Julius Caesar and
by Rick Archer
TALE OF SIX CAESARS (PLUS ONE)
Caesar - The Man Who Ended the Republic
Caesar - The Man Who Was First King
3 Tiberius -
The Man Who Did Not Want to be King
4 Sejanus -
The Man Who Barely Missed becoming King
5 Caligula -
The Man Who Should not Have been King
6 Claudius -
The Man Who was too Stupid to be King
7 Nero - The
Monster Who Ended the Julio-Claudian Line
You have all heard of ambition gone mad, corruption, and dirty
politics. You have all heard of political assassination. You
have all heard of sexual perversion, cruelty, and debauchery.
This story has it all. So where do you want me to start?
American politics can
be pretty rough sometimes, but we cannot even begin to hold a candle
to the Romans. There is no way to explain how stunning some of
these stories are. I could barely comprehend or believe some of the
stories I read while researching for this article.
Now I am going to
share them with you. If there is one word that could describe this
era, it would be "excess." The Romans did everything to
excess. Too much killing. Too much sex.
And too much cruelty.
Look no farther than
the savage blood sport recreation of the Romans - watching slaves
bash their comrade's brains in during gladiatorial contests,
watching defenseless Christians slaughtered by fierce animals,
torturing criminals in public for amusement, watching helpless
animals abused in all sorts of hideous ways, laughing and jeering at
the suffering - and you begin to comprehend this was a
horrible, violent society.
Why they call it the
"Roman Civilization" is a mystery. These people were NOT
These events occurred
two thousand years ago. Therefore I cannot promise that
everything I have written is the truth since I had no choice but to
rely on the accounts of others before me.
You can assume,
however, that everything I write was faithfully copied from research
I did on the Internet. My main source, of course, was the
amazingly helpful Wikipedia.
What I mean to say is
that no matter how outrageous the story is, you have my absolute
promise I did not make it up. I read it, gasped in amazement,
then looked at several more sources to see what they had to say.
I found there is strong consensus on even the most outrageous of
tales. And now I am passing it on to you.
This is a long
tale. Let me assure you of one thing - once you start reading
it, you won't want to stop. RA
This story is told in
Augustus Caesar, the Greatest of them All
Caesar (100-44 BC)
The Man Who
Ended the 500 Year Roman Republic
was assassinated in 44 BC. He was 56 at the time. Cut
down in the prime of his life, who knows what Caesar could have
accomplished had he lived. Caesar was great for so many reasons.
He was a military genius. Historians place Caesar as one of the greatest
military strategists and tacticians who ever lived, alongside
Alexander the Great, Sun Tzu, Hannibal, Genghis Khan and Napoleon
Caesar's hero was Alexander the Great. One day Caesar
encountered a statue of Alexander the Great. Caesar realized with
great dissatisfaction he was now at the same age as when Alexander
had the world at his feet. Caesar was disgusted to note he had
achieved comparatively little.
In Caesar's defense, unlike his hero Alexander, Caesar had a much
bigger hill to climb. Alexander was born to the King of
Macedonia. Alexander's entire childhood was dominated by military
training. Caesar had no formal military training as a
youth. Nor did he have any special advantages. Although his
parents were patrician, they were neither rich nor influential.
Everything Caesar accomplished, he got it the old-fashioned way - he
Caesar got his start in politics. His
greatest gift was a natural ability at oratory. His fast start
in politics was interrupted when a dictator named Sulla came to
power in 82 BC. Caesar was 18 at the time. At one point Sulla wanted
to execute Caesar because he seemed a threat. Caesar went into
hiding and joined the army as a way to leave Rome and keep a low
profile. When Sulla died in 78 BC, Caesar figured the coast
was clear, so he decided to return home.
Here is a story about Caesar's considerable moxie. On his way home,
he was kidnapped by Cilician pirates and held prisoner on the island
of Pharmacusa. He was 21, but acted 35. Caesar maintained an attitude of superiority
throughout his captivity. When the pirates
thought to demand a ransom of 20 talents of gold, Caesar
insisted they ask for 50 instead. They took his suggestion!
