Gaius Julius Caesar

(100 BC - 44 BC)

Gauis Julius Caesar was born at the turn of the 1st century BC to a patrician family who traces its roots through the epic hero Aeneas back to the goddess Venus. It is a testimony to Caesar's excellence that his progeny would sooner name him than the two former whilst speaking on their lineage -- and not only because he is nearer in time than the two former. Caesar would come into the Roman republic during a period of great social change catalyzed by the actions of the Gracchi brothers only 20 years before his mother Aurelia would give birth. The Gracchi themselves seem to be antecedents to Caesar, Plutarch explaining how “these sons Cornelia reared with such scrupulous care that although confessedly no other Romans were so well endowed by nature, they were thought to owe their virtues more to education than to nature” and it seems Caesar was both afforded an almost divine predestination to do great things and a loving mother in Aurelia. Caesar's uncle was the great Gauis Marius, a "new man" who would eventually make an opponent of his junior commander Sulla, beginning one of Rome's more consequential periods of civil conflict while Caesar was just a child. During this period of unrest, the young Caesar was given a bride, Cornelia, who was the daughter of his uncles greatest ally, Lucius Cornelius Cinna. After the battle at the Colline Gate, Sulla would successfully defeat the Marians and become dictator of the Republic after years of civil war. Watchful eyes were preying on Caesar at a young age due to his familial connections.

Sulla demanded Caesar divorce his wife, as he had with many other of the magistrates in Rome. The difference between Caesar and these other men was that he was the only one to deny Sulla's request. Divorce was not exactly uncommon in the Roman republic, and with the threat of Sulla's proscriptions still looming over many of Cinna and Marius’ sympathizers, Caesar’s decision to deny the dictator's request would be among the first signs that within Caesar burned obdurate ambition and unfaltering confidence beyond that of any of his contemporaries.

Regardless of his intentions, Caesar's risk would have likely ended in his death if not for his mother pleading with the vestal virgins to speak on her sons behalf. Again his death would have been certain if it were not for the sum equivalent to a hundred years pay that Caesar paid as a bribe to one of Sulla's men who happened upon him deep in the Italian countryside.

It would not seem that Caesar's physical appearance was anything too remarkable in his youth as to give him the remarkable confidence he showed in defying Sulla. Caesar was pale, slightly built, with piercing dark eyes. He took great care in grooming himself and separated himself amongst the forum by wearing his toga with a large belt on the outside. Caesar did not seem to be striving for revolution throughout his career, in contrast to the writings of many ancient authors. Cicero, observing Caesar in a disputation on the senate floor thinks to himself: “And yet, when I look at his hair, arranged so perfectly, I cannot believe that this fellow would ever dream of so appalling a crime as the destruction of the Roman state.”

Caesar was again safely recieved into Rome with his wife Cornelia thanks to his mother. He was now 19, and not intending to further upset the dictator Sulla, Caesar would begin his mandatory years of military service in Asia and would not return to Rome until the dictator's death. Under the command of his propraetor, Caesar would be sent to the court of King Nicomedes IV of Bithynia. A rumour began to make its rounds among the men that Caesar had been seduced and lay with King, due to his uncharacteristically lackadaisical conduct in his duties, preferring to revel in the luxuries of the foreign court instead of carrying out his bureaucratic responsibilities.

Almost certainly the rumor was fabricated to harm Caesar's reputation which at this point was widely respected due to his previous appointment to the office of Flamen Dialis, the highest position in the flaminate, which he stood for before Sulla's arrival to Rome. Plutarch tells us Sulla personally denied the young Caesar this title but other authors contend that Caesar denied this title before setting out for Asia due to its many restrictions that would prevent him from joining the higher ranks of the magistracy. For instance, the flamen were prohibited from seeing a cadaver, and even weirder, they were prohibited from seeing an empty table for they were never supposed to be seen in want. The rumor regarding Nicomedes can also be widely proven as a falsity in hindsight, since Caesar was perhaps the most notorious womanizer in Rome upon his return, having a taste exclusively for the wives of his fellow Senators.

