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Sunday, 20 October 2013

Julius Caesar

Julius Caesar was born on July 13, 100 BC. in Rome. He was untimely ripped from his mother's womb at birth hence his name Caesarian. (Latin Caedere) .

His father and namesake, Caius Julius Caesar, was a Roman Praetor of the most ancient and aristocratic lineage who had encountered hard times. His mother was an Aurelia from the Cottae branch, a rich and influential family of plebeian stock.

As a young child Caesar used to race around in a little cart pulled by a goat. A show-off as he grew older he would ride at top speed without stirrups with his hands behind his head.

As a young boy, he lived in a modest house in the Subura quarter, where he apparently learned to speak several languages, including Hebrew and Gallic dialects.

Caesar had a large head, set on a sinewy neck broad forehead, strong and aquiline nose, soft white skin, dark piercing eyes, very slightly built, wiry figure.

Caesar had a very short cropped hairstyle. He was very vain about his locks, having began to lose his hair when younger. Baldness was considered a deformity by the Romans and he was sensitive of it. Cicero noted: "When I notice how carefully arranged his hair is and when I watch him adjusting the parting with one finger, I cannot imagine that this man could conceive of such a wicked thing as to destroy the Roman constitution."

The Tusculum portrait, perhaps the only surviving statue created during Caesar's lifetime. Gautier Poupeau from Paris, France. Wikipedia Commons

Caesar was given permission by Roman senate to wear his laurel wreath all of the time to hide his baldness.

He had his facial hairs individually plucked out with tweezers every day.

Particular of dress, neat in appearance, Caesar was distinctive in his scarlet cloak.

Caesar was self confident and very ambitious, he said: "would rather be first in a little Iberian village then second in Rome"

A brave man, he refused a bodyguard saying "It is better to die once rather than live always in fear of death."

At the age of 17, Caesar married Cornelia the youngest daughter of Lucius Cornelius Cinna,, a leader of the "populist democratic" party. This angered Cinna's enemy, the reactionary consul, Lucius Cornelius Sulla, who ordered him to be put her away. Caesar refused and his life was only saved by powerful friends in Rome, though he had to flee to Asia for a while. He returned to Rome four years later when Sulla left office.

Caesar became a widower after Cornelia's death trying to deliver a stillborn son in 68BC.

Caesar had a child Caesarion, his only known biological son, by Cleopatra whilst in Egypt. He was 52 and she was 21.

Caesar divorced his second wife Pompeia in 61BC after the tribune Clodius had entered his house dressed as a woman. Clodius had amorous designs on Pompeia and he was charged with sacrilege but was acquitted after bribing the jurors. Caesar divorced his wife justifying it by saying "Caesar's wife must be beyond suspicion."

Caesar had many mistresses, one of whom was Servilia, the mother of a certain Marcus Juncus Brutus. He was nicknamed "the bald adulterer" by soldiers.

Caesar threw spectacular games that included the diversion of the Tiber River for a specific representation in the Circus. He ended that year in glory but in bankruptcy. His debts reached several hundred gold talents (millions of Dollars in today's currency) and threatened to be an obstacle for his future career.

In 45BC Caesar was officially recognised as a god and a temple was erected in his honour in his forum.

Caesar paid his soldiers in salt (a valuable commodity in Roman times) rather than money-the word "salary" comes from this.

In a gluttonous age, Caesar was moderate in his culinary intake. When on a campaign he ate the same food as his men did and drank the same wine.

The Roman legions marched across the Roman world singing filthy songs about Julius Caesar, which the Roman authorities tried to ban.

Caesar started one of the earliest newspapers, The Acta Divrna (The Daily News) containing daily announcements of various orders, marriages, births, deaths, military appointments etc was written on a board in public places in Rome. It also included news of gladiatorial contests, accounts of battles. Scribes from all over the Roman Empire copied it down and sent it back by letter to their masters.

Caesar's accounts of his invasion of Britain and subdual of Gaul, Die Bello Gallico and Die Bello Civile were models of simple and clear writing of military history. He wanted to ensure he would be recorded in posterity as a victorious hero.

As overseer of public games, Caesar increased his popularity by preparing magnificent spectacles in the Circus Maximus at a cost of a crushing burden of debt for himself. He was booed for catching up with his correspondence during gladiatorial games.

A skilful swordsman and horseman, Caesar had incredible stamina and endurance and could travel long distances quickly. He could march besides his legionaries on foot and out tire the best of them.

A superb swimmer with a powerful stroke. When shipwrecked off Alexandria, Caesar jumped overboard to swim ashore carrying his sword between his teeth, he held his commentaries with his left hand above the water while beating it with his right.

Caesar participated in the hobby of sigillography (the collector of seals). Stamps were used to authenticate documents.

On route to a rhetoric course, Caesar was captured by pirates. When informed that they had demanded a ransom of twenty talents, Caesar burst out laughing. They did not know, he said, who it was that they had captured, and he volunteered to pay fifty.  He spent 40 days with the pirates whilst the ransom was being arranged and Caesar spent his time playing dice with them or joking how he would capture and crucify them. The pirates laughed once the ransom was paid and Caesar was set free. He immediately gathered a fleet, to go after the pirates. Caesar caught them and crucified them to a man.

Caesar got into the senate party due to the lavish bribes he distributed. He was totally motivated by political ambitions.

A very clear mind when thinking out military strategy, Caesar regarded Alexander the Great as his model war leader.

He summarised his quick campaign against King Pharnaces in Zela Asia Minor (47BC) as "Veni, vidi, vici" (I came, I saw, I conquered)

Caesar used a simple cipher for passing secret messages advancing one letter of the alphabet so his name was Dbftbs.