In the process, he had made himself so valuable they made sure to
take good care of him.
After the ransom was paid, Caesar raised a fleet, pursued and
captured the pirates. After he imprisoned them in Pergamon,
the governor of Asia refused to execute them as Caesar demanded,
preferring to sell them as slaves. Caesar returned to the
coast and had them crucified on his own authority, as he had
promised to do when in captivity - a promise the pirates had taken
as a joke. But first he cut their throats to lessen their
suffering because they had treated him so well.
an incredibly ambitious man. These were tumultuous times in
Rome. Thanks to the dictatorship of Sulla, Rome was undergoing
a political upheaval. People changed alliances at the drop of
a hat. Caesar was rumored to be mixed up in sorts of political
intrigue. He was said to be involved in several abortive coup
attempts and various plots, but his enemies had trouble pinning him
down. Caesar was either very crafty or enjoyed considerable
developed one enemy in particular, Marcus Porcius Cato.
In 63 BC, Cicero, who was consul that year, exposed a
conspiracy to seize control of the Republic. Caesar was
accused of involvement in the plot. Caesar, still under suspicion
himself, took part in the debate in the Senate on how to deal with
the conspirators. During the debate, Caesar was passed a note.
implacable political opponent, always watched Caesar like a hawk.
Cato noticed the exchange and pounced on the opportunity. He
accused Caesar of corresponding with the conspirators and demanded
that the message be read aloud.
Caesar smiled and passed the note to Cato. Embarrassingly, the
note turned out to be a love letter to Caesar from Cato's
half-sister Servilia. Cato didn't bother him again.
Caesar was one of the greatest military leaders in
orator and a
The First Triumvirate -
The Three Headed
In 65 BC Caesar made friends with
Crassus, the richest man in Rome.
Large loans financed Caesar's rapid rise in politics.
Pompey, 106-48 BC, was a military and political leader of
the late Roman Republic. He came from a wealthy Italian provincial
background. Pompey was a terrific general. He
established himself in the ranks of Roman nobility by successful
leadership in several campaigns.
At the time Caesar was a rising star in Roman politics,
Pompey and Crassus were bitter rivals.
The problem had begun in 71 BC. Crassus had been given the
responsibility to stop the slave rebellion led by Spartacus.
After chasing Spartacus across Italy for two long years, Crassus
finally cornered and defeated the slave army. In the same
year, Pompey had just finished a six year campaign conquering
Hispania (Spain). As luck would have it, just as Pompey's army
returned to Italy, they encountered a huge mob of slaves trying to
escape from the battle with Crassus. Pompey's army easily
captured the 5,000 fugitives and hacked them to pieces.
Rome before Crassus, Pompey
not only took credit for Hispania, but for
defeating Spartacus as well. Crassus, whose army had done the
bulk of the work, was infuriated. That began the feud.
later the men were still enemies.
In 61 BC Pompey returned to Rome after several impressive victories
in Asia. He was frustrated when Crassus blocked several of his
initiatives in the Senate. Watching
the bitter rivals bicker, Caesar saw an opportunity.
running for consulship, the most powerful position in Rome. He
had some formidable opponents led by his old enemy Cato. Caesar was by
no means guaranteed victory. Caesar needed help.
Crassus and Pompey were far more powerful than Caesar.
Caesar decided that to curry favor with one man meant the development of
an enemy in the other. So even though Caesar had the least power
of the three, he managed to talk the two men into meeting with him.
Caesar suggested they form a Triumvirate,
labeled the "three-headed monster" by his enemies.
First Triumvirate dominated military and political
developments during the final years of the Roman Republic.
Caesar now had the two most powerful men in Rome on his side.
Caesar went to work. With the help of Crassus and Pompey, in
59 BC, Caesar gained consulship, a type of
co-presidency with a term of one year. Caesar was now one of
the most powerful men in Rome.
