river separated his command from Italy, and he ordered his soldiers to cross it. This was an ACT OF WAR, since it was done without the permission of the SENATE. So, Caesar could either put the noose around his neck by returning to Rome or commit what amounted to TREASON. There was no turning back; the sword would decide which of the two warlords— POMPEY or CAESAR, would rule the ROMAN EMPIRE. The CIVIL WAR lasted from 49-45 BC. When Caesar crossed the Rubicon, he made his famous quote: “The die is cast.” He had the following advantages when going into battle: (1) He was a master TACTICIAN; (2) He had the best LEGIONS whose ranks were swelled with VETERANS; (3) Pompey was inept in politics and had to take the bad advice of SENATORS. These were the factors that ultimately led to Caesar’s VICTORY. Caesar’s defeat of Pompey in Italy was SWIFT. Caesar’s treatment of captured officers was astonishingly GENTLE. They were set free without any conditions, and no CONFISCATION OF PROPERTY. Pompey fled to GREECE. After securing ITALY, Caesar next attacked Pompey’s forces in SPAIN. Once these forces were defeated, Caesar next set forth after Pompey in GREECE. In Greece, Pompey had SUPERIOR FORCES and won the first BATTLE. Pompey could have destroyed Caesar’s army, but failed to pursue him well and so Caesar lived to fight another day. The devastating blow for Pompey was the battle of PHARSALUS. Here, Caesar demonstrated his brilliant skills as a TACTICIAN. He used CAVALRY to prevent an attack to his flanks. Caesar lost only 200 dead; Pompey lost 15,000. In a fatal move, Pompey fled to EGYPT. In Egypt, there was a civil war between CLEOPATRA and her brother, PTOLEMY XII. Pompey appealed to Ptolemy for permission to land, but Ptolemy MURDERED Pompey for fear of what CAESAR would do if he learned that Egypt had given ASYLUM to Pompey. However, CAESAR punished them anyway. He intervened into Egyptian politics on the side of CLEOPATRA. At 52 (or so) he fell in love with her (22). They had a son named Caesarion. One final campaign before returning to Rome: the 5-day MITHRIDATES war. This is the origin of the famous statement “I Came, I saw, I conquered.” He had been away from Rome for 18 months. He returned to mend his political fences, and then, in the Spring of 46, he set out for AFRICA to wipe out the remaining pockets of resistance loyal to Pompey. In the battle of THASPUS, Caesar won an overwhelming victory (lost 50 men, Pompey loyalists lost 50,000). The few enemy officers who escaped went to SPAIN, where they were pursued and annihilated by CAESAR. The year was 45 BC, and Caesar was now the undisputed leader of the Roman World. As the sole surviving member of the Triumvirate, Caesar was in effect a MONARCH, except in NAME (he hadn’t adopted the title of KING). He permitted himself to be WORSHIPPED; there was even a PRIEST appointed for his cult. The SEVENTH month of the year was named after him. His laws were NON-PARTISAN. He worked to DIMINISH the power of the SENATE, as this governing body had NO PLACE in the AUTOCRATIC government he envisioned. But he could not ABOLISH the senate. Instead, his followers sought to PUBLICLY DISCREDIT it. He conceived of a GRANDIOSE plan for ordering all of ROMAN LIFE. He created magnificent new buildings (called JULIAN form). Also developed the Julian calendar and foresaw a Rome with no class distinctions; all Romans would be EQUAL under a common MASTER. Yet, he would have very little time to institute his REFORMS. As time passed and it was recognized that the REPUBLIC was undergoing drastic changes, the ENEMIES of Caesar grew. Many, even some of his SUPPORTERS, began to feel that the health of the EMPIRE demanded his DEATH. During the winter of 45-44 BCE, rumors began to spread that he was about to assume the title of KING. 60 Senators formed a conspiracy against him, including not only senatorial supporters of POMPEY but also Caesar’s supporters of long standing, such as DECIMUS BRUTUS. Their task was made much easier because Caesar had no fear of personal danger; he kept no guards. On the Ides of March (March 15th) he was invited to the Senate House. Despite two warnings he still went. He was stabbed to death—tradition says 23 wounds—and fell dead at the feet of the statue of Pompey. What happened next? Again, we turn to Plutarch… Next day, Brutus and the rest of the conspirators came down from the capitol, and addressed the people, who attended to their discourse, without expressing either dislike or approbation of what was done. But by their silence it appeared that they pitied Caesar at the same time that they revered Brutus. The Senate passed a general amnesty; and to reconcile all parties, they decreed Caesar divine honors, and confirmed all the acts of his dictatorship; while on Brutus and his friends they bestowed governments and such honors as were suitable; so that it was generally imagined the commonwealth was firmly established again, and all brought into the best order. But when, upon the opening of Caesar’s will, it was found that he had left every Roman citizen a considerable legacy, and they had beheld the body, as it was carried through the forum, all mangled with wounds, the multitude could no longer be kept within bounds. They stopped the procession, and tearing up the benches with the doors and tables, heaped them into a pile, and burnt the corpse there. Then snatching flaming brands from the pile, some ran to burn the houses of the assassins, while others ranged the city, to find the conspirators themselves and tear them into pieces; but they had taken such care to secure themselves, that they could not meet with one of them. Caesar died at the age of fifty-six, and did not survive Pompey above four years. His object was sovereign power and authority, which hew pursued through innumerable dangers, ad which by prodigious efforts he gained at last. But he reaped no other fruit from it, than an empty and invidious title. It is true, the divine power which conducted him through life, attended him after his death, as his avenger pursued and hunted out the assassins over sea and land, and rested not till there was not a man left, either of those dipped their hands in his blood, or of those who gave their sanction to the deed. SUMMARY It is too simplistic to look upon Caesar as the destroyer of the Republic and the founder of the empire. Beginning with the Gracchi, the republic had been falling for a long time, and some sort of monarchy was inevitable. Caesar was perhaps the first Roman politician to realize this. Pompey had envisioned a government in which the magistrates, the senate, and the traditional institutions of the Roman Republic would still be important; the notion of Patrician Privilege would still be preserved. Pompey would be “First Citizen” and care for the tasks that were too big for the state. Caesar’s notion was VERY different. In his autocracy, one would dominate all, with citizens and government officials being reduced to a single level under a single autocrat. And what was the result of his assassination? Did the republic with its institutions magically reappear? Far from it, as Rome was plunged into many years of civil war.