Caius Jnlins Caesar, a Roman general and statesman, born, according to authorities long universally credited, July 12, 100 B. C, but, according to the almost unanswerable proof recently advanced by Mommsen, exactly two vears earlier, assassinated in the senate house on the ides (15th) of March, 44 B. 0. The month of his birth, previously called Quin-tilis, was from his name called Julius, from which comes our July. His father, of the same name, was of praetorian rank, and his mother belonged to the family of Aurelius Cotta. From the earliest age he gave evidence of the most extraordinary endowments. He was quick to learn, of wonderful memory, the liveliest imagination, and indefatigable diligence. In his 17th year, having been married to one Cossutia, he procured a divorce in order to marry Cornelia, a daughter of Cinna, then a leader of the democratic party. His aunt Julia had previously married Marius, the foremost democratic chief; and thus by a double connection Caesar was brought upon the popular side. Sulla sought to detach him from this party by persuading him to repudiate his wife, but Caesar refused. Sulla, angry at this, stripped him of his wife's dowry, of the fortune he had inherited, and of the office of flamen dialis (priest of Jupiter) which he held.
Caesar even deemed it necessary to quit Rome, and escaping the satellites of Sulla, who tracked him in his flight, he took refuge with Nicomedes, king of Bithynia. Minucius Thermus was then praetor in Asia, and appointed Caesar to conduct the siege of Mytilene, which he did with remarkable energy and success. The death of Sulla allowed him to return to Rome, where he indicted Dolabella for extortion in Macedonia (77); but the senate saved its partisan. The credit he gained as an orator in the case of Dolabella suggested to him the design of cultivating eloquence, for which purpose he set out for Rhodes, to receive the instructions of Molo, who a year or two before was Cicero's teacher. On the way thither he was captured by a band of Cilician pirates, who detained him 38 days. They asked a ransom of 30 talents (over $30,000), which he laughed at, saying that if they knew who he was they would demand 50. He consented to pay it, but told them that if he ever caught them afterward he would crucify them all. Arrived at the island of Delos, he was set on shore, and paid the ransom; but he immediately organized a small fleet, sailed in pursuit of the pirates, came up with and captured them, and taking them to land reported their case to the Roman proconsul.
While that magistrate was considering what was to be done, Caesar remembered his threat, and executed the whole gang. In 74, hearing that he had been chosen one of the pontifices, he returned to Rome, and for a while led a life of pleasure, some say of gross debauchery, winning the good opinion of the people by his affable manners and careless generosity. In 73 he was chosen a military tribune, and in 68 a quaestor, in which office he delivered a panegyric on his aunt Julia, the wife of Marius; and he also caused the bust of Marius to be carried in procession, for the first time since the dictatorship of Sulla. While he was quaestor he also served in Spain, distinguishing himself by his military capacity. In 65 he was elected aedile, and this office, being connected with the public entertainments, gave him an opportunity to display his taste for magnificence. He raised again the trophies of victory, which, erected in the capital by Marius, had been thrown down by Sulla's order; and he enlarged the theatres, and gave splendid games and festivals. He came out of the aedileship several millions of dollars in debt.
In 63 the conspiracy of Catiline was discovered, and Caesar was suspected of complicity in it; but when the matter came up in the senate some time later, he succeeded, to the satisfaction of his auditors, though not of historians, in disproving the story. He defended the conspirators, however, from the punishment of death, holding that it would be wiser to scatter them and keep them under strict guard. In the same year he aspired to the place of pontifex maximus, one of considerable influence and emolument. Catulus, an opposing candidate, offered to pay his debts if he would withdraw, but Caesar replied that he would borrow more money than that if it were necessary to his success. On the day of election he remarked to his mother that this day would see him either the chief priest of Rome or a dead man. He was elected, getting more votes from the tribes of his opponents than they did themselves. The next year (62) he became praetor, and on laying down that office was transferred, as was the custom, to the government of a province.
He selected Spain; but before he departed his creditors arrested him, and his friend Crassus had to become his security to the amount of nearly $5,000,000. He achieved not a little military success in Spain in a cruel war against the native tribes, and then hurried back to run for the consulship. He was chosen, and administered the government with unexampled vigor (59). His colleague, Bibulus, attempted in the outset to check him in his objects, but in a short time was completely outmanaged, and when he attempted to resist Caesar's measures was carried from the forum by the lictors at Caesar's order. He limited the powers of the senate, often even disregarding their constitutional decrees; procured the passage of a law for the distribution of lands among the poorer classes; gained the favor of the equestrian order by releasing it from an oppressive contract; and made himself a great favorite with the people. At the same time he strengthened the political coalition made the preceding year with Pompey and Crassus, and known as the first triumvirate.