Caesar found many of his early initiatives blocked by co-consul
Bibulus, an intractable opponent representing the interests led by
Cato. Caesar decided he wasn't interested in sharing the
threat of Pompey's military intervention,
Caesar succeeded in intimidating Bibulus so badly that the man began
to fear for his life. He stayed in his house for the rest of
unfettered, during his year
as sole consul, Caesar pushed
Pompey's measures through and helped Crassus' proposals succeed.
He rewarded their confidence in him many times over. Caesar gained
as well. He obtained a 5 year term as proconsul of Gaul at the
end of his own consulship.
Caesar had used many strong-arm tactics to get his way.
Running roughshod over his opponents, nothing Caesar's enemies could
do was effective against his powerful one-man rule. Roman satirists
referred to his term as "The year of the consulship of Julius and Caesar".
several people in Rome who didn't think the joke was very funny.
This is the time when Caesar developed many
dangerous enemies in the Senate. Licking their wounds, these
were the same men who would seek payback years later. However,
right now Caesar wasn't concerned with the future. When his
year's consulship ended, it was time to
get out of town or face the music from the new administration. Caesar left Rome for Gaul
just one step ahead of the posse.
Gaul is where Caesar gained
When the campaign started, no one would have guessed the outcome
from the beginning. In 58 BC, Caesar arrived in Gaul (modern day France) deeply in debt
and with a very small military force (just 4 legions).
immediately went to work. He would not return to Rome for nine
years. During these nine years, Caesar he conquered most of what is now central
Europe, opening up these lands to the Greco-Roman Mediterranean civilization - a
decisive act in world history.
Caesar proved himself to be a brilliant military strategist.
To this day,
The rout of Pompey's numerically superior forces at Pharsalus in 48
the Civil War and the complete destruction of Pharnaces' army at
the Battle of Zela in 47 BC are campaigns still studied today at every military
Caesar had all the tools to
be a military leader.
used brute force to win his battles, but just as often he found ways
to win without risking his own soldiers. Caesar often resorted
to tactical brilliance. For example, Caesar once used water as a weapon. During the
siege of one Gallic city built on a very steep and high plateau, his
engineers tunneled through solid rock, found the source of the
spring from which the town was drawing its water supply, and
diverted it for the use of his own army. The town, cut off from
their water supply, capitulated at once.
Caesar pushed his army into Gaul in 58BC, on the pretext of
assisting Rome's allies in Gaul against the migrating Helvetii. With
the help of various Gallic tribes (e.g., the Aedui) he managed to
conquer nearly all of Gaul without too much resistance. The
Romans seemed invincible.
Since Caesar had a reputation for sparing the lives of his enemies,
often times his opponents gave in more quickly just to end the
suffering when it didn't look like they could win.
Then Caesar met his match. The Arverni tribe,
under Chieftain Vercingetorix, still defied Roman
rule. Vercingetorix proved to be a tough opponent.
Julius Caesar was checked by Vercingetorix at a siege of
Gergorvia, a fortified town in the center of Gaul.
Sensing their chance, many Gallic tribes broke their alliance with
Caesar. Even the Aedui, their most faithful supporters, threw in
their lot with the Arverni. With this rebellion, 6 years of
fighting in Gaul seemed to be going down the drain.
In 52 BC,
Caesar took a desperate gamble. He attacked the stronghold of Vercingetorix
at Alesia even though the the Romans were outnumbered five to one! After winning several battles against Caesar, Vercingetorix
to muster all his forces in one spot, an impregnable fortress high
up on a hill, to prepare for the final attack against Caesar.
Caesar was in non mood to be passive. To his surprise, Caesar
secretly followed him there and lay siege to the fortress.
Then Caesar had his men begin to dig a huge ditch around the castle. The enemy saw no
threat in this ditch and laughed
derisively. Then one day, Caesar
shocked his enemy by diverting a nearby river and converting the
ditch into a massive moat.
80,000 troops were suddenly trapped!
Of course the enemy
fought desperately to free themselves, but like a giant boa
constrictor Caesar's forces sucked the life out of them. Soon
the Gauls were starving. With 80,000 soldiers and the local
population, too many people were crowded inside the plateau
competing for too little food.
