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Roman general and statesman Julius Caesar turned the Roman Republic into the powerful Roman Empire. A coup ended his reign, and his life, on the Ides of March.
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Allegedly the descendent of Trojan prince Aeneas, Julius Caesar's auspicious birth c. July 12 or 13, 100 B.C., marked the beginning of a new chapter in Roman history. By 31, Caesar had fought in several wars and become involved in Roman politics. After several alliances, he became dictator of the Roman Empire. This led to a senatorial coup, and Caesar's eventual assassination, on the Ides of March.
"For the immortal gods are accustomed at times to grant favorable circumstances and long impunity to men whom they wish to punish for their crime, so that they may smart the more severely from a change of fortune."
"If you must break the law, do it to seize power: In all other cases, observe it."
"What we wish, we readily believe, and what we ourselves think, we imagine others think also."
"The res publica is nothing—a mere name without body or shape."
"You too, my child?"
"Now that I am the leading Roman of my day, it will be harder to pull me down from first to second place than degrade me to the ranks."
"No, I am Caesar, not king."
"For those closest to a man ought not to allow his death to end their loyalty to him."
"An omen! A prodigy! Let us march where we are called by such a divine intimation. The die is cast."
"I merely want to protect myself against the slanders of my enemies."
"My aim is to outdo others in justice and equity, as I have previously striven to outdo them in achievement."
"I came, I saw, I conquered."
A politically adept and popular leader of the Roman Republic, Julius Caesar significantly transformed what became known as the Roman Empire, by greatly expanding its geographic reach and establishing its imperial system.
While it has long been disputed, it's estimated that Julius Caesar was born in Rome on July 12 or 13, 100 BC. While he hailed from Roman aristocrats, his family was far from rich. When Caesar was 16 his father, Gaius Caesar, died. He remained close to his mother, Aurelia.
The Rome of Caesar's youth was unstable. An element of disorder ruled the Republic, which had discredited its nobility and seemed unable to handle its considerable size and influence.
At around the time of his father's death, Caesar made a concerted effort to side with the country's nobility. His marriage to Cornelia, the daughter of a noble, had drawn the ire of Rome's dictator, Sulla, who ordered the young Roman to divorce his wife or risk losing his property. Caesar refused and found escape in the military, serving first in the province of Asia and then in Cilicia.
Following the death of Sulla, Caesar returned to Rome to begin his career in politics as a prosecuting advocate. He relocated temporarily to Rhodes to study philosophy, but during his travels there was kidnapped by pirates. In a daring display of his negotiation and counter-insurgency tactics, he convinced his captors to raise his ransom. He then organized a naval force to attack them. The pirates were captured and executed.
His stature was enhanced further in 74 BC when he put together a private army and combated Mithradates VI Eupator, king of Pontus, who had declared war on Rome.
When Caesar returned to Rome he began to work with Pompey, a former lieutenant under Sully, who'd switched sides following the dictator's death. Not long after, in 68 or 69 BC, Caesar was elected quaestor (a base political office) and then went to serve in several other key government positions under Pompey.
His personal life meanwhile offered up tragedy when his wife, Cornelia, passed away in 69 BC. Two years later he remarried, taking Pompeia, a distant relative of Pompey, as his wife. Their marriage lasted just a few years, and in 62 BC the couple divorced.
Caesar's political ascendency, however, continued. In 61-60 BC he served as governor of the Roman province of Spain. He also continued his close alliance with Pompey, which enabled him to get elected as consul, a powerful government position, in 59 BC.
As Caesar was cultivating his political partnership with Pompey, the astute leader was also aligning himself with Marcus Licinius Crassus, a Roman general and politician who'd served valiantly during Sulla's rule.
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