Caesar was willing to join in the front line with his troops in his troops even when he was nearing 50, the sight of their commander joining in and fighting with them greatly encouraged his troops, who thought him the salt of the earth, and gave them renewed vigour. He was willing to march besides his legionaries on foot and out-tire them to set the pace for his cavalry and to seize a spade and give them a hand digging in.

Caesar once slipped and fell on his face as he disembarked on the coast of Africa,. This would have been considered a fatal omen by his army, but instead, he shouted: "Africa, I have tight hold of you!". The expedition proved a success.

In 55-54 BC Caesar crossed to Britain because of help given by Britons to his enemies in Gaul. He lost many ships as he didn't beach them high enough, not allowing for tides. The woad painted inhabitants of Kent outfought Caesar's Romans.

On his second British expedition, Caesar got further, crossing the River Thames at Brentford. Caesar's stone marked the spot where the crossing was supposedly effected.

He wrote about the Britons he encountered at Deal and their habit of going into battle naked except for blue body paint, their hair stiffened into spikes wearing just a bracelet or two. “Briton” comes from the Celtic word “Pretani”, a tribal name meaning “the painted ones” or “the tattooed people”.

It is likely that herding dogs were brought to England by Caesar during his 55BC invasion and that specimens were left behind & interbred with the local dogs.

In military terms the two expeditions were a disaster, but Caesar was economic with the truth in his reports back home and he succeeded in impressing the authorities.


Between 58-51 BC, Caesar subdued Gaul selling thousands of Belgic tribes into slavery by a process of total annihilation of Gaelic forces. At the Battle of Alcae which ended on October 3, 52, Caesar's 100,000 troops were outnumbered 4:1 but they still won.

According to Plutarch, the whole Gaul campaign resulted in 800 conquered cities, 300 subdued tribes, one million men sold to slavery and another three million dead in battle fields. Ancient historians are notorious for exaggerating numbers of this kind, but Caesar's conquest of Gaul was certainly the greatest military triumph since the campaigns of Alexander the Great.

Caesar's victories in the Gallic Wars extended Rome's territory to the English Channel and the Rhine.
These achievements granted him unmatched military power and threatened to eclipse the standing of his rival for the leadership of the Roman state, Pompey, who had realigned himself with the Senate.

With the Gallic Wars concluded, the Senate ordered Caesar to step down from his military command and return to Rome. Caesar refused the order, and instead marked his defiance in on January 10, 49 BC by crossing the Rubicon (a stream that divided Caesar's province from Italy proper) with the 13th Legion, signaling the start of civil war.

Caesar paused on the banks of the Rubicon

When Caesar crossed the Rubicon, he uttered the famous phrase "ālea iacta est" ("the die has been cast"). Illegally entering Roman territory under arms was an act of treason and Caesar fought the ensuing war against Pompey defeating him at Pharsalus. Having started the civil war, his leniency resulted in his fighting the same enemies over and over again.

In 48BC Caesar decisively defeated Pompey at Pharsalus, in Greece. Pompey fled to Egypt, where he was assassinated on the order of Pharaoh Ptolemy XIII. In Rome, Caesar was appointed dictator.

Caesar's final victory in Spain at Munda over the sons of Pompey in 45 BC rubber-stamped him as sole leader of the Roman world.

To celebrate his victory over Pompey, Julius Caesar gave a banquet at which 150,000 guests were seated at 22,000 tables. It lasted for two days.

Caesar wasn't that strong physically. He was an epileptic who suffered from migraine headaches.

Due to increasing traffic congestion, Caesar had to ban all wheeled vehicles, including chariots in the centre of Rome during hours of daylight in 45BC.

Caesar's wife Culpurnia had a fearful dream on the night before the fatal Ides of March and she begged her husband not to take part in the festival. But Caesar did not look to his laurels.

The day before his death, Caesar was dining with friends and the question arose "What is the best kind of death?" "A sudden one" replied Caesar before anyone else.

The night before he died, the ceremonial armor which Caesar kept in his house fell off with a great crash.

In the street a few minutes before his assassination a Greek logic teacher named Artemidoros had handed Caesar a note containing a list of conspirators and warning him that assassins planned to attack him as he entered the hall. But Caesar put it aside. He ignored the warnings as he had important business to attend to. He still had the bit of paper in his hand when he took his seat in the chamber.

Caesar was killed by a republican group during Ides of March (March 15, 44 BC) at the senate house, The 60 people involved in the plot included Brutus the son of his mistress. They feared Caesar was going to make himself King of Rome.

23 daggers in total were thrust into Caesar. He struggled until he saw his supposedly faithful friend, Caesar ceased to struggle.

The Death of Caesar (1798) by Vincenzo Camuccini

A comet, the Julium Sidus appeared in the skies on his death.

After the murder Brutus and the other murderers had their homes set on fire by angry crowds. According to legend Brutus settled in Britain after the assassination.

When Julius Caesar died, he left today's equivalent of about $270 to each and every Roman citizen.

The King of Diamonds from a deck of cards represents Julius Caesar.

"Beware the Ides of March" is an anagram of "Caesar: few bothered him".

Soueces 4,000 Amazing Trivia Facts by Gyles Brandeth, The Faber Book of Anecdotes by Clifton Fadiman

1 comment:

  1. Warfare is a fascinating subject. Despite the dubious morality of using violence to achieve personal or political aims. It remains that conflict has been used to do just that throughout recorded history.

    Your article is very well done, a good read.

    ReplyDelete