At the close of his term he was given the government of Cisalpine Gaul, with Illyricum, for five years; and the senate, the more effectually to get him out of the way, added Transalpine Gaul (France) to the charge (59). The next year he arrived in his province, where he was now to engage in a labor which would test his military talents. The Romans were asked to settle the disputes of the Gallic tribes, warring among each other for the ascendancy, and also to help them repulse the Suevi, who were beginning to invade and oppress the country. Caesar defeated the German army under Ario-vistus, between Vesontio (Besancon) and the Rhine, in 58, and drove the remnant across the Rhine; in 57 he marched against, and in that and the succeeding year fully subjugated the Belgic tribes, winning a series of remarkable victories; in the summer of 55 he made his first expedition to Britain, and the next spring undertook a partially successful invasion of the island; in 53, his government having been extended for five years more, he suppressed a formidable insurrection among the conquered continental tribes; and on the breaking out of a second and wide-spread revolt, he finally determined on the complete and lasting subjection of the whole of Gaul, nearly all of which, including the greater part of the former allies of the Romans, was now arrayed against him.
After a long succession of violent conflicts, and displays of the most brilliant generalship, he saw all the region west of the Rhine (which river he crossed twice) and north of the Pyrenees made subject to Rome, and his design accomplished. - In the mean time political intrigues had been constantly agitating Rome, and now, at the close of his victorious campaigns, Pom-pey, his rival (though lately his son-in-law, having in 59 married his daughter Julia, who died in 54), procured a law recalling Caesar, who refused to obey, and was threatened with being declared the enemy of the republic. The tribunes of the people refused to confirm the decrees, when the senate, treating their veto with contempt, outlawed Caesar, and directed the consuls to "see to it that the republic should suffer no harm." The tribunes repaired to Caesar, who had now by means of their accession got the law on his side, and he immediately (January, 49) passed the Rubicon, a small stream separating his province from the territories of the republic, in order to march upon Rome. This act was equivalent to a declaration of war against the senate, who prepared for defence.
Pompey acted as their commander-in-chief, but the popular feeling soon manifested itself so decidedly in favor of Caesar, that the senatorial party fled to Greece. Caesar pursued them thither, and then for years a war raged which led Caesar into Spain, and all over Italy; into Thessaly, where the great battle of Pharsalia or Pharsalus (Aug. 9, 48) decided for him against Pompey; to Egypt, where he wept at the sight of the head of his great rival, treacherously killed there, and where he decided in favor of the Egyptian woman the dispute for the throne between the last Ptolemy and Cleopatra; into Pontus, against Pharnaces, son of Mithridates, where he conquered with such ease that he could announce Veni, vidi, vici; into the province of Africa, where he defeated M. Scipio, but could not conquer Cato, who at Utica preferred death to life under the rule of a single man. The result of these victories was that Caesar gained supreme power in the Roman state, and in 46 was proclaimed dictator for ten years, from the 1st of January, 45. With consummate statesmanship he set to work reorganizing the nation, though perpetually interrupted by the remains of the senatorial party.
The sons of Pompey rose against him in Spain, which compelled him to go thither and crush them (at Munda, 45). On his return he was hailed as imperator, and invested with sovereign powers; the appellation of pater pa-trice, "the father of his country," was voted him; the coins were stamped with his image; and he was allowed to wear at all times a crown of laurel on his head. This excess of subservience on the part of the multitude, won and deluded by his triumphs, and his kingly show and liberality, rekindled the jealousy of the aristocratic faction, and disgusted all the more moderate. But the gross flattery of the new senate carried matters to a still higher pitch of adulation. They ordered the statues of Caesar to be borne in the processions along with those of the gods; they dedicated temples and altars to him, and appointed priests to superintend his worship. A story became current that he aspired to the name of king and to royal power; and though he had ostentatiously refused a crown tendered him in public by Mark Antony, this report gained such credit that a number of young patricians availed themselves of the Roman aversion to a monarchical title as a cloak to a design for Caesar's assassination.