The Gauls decided to expel the women and children from the citadel
to save food for the fighters. They hoped that Caesar would open his
defenses to let them go. This would create an
opportunity the army could use to breach the Roman lines.
Caesar knew exactly what the enemy was doing. He issued
orders that nothing should be done for these civilians. The
women and children were trapped. The Romans simply left them to starve in the no man's land between
the city walls and the circumvallation. Did I mention Caesar
could be ruthless?
Seeing that their gamble had failed, the Gauls could not bear to watch
their helpless women and children die slowly before their eyes. Caesar's will was greater than
their own. They finally just gave up and surrendered.
Caesar had defeated his greatest opponent to date. Gaul was
As many as a million people
(probably 1 in 4 of the Gauls) died, another million were enslaved,
300 tribes were subjugated and 800 cities were destroyed during the
Gallic Wars. During Julius Caesar's campaign against the Helvetii
(Switzerland) approximately 60% of the tribe was destroyed, and
another 20% was taken into slavery.
Caesar's forces loved him fiercely. They saw that he did
everything in his power to protect them from needless danger and
they enjoyed getting rich off his conquests. Not surprisingly,
they were loyal and ready to respond when he asked them to.
Caesar too. The ongoing
success of the Gallic Wars brought an enormous amount of wealth to
the Republic through spoils of war and new lands to tax. Caesar
himself became very rich since, as general, he benefited from the
sale of war prisoners. His book Gallia was wildly
popular at home. Caesar had made quite a name for himself in
modern day France. During the campaign in Gaul, Caesar conquered
practically all the territory on this map.
The Defeat of Vercingetorix
- Julius Caesar conquers Gaul
Storm Clouds Over Rome
Triumvirate had ended in 54 BC. Caesar was still in Gaul at the
time. It had been an unstable political alliance from the
start. It only lasted for seven years. None of three men ever
trusted each other.
It was two deaths that brought the Triumvirate to its end.
First Julia, wife of Pompey and daughter of Caesar, died in
childbirth as did the infant. The political marriage of Julia
and Pompey had meant to cement the ties between the two powerful
men. To Pompey's surprise, he had fallen deeply in love with
Julia. She had been the tie that kept the bond between Pompey
and Caesar intact. Now with Julia gone and the third wheel
Crassus far away over in Asia Minor, an uneasy rift developed
between the two great generals.
the news that Crassus was dead. Crassus had died fighting the
Parthians in ancient Iran. The Battle of Carrhae,
53 BC, was one of the most crushing defeats in all of Roman history.
was still in in Gaul when he learned his benefactor Crassus had met his death.
That left Caesar and Pompey as the two undisputed powers of Rome.
Neither man was interested in sharing power. However, at the
moment, Pompey held the upper hand. Since Pompey was based
in Rome, Caesar knew his likely rival had the inside track to gain political
prominence. It was obvious to Caesar that he and Pompey, his
former brother in law and Triumvirate member, would
have fight it out for the control of Rome.
In 50 BC
Caesar had finished conquering Gaul. Besides, his legal term
as proconsul in Gaul had ended. It was time to return to Rome. Nine
years earlier when the Triumvirate had begun during his year as
Consul, Caesar was the weakest of the three. Now as he
finished his time in Gaul, Caesar was the strongest. Or was
Clash of the Titans against Pompey would soon begin. No one
knew it at the time, but this significant episode was the beginning
of the end for the 500 year Roman Republic. Over the next 25
years, Rome would be plagued with constant civil wars, first with
Caesar, then with his successor Augustus. Out of the ashes
would rise the Roman Empire.
Crossing the Rubicon
In 50 BC, the Senate, led
by Pompey, ordered Caesar to return to Rome
because his term as Proconsul had finished.