Following the controversy with Nicomedes, Caesar transferred to Cilicia in modern day Southern Turkey to help remedy the piracy in the Eastern Mediterranean. Not long after his embarkation from Bithynia to Cilicia, news of Sulla's death reached Caesar, compelling him to return to Rome and further his name by advocating in the courts. Over the next few years, Caesar would play the role of prosecutor in Rome’s courts, prosecuting on cases of gubernatorial extortion and greed. The maltreatment of the provinvials by their Roman governors was so rampant and met with such indifference by the Roman magistracy that even the “noblest Roman of them all”, Brutus, likely practiced usury against his provincials decades later. One such governor was Dolabella, who was accused of extortion in his province of Macedonia, and would be Caesar's first major case on the behalf of his Macedonian clients. The defense for Dolabella would consist of two leading orators at the time, Quintus Hortensius and Gauis Aurelius Cotta, both of which Cicero himself would strive to emulate. The odds against Caesar were formidable and Dolabella would be acquitted, but not before Caesar impressed many with his oratory. Caesar would have one more notable appearance as a prosecutor, this time against Caius Antonius. Again Caesar surpassed expectations in his speech, nevertheless, Antonius appealed to a tribune of the plebs and the proceedings were vetoed before a verdict could be met.

It seems Caesar may have made some enemies as a result of his fervent speeches against the former consul Dolabella, prompting him to depart for Rhodes to study under Apollonius who had mentored Cicero only years earlier. Appollionus is remembered in history mainly for his brief instruction of Cicero and Caesar, and if you will forgive my digression that will hopefully give a fuller context of the times, as a critic of Judaism, “calumniating Moses as an impostor, and a deceiver; and pretending that Judaic laws teach wickedness; but nothing that is virtuous.” Caesar himself lived near a Jewish slum in Rome for some time, but other than that it does not seem as if the Old Religion had much of an impact on Caesar himself or any of his contemporaries. In only sixty years time, during the reign of Augustus, would Our Saviour Christ be born to the Blessed Virgin.

Incidentally, Caesar would have to wait before he could continue his studies, for he was captured by pirates, the very same he was sent to Cilicia to contain years before. The pirates demanded a ransom of 20 talents of silver for his release. Upon hearing which Caesar burst into laughter at the miscalculation of his worth, insisting to the pirates that he would pay 50 talents. After allowing some of his companions to depart to collect the ransom, Caesar would be rash aboard his captors ship, and according to Plutarch “he was so contemptuous of them that whenever he had a mind to sleep he would send and order them to be quiet. He was present thirty eight days with them, taking parts in their sports and their exercises as if they were not his jailers but his bodyguard. He wrote poems, too, and speeches which he read to them, and those who did not admire them he would call them straight out ignorant barbarians, and would often threaten laughingly to hang them all. The pirates enjoyed it and ascribed his bold talk to simplicity and boyish playfulness.” Caesar would immediately prove to the pirates that this was in fact not the case, for upon the payment of the 50 talents and his release, Caesar built up a small fleet and imprisoned most of his captors. Not being a magistrate, Caesar appealed to the governor of Asia to execute the prisoners, and upon being denied, Caesar made his way back to the pirates and crucified all of them on his own initiative.

