Dictator, 48 – 44 BC
Born 100 BC – Died 44 BC, age 56
Temple of Alexandria & the Black Bust of Caesar
Commissioned by Cleopatra
Gaius Julius Caesar was born to an aristocratic family. His parents were Gaius Julius Caesar and Aurelia. Julius was born on July 13th, 100 BC for whom the month of July is named. During the early years of his career, Caesar identified himself politically with the Populares Party (See Marius), which opposed the Senatorial nobility. His political views therefore cast him as a political enemy of the dictator Sulla, which became clear when he married Cornelia. Only with the aid of influential friends was Caesar able to escape Sulla’s reign of terror (83 – 82 BC) by fleeing to Rhodes. Caesar used the time in exile to study oratory. He also used his time in Rhodes to gain military experience along the Eastern Mediterranean.
Following the death of Sulla in 78 BC, Caesar returned to rejoin the few remaining supporters of government reform. He began rebuilding relationships aimed at forming a foundation for possible future power. When Pompey and Crassus received their Consulships in 70 BC, most of Sulla’s laws were abrogated. In 69 BC, Caesar managed to be assigned as Quaestor in Spain and then in 65 BC. was appointed Aedile (an official in charge of buildings, etc.). He received the coveted Pontifex Maximus (Chief Priest of the Gods) in 63 BC.
Caesar was suspected of having secret knowledge of a conspiracy centered around Lucius Sergius Catalina involving a plan for the burning of Rome and the murder of many of the Chief Magistrates. Crassus was also suspected of being involved. Catalina was killed by Metellus Celer and Gaius Antonius, after many of Catalina’s followers had been arrested and executed. Somehow, Caesar (and Crassus) managed to disassociate themselves from the conspiracy. Despite the suspicion of Caesar’s possible prior knowledge of the so-called “Catiline Conspiracy,” Caesar managed to be elected Praetor (Magistrate, the office just below Consul) in 62 BC, in which he served with distinction.
His major political achievement, however, was the formation of the “First Triumvirate” with Pompey and Crassus, whereby he associated himself with the two most powerful politicians and military men of the day. Caesar, as part of the agreement, became Consul in 59 BC and received a commission to go to Illyricum and Cisalpine and Transalpine Gaul as Governor for a period of five years, a term later extended to ten years. In order to strengthen the political bonds with Pompey, Caesar gave his daughter Julia in marriage to Pompey also in 59 BC. Julia proved to be an important influence upon both men often forcing them to settle their differences and compromise.
Silver Denarius with Military Trophy of Gaul
Unfortunately, Julia died in 54 BC and with her went the one true mediator between Pompey and Caesar. Caesar’s military exploits in the West had rivaled those of Pompey’s in the East. Caesar was able to add all of Gaul Expeditions between the Rhine River and the Pyrenees Mountains to the Roman Empire. This was in addition to two “Warning Expeditions” which he had made to the coast of Britain. Caesar’s military accomplishments, together with the death of his daughter, Julia, and the death of Crassus a year later in 53 BC, allowed the two to drift further apart politically.
Pompey proved to be easily influenced by the corrupt Senate of Rome, which was primarily interested in retaining their old boy’s network of privileged status and trade monopolies. Corruption in the Senate became outrageous towards this point in history. Elections were routinely fixed and no one other than the privileged few could even run for office. The corruption had escalated to the point that the calender had been altered so many times in order to extend the various factions terms of office that summer took place where winter once ruled.
The rising popularity of Caesar as a man of the people threaten the Senate’s future and they knew it. The corrupt Senate exploited Pompey for their own devices and attempted to strip Caesar of all power ultimately forcing a civil war between the two former associates. Caesar marched into Italy and when he crossed the Rubicon, he remarked: “The is cast.”
Caesar soundly defeated Pompey’s army at Pharsalus in Thessaly, on August 9th, 48 BC. Pompey fled from Rome, as did many members of the Senate. Pompey fled to Egypt where he was beheaded. When Caesar arrived in Egypt, he was presented with Pompey’s head.
It was during this trip to Egypt where Caesar first met Cleopatra VII, eldest daughter of Ptolemy Auletes, King of Egypt. Pompey had been murdered by her brother, Ptolemy, which greatly displeased him to say the least. Caesar then arbitrated the dispute between Cleopatra and her brother for the throne ruling against Ptolemy who gathered his forces and attempted to destroy Caesar’s legions. In the ensuing battle, the Great Library of Alexandria was burned. Ptolemy was defeated and Cleopatra was installed on the throne by Caesar.
In the time that passed, Caesar became intimately involved with Cleopatra and it is believed that they may have had a son named Ptolemy Caesarion. When Caesar left Egypt, Cleopatra had ascended to the throne of Egypt, sharing it with her younger brothers, Ptolemy XIII and XIV.
Caesar spent the next two years defeating the remnants of Pompey’s Senatorial armies at Thapsus in Northern Africa in 46 BC and at Munda in Spain on March 17th, 45 BC, where Pompey’s two sons, Caenus and Sextus, barely escaped with their lives. Finally, Caesar conducted a swift five-day campaign, in which he defeated Pharnaces II of Pontus and produced Caesar’s famous boast “Veni, Vidi, Vici” (I came, I saw, I conquered).
