28 Jan 2010

Sample Essay: Julius Caesar

The Roman Empire lasted for about five centuries, beginning from 510 BC up to 23 BC. It was a period of considerable development in world civilization, especially as relates to government. Among the most significant characters in the empire’s development was Julius Caesar (Freeman 6). Caesar succeeded in developing a military and political career in which he established his popularity among the masses and gained resentment from the ruling class, especially the conservative members of senate. This paper sets out to identify the rise of Caesar, his successes in attaining his ambitions and the simultaneous popularity and enmity that he attracted as a leader.

Early Military Life

Caesar was born around the year 100 BC. His family was neither rich nor influential at the time of his birth but had noble patrician roots. During his early years, he joined the army. Afterwards he was sent to Cilicia where he was noted to be an effective and courageous soldier. He was next in an army that was credited with crushing a slave rebellion at Spartacus. Later on, he got out of the army but remained in Southern Italy for education mostly in rhetoric and this enhanced his success in politics later on (BBC 1).

Beginnings of Caesar’s Popularity and Dislike

According to Wells, Caesar went back to Rome in 63 BC and become an administrator in Spain. This inspired him to seek a career in politics. He noticed that Roman politics revolved around money. He set out to buy his popularity and greatly succeeded, to the discomfort of his rivals. He became highly popular both among the people and the powerful elite in high places. In addition, many of the senators were uncomfortable with the idea of him simply coming in and gaining influence through bribery. He on his part did not care and even bribed his way into the position of chief priest. This position gave him a new standing in which he could not be criticized much. Because it was religious, he could not be easily attacked by his growing number of enemies (32).

His Posting to Spain

At the age of 41 in 60 BC, he was once again posted to Spain as a praetor. This was possibly motivated by the senators’ plan to have him go to a turbulent place so that he eventually fails. Although the trouble in Spain was a longstanding and a challenging one, Caesar nevertheless managed it excellently. He realized that he had a gift in military command. In addition to the leadership experience that he gained, he also developed the idea of keeping the spoils of war for himself. He thus became even more active because this was an additional source of income. He from then on had successful military expeditions which he had learnt that was profitable both financially and politically (Freeman 29).

Resentment by Senators and popularity among the Masses

Wells notes that among the events that increased Caesar’s public popularity and hate from senators was the funeral of his aunt just before he left for his posting to Spain. He utilized this opportunity to go against senate expectations. Roman Traditions at the time were against the idea of large public funerals for women. This rule was however given exceptions in the case of prominent people. Caesar took advantage of this privilege and organized a big and extravagant ceremony (36).

He further explains that at the funeral, Caesar gave a eulogy in which he referred to her husbands achievements and hence his own noble roots traceable to a goddess through a long, stirring speech that greatly displeased the senators. The claims and the public’s attraction to him pushed the senators to the extreme and increased their hate. Worse still, when they tried to stop him, he was overwhelmingly defended by members of the public. From then on, they set out to punish him through setting up of political obstacles (37).

Soon afterwards, Caesar’s wife, Cornelia also died. In spite of the implied threats that the senators had given during his aunt’s funeral, he repeated the same for his wife. This was considered worse by the conservative opponents because it involved a young woman, which was an unspeakable thing then. During the speech that he made this time, he praised Cornelia’s father Cinna, who was a great enemy of the conservative senators. Once again the speech greatly appealed to the public and immensely raised his popularity.  It also created for him the profile of a man who was against the establishment and this was considered to be a threat by the authorities (Moritzen 75).

Shortly after the funeral, Caesar set out on his journey to Spain. There he became an administrative officer. He was sent back to Rome rather soon and upon his return worked more towards creating a strong relationship with the common citizens. Specifically, he developed a close relationship with the people at Cisalpine Gaul. These had always considered themselves to be a highly oppressed group in the empire for a long time. They eventually decided to revolt and the possibility of a link between the revolt and Caesar’s close association with the group was investigated. He was accused of treason, although he was neither convicted nor tried. This event strengthened his enmity with the senators. Caesar’s political career on its part kept growing. His popularity kept rising (Freeman 41).

