Essay, Research Paper: College Paper On Shakespeare


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Julius Caesar, a Roman general and statesman, laid the foundations of the Roman
imperial system. Born in Rome on July 12 or 13, 100 BC, Caesar belonged to the
prestigious Julian clan; yet from early childhood he knew controversy. His uncle
by marriage was Gaius Marius, leader of the Populares. This party supported
agrarian reform and was opposed by the reactionary Optimates, a senatorial
faction. Marius was seven times consul (chief magistrate), and the last year he
held office, just before his death in 86 BC, he exacted a terrifying toll on the
Optimates. At the same time he saw to it that young Caesar was appointed flamen
dialis, one of an archaic priesthood with no power. This identified him with his
uncle's extremist politics, and his marriage in 84 BC to Cornelia, the daughter
of Marius's associate, Cinna, further confirmed him as a radical. When Lucius
Cornelius Sulla, Marius's enemy and leader of the Optimates, was made dictator
in 82 BC, he issued a list of enemies to be executed. Although Caesar was not
harmed, he was ordered by Sulla to divorce Cornelia. Refusing that order, he
found it prudent to leave Rome. He did not return to the city until 78 BC, after
Sulla's resignation. Caesar was now 22 years old. Unable to gain office, he left
Rome again and went to Rhodes, where he studied rhetoric; he returned to Rome in
73 BC, a very persuasive speaker. The year before, while still absent, he had
been elected to the pontificate, an important college of Roman priests. In 71 BC
Pompey the Great, who had earned his epithet in service under Sulla, returned to
Rome, having defeated the rebellious Populares general Sertorius in Spain. At
the same time Marcus Licinius Crassus, a rich patrician, suppressed the slave
revolt in Italy led by Spartacus. Pompey and Crassus both ran for the
consulship—an office held by two men—in 70 BC. Pompey, who by this time had
changed sides, was technically ineligible, but with Caesar's help he won the
office. Crassus became the other consul. In 69 BC, Caesar was elected quaestor
and in 65 BC he was in charge of public events, gaining great popularity for his
lavish gladiatorial games. To pay for these, he borrowed money from Crassus.
This united the two men, who also found common cause with Pompey. When Caesar
returned to Rome in 60 BC after a year as governor of Spain, he joined forces
with Crassus and Pompey in a three-way alliance known as the First Triumvirate;
to cement their relationship further, Caesar gave his daughter Julia to Pompey
in marriage. Thus backed, Caesar was elected consul for 59BC despite Optimate
hostility, and the year after (58 BC) he was appointed governor of Roman Gaul.
At that time Celtic Gaul, to the north, was still independent, but the Aedui, a
tribe of Roman allies, appealed to Caesar for help against another Gallic
people, the Helvetii, during the first year of his governorship. Caesar marched
into Celtic Gaul with six legions, defeated the Helvetii, and forced them to
return to their home area. Next, he crushed Germanic forces under Ariovistus
(flourished about 71-58 BC). By 57 BC, following the defeat of the Nervii, Rome
was in control of northern Gaul. (A last revolt of the Gauls, led by
Vercingetorix, was suppressed in 52 BC.) While Caesar was in Gaul, his agents
attempted to dominate politics in Rome. This, however, threatened Pompey's
position, and it became necessary for the triumvirs to arrange a meeting at Luca
in 56 BC, which brought about a temporary reconciliation. It was decided that
Caesar would continue in Gaul for another five years, while Pompey and Crassus
would both be consuls for 55 BC; after that, each would have proconsular control
of provinces. Caesar then went off to raid Britain and put down a revolt in
Gaul. Crassus, ever eager for military glory, went to his post in Syria.