Silver Denarius with portrait of Caesar
Caesar was now the undisputed ruler of the Greco-Roman world and he set about a major political and economic reform project. While much of what has been written about Caesar in an attempt to portray him as a ruthless dictator, the evidence does not support the bias of many contemporary writers. It must be kept in mind that the Senate of Rome had been dominated by the aristocratic families seeking special business concessions or monopolies in trade. The entire process of the once great Roman Republic had become very corrupt prior to the civil war. Economic conditions had declined severely and the economy was in serious recession. Real estate values had plummeted and lenders refuse to accept property in return. We must also keep in mind that the majority of the money lenders were none other than the Senators themselves. In the context of this atmosphere, Caesar proposed to rule as Dictator. His actions, though, were always with an intent to better the lives of Roman citizens.
Again, some will argue that Caesar expanded the Senate of Rome in an attempt to dilute its authority. However, this expansion of the Senate, including the building of the Curia, could also be interpreted as an act to break the monopolies that had existed within the Senate. The benefit would logically produce a better and much more representative form of government. The new Curia was built in the heart of the Roman Forum which still stands today. The bronze doors, personally commissioned by Caesar, are to be found today still in use at the Church of Saint Latern in Rome.
Caesar’s legal reforms were simply brilliant. He regulated and systematized municipal government throughout Italy and introduced social and economic reforms, including a drastic reduction of the number receiving the dole of grain (modern day welfare reform). He also established the annual rate of interest at no higher than 12% bringing an end to loan-sharking which had devastated the lower classes. Caesar also completely reformed the old Roman calender into a scientific one based upon astronomical calculations that for the first time included the concept of Leap Year. His efforts in this regard led to the development of the “Julian” calendar. In the field of commerce, Caesar planned the construction of a major canal through the Isthmus of Corinth, and a codification of the current existing rule of Roman Law.
One can only imagine how even in our modern democratic societies the corruption and self-interest of the various political parties and individuals at times bring progress to a halt through sheer grid lock. With corruption so wide spread and the great injustices against the common man left uncorrected, even after the Social Wars of 90 – 89 BC, the atmosphere within the Senate of Rome must have been indeed fully charged in light of Caesar’s reforms.
Indeed, Caesar’s ambitious reform program threatened the very institutions of the Republic, not for the sake of the common man, but from the viewpoint of the self-interest of the corrupt Senate. Their thin veil of pretense of caring for the state was at last lifted and what was suddenly revealed for all to see was a corrupt network of control and deceit for personal gain. Within such an atmosphere, Caesar dared to hold true to his beliefs of a free society void of aristocratic control. A new Republic was Caesar’s goal in which elections would be legitimate and corruption tempered and controlled. That could only be accomplished at this late stage in Republican history by a benevolent dictator who would be trusted by the people. Caesar was that man. He made no attempt to abolish the Senate or the election process. There were no attempts to establish a kingdom in Eastern traditions.
The reform program of Caesar came to a sudden end with his assassination led by Marcus Brutus and Gaius Cassius on the Ides (15th) of March, 44 BC. In this last desperate act, the noble Caesar fell by the hand of the corrupt Senatorial oligarchy. The assassins of Caesar tried to paint their deed in the shining light of liberty. But Caesar’s reforms were not self-serving and always placed the good of the Roman people above that of their corrupt Senate.
Following Caesar’s assassination, Marc Antony immediately took possession of Caesar’s papers and residence, including whatever assets he had held. Antony then gave his famous funeral oration in the Forum standing traditionally upon the Rostra of Rome. There Antony delivered his impassioned speech which proved to be instrumental in turning the people against the corrupt Senators who by now had become mere assassins.
Shortly before his death, Caesar had written a will in which he adopted as his son, his great-nephew Gaius Octavius, grandson by his stepsister Julia. Octavian, at the time, was relatively young though a prominent member of Caesar’s entourage. By the stroke of fate, Octavian would later become Rome’s first Emperor known to history as Augustus. As for the assassins, Marc Antony and Octavian chased them down and had them all put to death.
Æ Dupondius Winged Victory
Mints: Rome, military moving mint
CAESAR (49-45 BC)
C CAESAR COS TER (46 BC)
C CAES DIC TER (45 BC)
CAES DIC QVAR (44 BC)
CAES DIC QVART (44 BC)
CAESAR IMP (44 BC)
CAESAR DICT PERPETVO (44 BC)
CAESAR DICT IN PERPETVO (44 BC)
AU Aureus (6.54 grams)
AU Quinarius (3.54 grams)
AR Denarius (3.54 grams)
AR Quinarius (1.58 grams)
Æ Dupondius (Winged Victory)
(Silver content average 96.8%)
Posthumous Coinage of
Gold Aureus Caesar & Octavian
Due to the political climate following the assassination of Caesar, the coinage reflected very much the need for propaganda on both sides. The supporters of Caesar often displayed their own portrait on the reverse of many issues thus trying to invoke the love and loyality that the people had felt for Caesar in their own cause. Likewise, the assassins usually displayed a bust of liberty trying to argue that they were for the Republic despite the fact that the Republic had become so corrupt and the Senate merely a gathering places for the old boys to divide the spoils.
Bronze Dupondii of Octavian with Caesar
In the case of Caesar, his portrait appears in conjunction with Octavian and Marc Antony. However, his portrait appears on several issues of other supporters who simply inscribed their name on the coinage and not their own portrait.
CAESAR IMPER (44 BC)
CAESAR PATRIAE (44 BC)
CLEMENTIAE CAESARIS (44 BC)
CAESAR IMP (42 BC)
AU Gold Aureus
AU Gold Quinarius
AR Silver Denarius
AR Silver Quinarius