Wells further notes that Caesar later remarried. The marriage was however politically calculated strengthen him against the political forces that were against him and neutralize the effect of the senators’ attacks. However, his politics continued to go against the senators. He was a populist. As a senator, which he soon became, he supported a motion to give Pompey absolute power in handling Pirates. This move was opposed by the conservative senators. Afterwards, he supported yet another motion that was resisted by the senators to give Pompey command of the whole eastside. In 65 BC, Caesar became a Curule Aedile, the post which made him responsible for organizing public events. He organized some of the most memorable events in Roman entertainment and in so doing, developed his profile further. He also erected statues of Marius, an unpopular figure among the conservative senators. This angered the senators but because he was extremely popular, they could not do anything (43).

The First Triumvirate and rise to Consulship

By 59 BC, Caesar had proved that he possessed leadership ability and returned to Rome. He created an alliance with two great individuals of the time, Pompey and Crassus in what was referred to as the first triumvirate. This enabled him to become the consul of Rome, which was the highest office. The influence that he had accumulated in addition to that of his two partners helped him to succeed as a politician. Once he was in office, he set out to develop new policies against the wishes of a hostile senate. The reforms that he introduced were an indicator of his success in leadership. However, they could be a bit too populist. They enabled him to still identify with the masses and his popularity rose even higher. The reforms included for instance the cancelling of taxes charged upon farmers. There was also the allocation of land to men with three or more children. With them Caesars’s popularity and love from the masses was indeed enhanced as he was considered to be more in touch with the challenges that faced them (Moritzen 76).

Governorship of Gaul

Upon the end of his one-year term, he began thinking of an office to hold afterwards so as to avoid being powerless. His enemies were out to finish him and having no office would have made him more vulnerable. He thus became the governor of Cisalpine Gaul for a period of seven years. He led successful military victories once again against Helvetians and Germans. In 57 BC he also won against the Nervii of the Celtic Belgae and by 56 BC, he had conquered most of the territory in Gaul.In 55 BC a German attack was met with force and defeat at Koblenz in Germany. Caesar the built a wooden bridge across the Rhine River within ten days, as a show of roman technological might and to impress Roman people. This act displeased the senators as Rome was not entitled to fight anyone towards the east of the Rhine. Caesar however did not listen to their criticism. He again led an expedition against Britain. This further worsened the grudge (Freeman 47).

The Taking of Rome and Assassination

In 51 BC, senate decided to act against Caesar. It revoked his seat as governor of Gaul. He in retaliation decided to take Rome by force and declared himself its temporary dictator. In this arrangement, he possessed absolute power. As a dictator, Caesar tried to mend fences with his old enemies from senate. He gave pardoned them but eventually failed to win them over. He however managed to have the senate declare him the dictator for life. Only five months after returning to Rome, a group of sixty senators assassinated Caesar by stabbing him. They claimed that this was to restore sanity in leadership. The senators wanted to restore normal governance as his leadership would lead the republic to its destruction. The death of Caesar thus ended the lifetime of a man who had managed to completely change the nature of the Roman republic, mainly by getting rid of the past corrupt system and setting a standard for future leadership in Europe (Wells 46).

Conclusion

Julius Caesar led a successful political and military life. He joined the army at an early age and was able to acquire skills in military leadership. His noble roots also gave him the belief that he was meant to be a great man and he pursued this dream, ending up in the ultimate position of the consul of Rome. His political style won him the hatred of senators, especially the conservatives. His oratory skills made him an even more successful politician and his emotional speeches and populist suggestions appealed to the masses while displeasing the senators.  The long standing hostility from the senators eventually resulted in his assassination. In all, Caesar succeeded in developing a political career in which he established his popularity among the masses and resentment from the ruling class, especially conservative senators.

Works Cited

British  Broadcasting Corporation. Historic figures: Julius Caesar (100BC – 44BC), 2009  accessed 18 march 2009.<http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/caesar_julius.shtml>
Freeman, Philip. Julius Caesar New York: Prentice Hall, 2008.

Moritzen, Julius. Brandes on Julius Caesar Nation Vol. 116 (3002) p75-76.

Wells, Colin. The Roman Empire: Second Edition New York: Irwin Books, 1995.

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