Caesar was finally able to make the detour to Rhodes to study under Apollonius. At Rhodes, Caesar developed a eloquent yet simplistic style that would in time prove him second only to Cicero of the orators in Rome. Perhaps if Caesar was not so preoccupied with the administration of state before his assasination, he would have left us with more writings to give testimony to his excellence in speech. Today, we are left with his Commentaries on the Gaulic Wars, which even though written between battles during his expeditions into the deep forests of modern day France, remain one of the greatest extant works of Ancient Rome, rivaling even Virgil's Aeneid in influence on Western tradition. Caesar's Anticato has not been preserved. To think of all of the books that have slowly been forgotten through the never ending motion of time; that have retired into the earth that surrounds them under the streets of Rome and Alexandria; the same works which had once had a home in the libraries of Kings; to think of all of these undeserving works and the execreble fortunes that would have had to accompany them for all their copies to be lost is sorrowful. Cicero's Hortensius is no longer extant. The reading of this work was the occasion that the Lord provided to St. Augustine for his conversion to the Faith when He heard the prayers of St. Monica. Nevertheless, we have been suffered its loss for a reason that only the Lord knows, but for it to have met the same fate as the rotten works that were cleansed with Savonarola's fire seems undeserving of a book that has been of such great benefit to the faith.

Caesar once again made his way back to Rome on hearing that he was elected to the court of the pontiffs. For a few years at Rome, he continued his career in the courts, got elected as a military tribune, quaestor, then aedile. Cornelia died about this time in 67 BC and Caesar married Pompeia, the daughter of Sulla. A notable court case during this time was leveled against Rabirius, who nearly four decades earlier was a partisan of the party that had massacred Saturninus and his supporters, and who bragged about personally killing Saturninus himself. It just so happens that Labienus, a long-time friend of Caesar's, had an uncle who was one of those who died with Saturninus. So, charges were brought against Rabirius, an undignified and aging member of the senate, nearly four decades after the alleged crimes. I am not an expert on Roman law by any means so I can not provide input on the statute of limitations in the republic, but judging by this event and Cicero's own ostracization years after the Cataline conspiracy which was just about to occur later in the year, it does not seem that the Romans were a very forgiving people. Labienus and Caesar would prosecute Rabirius, with Cicero and Hortensius on the defense. After the proceedings, Rabirius was found guilty but escaped justice (that is, if he was even truly guilty) due to an archaic procedure where a flag would be lowered outside the Campus Martius to signify Rome was in danger. During the sentencing of Rabirius, a praetor ordered the flag to be lowered and the assembly was disolved. This mess of a trial would prove to be a substantial victory for Labienus, and for Caesar as well. They two had jointly beaten the two greatest orators in Rome in prosecuting a Roman senator. As we have seen in the young Caesar's previous failed prosecutions against Dolabella and other Roman citizens who were obviously guilty of their crimes, to actually convict a Roman was very difficult, trebly so when you were trying to convict him against Cicero and Hortensius.

In the same year, 63 BC, which has yet to see it's most consequential event, Metellus, Rome's Pontifex Maximus died, leaving the office vacant. Caesar would have his first real opportunity to secure himself as a leading figure in the Roman senate and was willing to risk everything to secure his election to the highest religious office in the republic. Caesar was running against Catulus Lutatius, the leading name in Rome at the time, and Isauricus. The former offered a bribe to Caesar for him to pull out of the race, we know that Caesar found this detestable when he told Catulus that he would go through with the contest even if he had to borrow more. Plutarch relates to us that on the day of the election, when his mother in tears went with him to the door, he kissed her and said, "Mother, today you will see your son either Pontifex Maximus or an exile." It was a close contest, but Caesar won.