Caesar knew he enjoyed
wide popular support in Rome among the people. However, many
of the men he had crossed nine years earlier during his
controversial year as Consul were back home waiting for him.
regain political strength by running for a second
term as Consul while still in Gaul. Unfortunately, the Senate
forbade Caesar to stand for a second consulship in absentia.
well aware he had enemies in Rome ready to take him down.
Furthermore, he knew full well that Pompey had allied himself with
those enemies. Caesar had no political ranking in Rome. Caesar
expected to be prosecuted and politically marginalized if he entered
Rome without the political immunity enjoyed by a Consul.
Caesar had two powerful assets, his fame and his
He knew the people of Rome would welcome him. But he had no
guarantee for his safety since Pompey had ordered Caesar to disband
his army. Caesar had no intention of walking into
trap unprotected. Therefore Caesar refused to relinquish his
Frustrated at Caesar's
defiance, Pompey accused Caesar
of insubordination and treason. If Caesar
were to enter Rome with his army, Pompey said it would be an act of
war. That threat did not stop Caesar.
On 10 January 49 BC Caesar crossed the Rubicon River, an event known
as Crossing the Rubicon. With him was a single
legion. The Rubicon was the frontier boundary of Italy. No
army was allowed inside this protective barrier. Thus Caesar knew
full well his bold action would ignite civil war. Aware of the
danger ahead, Caesar uttered his immortal words "the die is
Thanks to his famous success in Gaul, Caesar returned home with
military reputation. Despite
greatly outnumbering Caesar, who had only his Thirteenth Legion with
him, Pompey had no intention to fight. Like a coward, Pompey turned heel and
ran! That was his first mistake.
Caesar pursued Pompey to Brindisium, a southern
port on the 'heel' of Italy, hoping to capture Pompey before the
trapped Senate and their legions could escape. Pompey barely
managed to elude him, sailing out of the harbor moments before
Caesar could break through the barricades.
Caesar had no navy. Furthermore there were no ships in the
area available. Caesar could not chase Pompey.
Caesar was furious. He had
barely missed his best chance to end this conflict quickly. However,
Caesar was comforted by a serious blunder made by Pompey.
panic to flee Caesar, neither Pompey nor the Senate had thought of
taking the vast treasury with them. Maybe they assumed that
Caesar would not dare take it for himself. It was left
conveniently in the Temple of Saturn when Caesar and his forces
entered Rome. In a convenient twist on the old adage
'whoever has gold makes the rules', Caesar simply said, 'whoever
has the army takes the gold'.
It is a good thing that Caesar was rich because
forced to spend the next two years chasing Pompey across the
Mediterranean. First Caesar decided to head overland for
Hispania. Leaving Lepidus as prefect of Rome and the
rest of Italy under Mark Antony as tribune, Caesar
made an astonishing 27-day route-march to Hispania. On the
way, two of his Gallic legions met up with Caesar to strengthen his
army for the upcoming fight in Spain.
was a Pompey stronghold thanks his victory in 71 BC after a six year
campaign. Hispania was a symbol of great pride to Pompey as
Gaul was to Caesar. If Caesar was to unite Rome, he might as
well start by taking this valuable region for himself.
Hispania, Caesar easily defeated Pompey's lieutenants. Now Caesar
turned east to challenge Pompey in Greece.
would prove to be a much tougher struggle.
On July 48 BC, Caesar barely avoided a catastrophic defeat at
Dyrrhachium when the line of fortification was broken.
This was the closest Caesar had ever come to defeat. Now
Pompey made his third major blunder. By failing to pursue the
fleeing men at the critical moment of Caesar's defeat, Pompey threw
away his best chance to destroy Caesar's much smaller army.
Caesar lived to fight on.
One month later in August 48 BC, Caesar and Pompey squared off
again. Pompey had 45,000 men to Caesar's 22,000. Pompey had
7,000 cavalry, Caesar 1,000. Considering he had just narrowly
avoided defeat and being outnumbered two to one, another man would
have hesitated. Not Caesar.
