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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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He reformed the Roman calendar and reorganized how local government was constructed. In addition he resurrected two city-states, Carthage and Corinth, which had been destroyed by his successors, and he granted citizenship to a number of foreigners. He also proved to be a benevolent victor by inviting some of his defeated rivals to join him in the government.
But Caesar was also careful to solidify his power and rule. He stuffed the Senate with allies,
and required the same body to grant him honors and titles. He was allowed to speak first at assembly meetings, and Roman coins bore his face.
Caesar's reforms greatly enhanced his standing with Rome's lower- and middle-class populations. But his popularity with the Senate was another matter. Envy and concern over Caesar's increasing power led to angst among a number of politicians who saw in him an aspiring king. History had shown that Romans had no desire for monarchical rule. Legend had it that by the time Caesar came to power it had been five centuries since they'd last allowed a king to rule them.
Caesar's wish to include his former Roman enemies in the government helped spell his downfall. Gaius Cassius Longinus and Marcus Junius Brutus were both former enemies who'd joined the Senate. Together, the two of them led the assassination of Caesar on the Ides of March (the 15th), 44 BC.
It's not altogether clear whether Caesar knew ahead of time of the plot to kill him. What was clear, though, was that the conspirators, who dubbed themselves "the liberators," needed to act fast. By all accounts Caesar had plans to leave Rome on March 18 for a military campaign in what is now modern-day Iraq. There he hoped to avenge the losses suffered by Crassus.
Brutus' involvement in the killing packed the most complicated backstory. He had originally sided with Pompey during Rome's earlier civil war, but then had been encouraged to join the government after Caesar's victory. His mother, Servilia, was also one of Caesar's lovers.
Following Caesar's death, a power struggle ensued in Rome, leading to the end of the Roman Republic. A mob of lower- and middle-class Romans gathered at Caesar's funeral, with the angry crowd attacking the homes of Cassius and Brutus.
Caesar quickly became a martyr in the new Roman Empire, and just two years after his death he became the first Roman figure to be deified. The Senate also gave him the title "The Divine Julius."
Playing on the late ruler's popularity, Caesar's great-grandnephew, Gaius Octavian, assembled an army to fight back the military troops defending Cassius and Brutus. His victory over Caesar's assassins allowed Octavian, who would assume the name Augustus, to take power in 27 BC and become the first Roman emperor.
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