This was Cicero's year as consul, the only time he would be elected to that office. In 63 BC Lucius Sergius Catalina is in a desperate situation both monetarily and in his position in the Senate. For two years in a row now had Catiline stood for the consulship, and both times had he lost, now destitute. During Cicero's consulship, Catiline and his supporters were disrupting the senate by having the tribunes propose laws that would severely limit Pompey's command in the East which had been alotted to him to repel the threat of Mithridates. Cicero was able to curb these laws but was always suspicious of a deeper rebellion centered around these revolutionaries. Catiline turned demagogue, promising the people extravagent reforms and salvation from the corrupt senatorial elite. The consular elections for the next year were coming up and standing for the candidacy were Catiline, Lucius Licinius Murena, and Decimus Junius Silanus. Silanus was the husband of Servilia, Caesar's long time lover and Cato's half-sister. To ensure his victory in the race, Catiline resorted to bribery with the little money he had, which was customary enough in Rome but Cicero for these elections decided to impose new laws against it, with a penalty of ten years exile. Cato, realizing that Catiline and subsequently all the other consular candidates began offering money for votes, announced that he would immediately prosecute whoever the victor was because no one could have won without resorting to bribery, leaving out his brother-in-law Silanus; regardless, this seems more like a fail-safe in case Catiline had won rather than a realistic threat. Plutarch tells us that Catiline had a plan to assassinate Cicero in the excitement of the election, and perhaps Cicero was suspicious of the same when on the day of the election, after having already delayed it once due to "eathquakes, thunderbolts, and strange apparitions", he questioned Catiline about the rumors going on about him. Catiline gave Cicero a peculiar answer: "What crime am I comitting, if, when I two bodies, one thin and wasted but with a head, the other headless but big and stalwart, I constitute myself a head for that one?" The time to vote had come and Cicero arrived at the Campus Martius with a group of armed bodyguard, himself quite obviously wearing a breastplate under his toga. The election came and went without any violence, and Silanus and Murena were elected consuls for the following year.

Being rejected for the fourth time from the consular office, Catiline was humiliated. He stayed in Rome, going about business as usual while behind the scenes an army was forming in Etruria under Gaius Manlius. The wheels of revolution were slowly turning North of Rome whilst the mastermind behind it all continued to walk through the Forum with a smile on his face like nothing was happening. One night Cicero was awoken by a banging on his door. Crassus, Marcus Marcellus, and Scipio Metellus had come urgently with news of Catiline's conspiracy. Crassus explained to Cicero that his porter was given letters from a suspicious man addressed to Crassus. One of the letters infromed Crassus that blood was about to fil lthe streets of Rome, and that he must leave the city at once. The next day Cicero called a meeting in the senate where these letters were brought to light when a praetor stood up to inform them of the armies that were forming in Etruria. The senate passed the senatus consultus ultimatum which gave Cicero the power to do whatever he deemed necessary to protect the city. Soon Cicero was informed of another plot to take his life; a woman named Fulvia, mistress of Gaius Curio who will become very important in few years time, came to Cicero at night to inform him that two men were going to be coming to his house under the pretense of a cordial meeting, and when Cicero least expected would unsheathe their hidden weapons and kill him in his home. The men arrived at daybreak and were refused entry, striking up a clamor until finally they left. Cicero decided to call a meeting of the senate in the temple of Jupiter Stator.

That morning, senators walked through the Campus Martius, up the steps of the temple of Jupiter, and through the great archway that formed the firmament of the temple, only to find Catiline, seated alone waiting for the meeting to start. One by one senators straggled into the temple of Jupiter and one by one they neglected Catiline and found a seat on the opposite side of the chamber. He, sat all alone in his defense, was left to in wonderment as to what his colleagues thought of him as they quickly diverted their attention away from him. Cicero soon stood up, beginning to speak. Every other senator was but a spectator as Cicero, stood in the middle of the temple, turned to Catiline -- "When, O Catiline, do you mean to cease abusing our patience? How long is that madness of yours still to mock us? When is there to be an end of that unbridled audacity of yours, swaggering about as it does now?" At the end of his speech, Cicero turning to the statue of Jupiter spoke thus: "Then do you, O Jupiter, who were consecrated by Romulus with the same auspices as this city, whom we rightly call the stay of this city and empire, repel this man and his companions from your altars and from the other temples, from the houses and walls of the city, from the lives and fortunes of all the citizens; and overwhelm all the enemies of good men, the foes of the republic, the robbers of Italy, men bound together by a treaty and infamous alliance of crimes, dead and alive, with eternal punishments!"