Provoking a war with the Parthian Empire, he was defeated and killed at Carrhae
in 53 BC. This removed the last buffer between Caesar and Pompey; their family
ties had been broken by the death of Julia in 54 BC. In 52 BC, with Crassus out
of the way, Pompey was made sole consul. Combined with his other powers, this
gave him a formidable position. Jealous of his younger rival, he determined to
break Caesar's power, an objective that could not be achieved without first
depriving him of his command in Gaul. In order to protect himself, Caesar
suggested that he and Pompey both lay down their commands simultaneously, but
this was rejected; goaded by Pompey, the Senate summarily called upon Caesar to
resign his command and disband his army, or else be considered a public enemy.
The tribunes, who were Caesar's agents, vetoed this motion, but they were driven
out of the Senate chamber. The Senate then entrusted Pompey with providing for
the safety of the state. His forces far outnumbered Caesar's, but they were
scattered throughout the provinces, and his troops in Italy were not prepared
for war. Early in 49 BC Caesar crossed the Rubicon, a small stream separating
his province from Italy, and moved swiftly southward. Pompey fled to Brundisium
and from there to Greece. In three months Caesar was master of all Italy; his
forces then took Spain and the key port of Massalía (now Marseille). In Rome
Caesar became dictator until elected consul for 48 BC. At the beginning of that
year he landed in Greece and smashed Pompey's forces at Pharsalus. Pompey
escaped to Egypt, where he was assassinated. When Caesar arrived there, he
installed Cleopatra, daughter of the late King Ptolemy XII, as queen. In 47 BC
he pacified Asia Minor and returned to Rome to become dictator again. By the
following year all Optimate forces had been defeated and the Mediterranean world
pacified. The basic prop for Caesar's continuation in power was the dictatorship
for life. According to the traditional Republican constitution, this office was
only to be held for six months during a dire emergency. That rule, however, had
been broken before. Sulla had ruled as dictator for several years, and Caesar
now followed suit. In addition, he was made consul for ten years in 45 BC and
received the sanctity of tribunes, making it illegal to harm him. Caesar also
obtained honors to increase his prestige: He wore the robe, crown, and scepter
of a triumphant general and used the title imperator. Furthermore, as Pontifex
Maximus, he was head of the state religion. Above all, however, he was in total
command of the armies, and this remained the backbone of his power. As a ruler
Caesar instituted various reforms. In the provinces he eliminated the highly
corrupt tax system, sponsored colonies of veterans, and extended Roman
citizenship. At home he reconstituted the courts and increased the number of
senators. His reform of the calendar gave Rome a rational means of recording
time. A number of senatorial families, however, felt that Caesar threatened
their position, and his honors and powers made them fear that he would become a
rex (king), a title they, as Republicans, hated. Accordingly, in 44 BC, an
assassination plot was hatched by a group of senators, including Gaius Cassius
and Marcus Junius Brutus. On March 15 of that year, when Caesar entered the
Senate house, the group killed him. After Caesar's first wife, Cornelia, died in
68 BC, he married Pompeia, a granddaughter of Sulla. When the mysteries of the
Bona Dea, over which she presided, were violated, she was maligned by gossips,
and Caesar then divorced her, telling the Senate that Caesar's wife must be
above suspicion. His next marriage (59 BC) was to Calpurnia and was politically
motivated. Since Caesar had no male heirs, he stipulated in his will that his
grandnephew, Octavius, become his successor. It was Octavius who became Rome's
first emperor under the name of Augustus. Caesar was a gifted writer, with a
clear and simple style. His Commentaries, in which he described Gaul and his
Gallic campaigns, is a major source of information about the early Celtic and
Germanic tribes. Scholarly opinion of Caesar's accomplishments is divided. Some
regard him as an unscrupulous tyrant, with an insatiable lust for power, and
blame him for the demise of the Roman Republic. Others, admitting that he could
be ruthless, insist that the Republic had already been destroyed. They maintain
that to save the Roman world from chaos a new type of government had to be
created. In fact, Caesar's reforms did stabilize the Mediterranean world. Among
ancient military commanders, he may be second only to Alexander the Great.
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