The Rise And Fall Of Julius Caesar

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What were the reasons for the rise and fall of Julius Caesar? Changes within the structure of the Roman army set the early stage of the rise of Julius Caesar to power within the Roman Empire. The republican army of the early days was founded on the “Servian” constitution. The army was the army of the state; citizens served in it according to their wealth and were called to arms when needed.

In the third century this began to change as campaigns increased in duration and moved farther and farther from the boundaries of Rome itself.

Further there was a growing resistance of wealthy citizens to take part in military service. In 107 BC Marius instituted reforms lowering the requirements of military service to include members of the lower classes. This voluntary service helped to augment the compulsory service required of more wealthy citizens.

Volunteers flocked to the army due in part to the troubled economic situation within the republic that had plagued the lower class for many years. Army service provided payment for service, a share of booty, and an allocation of land upon completion of service.

These reforms led to the creation of a professional army with soldiers who served many years, often in the same unit, led by the same commander. This in turn created a great deal of loyalty between the Legions and their respective commanders, loyalty that superseded that between the republic and her citizens.

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Political infighting was also instrumental in the rise of Caesar. Marius had been embroiled in an ongoing political struggle with forces allied with Sulla.

Julius Caesar

While Marius was engaged in a military campaign in Asia against the king of Pontus in 88 BC, Sulla who had been stripped of his authority in Asia by senatorial decree marched on Rome with his legions. Sulla forced the senate to banish Marius, who had managed to escape to Campania. Marius was captured at Minturnae but managed to escape again finally reaching Africa, where his old soldiers had been allocated lands due to Marius’s influence. Marius eventually returned to Rome, Sulla was absent in Asia facing the Mithridates allowing Marius’s supporters to gain power in the senate.

Marius marched his forces into Rome and assaulted the city forcing the senate to lift his banishment and declare Sulla a public enemy. On January 1, 86, Cinna and Marius took the consulship by the 17th Marius was dead of pleurisy. Sulla regained power after the death of Marius and the republic was plunged once again into civil war. Attempting to regain control of Rome, Sulla and his forces faced a senatorial army at Brindisi in 83. Fighting lasted through the summer and fall of 82 at a cost of 50-70 thousand dead in the two armies and another 3000 prisoners executed by Sulla.

Sulla further carried out a purge of Rome’s ruling elites. The forced removal and often execution of political rivals in the senate allowed Sulla to refill those positions with his own men. Sulla used this to begin the process of establishing a dictatorship without time limits. Beyond the power of dictator Sulla had himself presented as “Felix”, the leader blessed by the gods. This was the first use in Roman history of a divinity used for the personal ambition of an imperator. Sulla abdicated his position in 80 and died by the year 78 at the age of sixty.

The actions of Sulla set the stage for the creation of a powerful dictator who would wield almost unlimited power of the Roman state. In the year 60, Gaius Julius Caesar returned from a successful governorship in the Spanish province, Caesar was anxious to hold both a triumph and the consulship of 59. The senate refused his request to stand in absentia, to declare his candidature. At the same time Pompey and Crassus were being shut out of senatorial proceedings as well. The three men Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus put their differences aside and formed a political alliance known as the First Triumvirate.

It was a private and at first secret alliance later secured by the marriage of Pompey to Caesars daughter, Julia. They enlisted the tribune Publis Clodius in 58 to act as their agent in the senate. With his assistance they were able to push through a number of laws, including some that provided free grain to the citizens of Rome and forced their rival Cicero from Rome by outlawing anyone who had executed a Roman citizen without benefit of a trial. The year 58 also marked the year Caesar left Rome to take the governorship of Transalpine Gaul.

Soon after Pompey was politically attacked by enemies in the senate and was forced to take refuge in his home for several months. By 56 the Triumvirate seemed to be falling apart, the three met at Luca in April of 56 and managed to patch up their differences, agreeing that Pompey and Crassus would be consuls in 55. The alliance dissolved not long after with the death of Julia and then Crassus being killed in battle in Mesopotamia. By 53 violence and disorder ruled the streets of Rome, things were so bad that the consular elections that year were postponed.

In 52 the Senate-house was burned to the ground and Pompey was declared sole consul. Relations between the former allies became increasingly strained and both began to gird for war. In late 50 Caesar’s agent at Rome, tribune Marcus Scribonius Curio, forced the senate to a vote requiring both he and Pompey to disarm, only 22 senators opposed but they were able to secure a tribune’s veto. In January of 49 one of the tribunes, Marcus Antonius, forced the consuls to read a letter from Caesar agreeing to the earlier disarmament proposal.

The consuls, with the support of Pompey refused to allow a vote, but proposed that Caesar be named a public enemy; the measure passed but was vetoed by Antonius. On January 7th, Antonius was warned to leave the senate, which then issued its ultimate decree (naming Caesar an enemy of the state). Caesar instead of running marched his army from Ravenna south to Ariminum, in doing so he crossed the Rubicon River, the boundary between Cisalpine Gaul and Italy. It was an open act of war. Caesar began his overthrow of the Roman republic by decisively attacking Pompey’s forces and forcing him to retreat to Greece.

Having no fleet, Caesar moved his forces into Spain were he defeated the forces loyal to Pompey in three months. Moving into Greece Caesar defeated Pompey at Pharsalus in 48. Pompey fled to Egypt where he was executed on the orders of King Ptolemy. Caesar followed into Egypt and was captivated by the daughter of the king Cleopatra. In October 48 unbeknownst to Caesar, he was appointed in Rome as dictator for a year. In early 46 Caesar pushed into North Africa where the last remnants of Pompey’s forces were located. During the siege of Thapsus, Pompey’s army was annihilated.

News of his latest victory was relayed to Rome and the senate appointed him dictator for ten years. Caesar installed Cleopatra in his house on the Janiculum, together with her infant son Caesarion rumored to be Caesars child. His campaigns finally brought him back to Spain where he finally defeated the last remnants of Pompey’s army under the command of Pompey’s sons. Caesar then returned to Rome where he spent the remainder of his life. From 48-44 BC Caesar enacted many reforms that were intended to relieve debts and reign in the extravagances practiced many of the patrician members of the government.

He greatly increased the size of the senate and the number of magistrates; he also began a publics program that included a new forum, a basilica, and public library. Caesar also planned the creation of no fewer than 20 new colonies mostly in Spain and North Africa. New methods of taxation were established in the provinces, the new system assessed a fixed land tax replacing the older exactions of the publicans. Caesar further encouraged Roman colonization of the provinces and opened up citizenship to provincials.

In 44 preparations were being implemented to strengthen Rome’s north-eastern frontier by attacking the Dacian king Burebistas, this action was to be a preliminary actions toward ultimately invading Parthia itself. Caesar expected to be away from Rome for three years during this action. A few days prior to his departure on the Ides of March, 44 he was cut down in front of the senate-house, at the foot of Pompey’s statue. Caesar had become too powerful and threatened the wealth and might of Rome’s political elite. His authority ultimately rested on the devotion of his soldiers who showed greater fealty to Caesar than to Rome.

Many feared he was working toward being crowned king, and were frightened by his being venerated as a god by some. One can only guess at Caesars ultimate ambitions. A man of noble birth he rose from relative obscurity to the pinnacle of power within the Roman republic only to be the master of its destruction. Caesar’s legacy spawned the Imperial era of Roman history, many who would follow in Caesar’s footstep would take the title of Caesar as their own. Works cited: Marcel Le Glay, et. al. , A History of Rome (Malden: Blackwell, 2005. ) pg. 133-139

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The Rise And Fall Of Julius Caesar
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