Caius Cassius was the ostensible leader of this conspiracy, assisted by Brutus, whom Caesar had greatly benefited, but who was persuaded to sacrifice his benefactor, as his ancestor sacrificed his sons, to the republic. Caesar was absorbed in his reforms of the government, and in the endeavor to consolidate the public order, to which end he had projected and partly executed several vital measures. . While he was thus engaged the conspirators, about 60 in all, perfected their plans. Though warned by a soothsayer, and, according to the Roman account, met by the most unfavorable omens, Caesar was not to be dissuaded from his regular attention to the public business, and visited the senate house as usual on the ides of March, the day of which the fortune-teller had instructed him to beware. On his way a written account of the conspiracy was put into his hand, but he thrust it unopened into the bosom of his mantle. It was agreed by the conspirators that one of them, Lucius Tillius Cimber, should present a petition to him, and that his expected refusal to grant it should be the signal for his murder.
All happened as it had been planned; the assassins rushed upon him with their daggers, and met with but a momentary resistance; wrapped in his toga, he sank, pierced with 23 wounds, at the foot of the statue of Pompey; and Rome was again plunged into civil war, and became a prey to Antony and Octavius, the grandson of Caesar's sister Julia. The heads of the conspiracy, Brutus and Cassius, perished at Philippi in 42, and when Octavius had vanquished Antonius, Caesar's son by Cleopatra, Caesarion, was put to death by his order. Caesar's last wife, Calpurnia, survived him. - As a general Caesar stands in history among the first, having no equal except perhaps the modern Napoleon; as a statesman the highest rank is conceded to him; as an orator he was compared to Cicero; and as a writer he surpassed Xenophon, and was only less than Tacitus. Besides his masterly " Commentaries," the memoirs of his own career, he wrote on grammar and on rhetoric; composed tragedies, satires, and lyrics; and reformed the calendar as well as the state. (See Calendar.) His moral sensibility appears to have been unequal to his intellectual acuteness or to his force of will; and the record of his life is stained by acts of profligacy, and by a needless waste of human life.
In person, Caesar was tall and spare; his face was generally pale, his body weak and subject to epileptic fits. He was fastidious in his tastes, amiable and courteous, careful of the feelings of his friends, and generous to his enemies, except when he deemed them incorrigible. His great works are the Commentarii de Bello Galileo and Commentarii de Bello Civili. The first is in seven books, containing the incidents of as many campaigns; an eighth book was afterward added by another hand; it contains an account of his actions while in Gaul, during which time he invaded Britain and Germany. The second work describes his contest with Pompey until the time of the siege of Alexandria. It is not known when he published the first, but it was probably about 51 B. 0.; the second was published in 47 B. C. Both these works were written immediately after the events occurred, and are therefore most important as authorities. His style is noted for its simplicity, naturalness, and purity, for which qualities nothing in the Latin language can be compared to it. Caesar's veracity has been called in question by Asinius Pollio (Suetonius, 56), and by several later writers.
Schneider, in particular, advances the opinion that the object of his first work was political, to give the public a favorable idea of his talents, and to confound the plans of his enemies who were attempting to destroy his popularity; and that of the second to appease the animosity of the partisans of Pompey. This opinion has been very ingeniously maintained, but there is the greatest difficulty in reconciling it with the simplicity of Caesar's style. Caesar is mentioned in terms of unqualified praise by Cicero in his Brutus. Tacitus, in his Germania, calls him summus auctorum divus Julius. The genuineness of the Commentaries has also been questioned. Julius Celsus, at Constantinople, published an abstract of Caesar's Commentaries, from which arose the report that he was the original author; it is without foundation, and there is a previous Greek translation of Caesar by Planudes. Many think, and with reason, that Caesar wrote a diary; Servius has a passage which is not in our copies, under the title of Ephemeris; and Plutarch has one under the same title which has come down to us, showing that something of the kind was written by him.
He left some orations, letters, apophthegms, a treatise De Analogia,, Anticato, etc, all of which are lost, except the letters which are preserved in the works of Cicero. The supposed author of the eighth book, and also of the additions to the civil war, is Aulus Hirtius, a legate of Caesar, who died one year after him at Mutina (now Modena), where both the consuls Hirtius and Pansa were slain. It has been thought that Hirtius wrote the Bellum Hispanicum, but the style shows it to be the work of a different hand. The editio princeps of Caesar's works was published at Rome in 1469; good editions are those of Oudendorp (Stuttgart, 1822) and Herzog (Leipsic, 1831-'4). - The ancient authorities for the life of Caesar are the biographies by Suetonius and Plutarch, the letters and orations of Cicero, and the histories of Dion Cassius, Appian, and Velleius Pater-culus. A life of Caesar was begun by Napoleon III., and two volumes were published (L'Histoire de Jules Cesar, Paris, 1865-'6). But perhaps the best modern account of his career is that given by Mommsen, who, in his "History of Rome," has devoted a very large space to this subject.
First Brass Coin of Julius Caesar.