Caesar soundly vanquished Pompey on the fields
of Pharsalus in an extremely short battle. Caesar's warriors were more
experienced. First they sniffed out the trap Pompey had set for them
and avoided it. Next Caesar brought in a surprise hidden
legion to snuff out Pompey's major thrust, and then his men moved
with unbelievable speed to the point of counter-attack.
again fled the scene. Caesar was disgusted. When the Civil War
had begun, Caesar had predicted, "I set forth to
fight an army without a leader, so as later to fight a leader
without an army." The prediction had come true.
Pompey had lost his army.
Pompey escaped to Egypt and sought refuge in the court of Ptolemy.
Bad move. He was assassinated by a former Roman loyal to
Caesar who was working in Egypt at the time.
When Caesar entered Egypt in pursuit of Pompey, he was immediately
asked to take sides in the Egyptian Civil War between Ptolemy and
his sister Cleopatra. Ptolemy held the upper hand as Caesar
arrived. But Cleopatra had herself smuggled into the palace in
Alexandria wrapped in a rug (purportedly a gift for Caesar).
Using her considerable powers of persuasion, she enlisted his help
in her struggle to control the Egyptian throne. How could
Defying the Senate: Caesar crosses the
Civil War With Pompey
Pompey flees Caesar after
the Battle of Pharsalus
secretly smuggled herself into Caesar's chambers
inside a rug
to meet her new boyfriend.
Ides of March
After his fling with Cleopatra,
Caesar spent the next year mopping up pockets of resistance in Asia
Minor and Africa. In 46 BC he returned to Rome as the
undisputed leader of the Roman Empire. No one opposed him.
Within two years, Caesar was named Dictator
for Life. The time was February 44 BC.
Unfortunately, just one month later he was dead.
We all know the story. Several Roman Senators, including
Cassius and Brutus, decided that Caesar had too much power for one
man. On the Ides of March, 44 BC, 60 men
participated in Caesar's murder by stabbing him to death.
What a tragedy it is that the life of the greatest genius produced by
Rome was snuffed out by Romans who imagined that they were
acting on behalf of their sacred Rome! Such fools.
History has been very kind to Caesar. Although the man was
often ruthless in the defeat of his
enemies, Caesar clearly was Rome's greatest citizen. Yes, he
did rise to great power, but he always used that power strictly to advance
the development of the Roman republic.
Caesar, if anyone, deserves to be called a master of politics. He
was equally great in understanding general political trends as in
directing them. With consummate skill he handled the machinery of
political details without ever sacrificing his major aim of winning
And yes, Caesar had made many enemies. If Caesar had a
weakness, it was his lack of modesty. Caesar relied so much on
his prodigious talent to get his way that he overlooked the need for
flights of his genius lifted him to a lonely eminence
others were unable to understand his motives.
And in their ignorance, they were terrified of his absolute power.
In the end Caesar did nothing in particular to provoke his murder.
Perhaps his greatest mistake was his practice of allowing his enemies to
live after he defeated them in war or in politics.
always be remembered for the most famous victory speech in history. Shortly
after his triumph in Egypt, it was time for Caesar to take care of
an uprising in northern
Turkey. While he had been preoccupied defeating Pompey,
Pharnaces had used the opportunity to conquer Roman cities
in Turkey. It was Roman policy to quell any and all uprisings
immediately to prevent giving the idea that rebellion had any chance
of success. However Caesar had been too busy to handle it.
In 47 BC,
Caesar left the arms of Cleopatra in Egypt to begin an overland
march through the far eastern provinces. Heading towards the trouble
with Pharnaces, Caesar traveled through Judaea and Syria, accepting
apologies and granting pardons to those foreign kings and Roman
governors who had supported Pompey. In so doing, he was also able to
rebuild his war chest through the various tributes paid to him. Pharnaces
heard Caesar was coming for him. He begged for peace.
Caesar would have none of it. This
man would serve nicely as an object lesson for all rebels against
the Empire. As Caesar entrenched his men
on the high ground, Pharnaces opted for a surprise attack. His
army left their own strong position on a hill to attack Caesar...
who was up on a hill of his own. What fool attacks Caesar by
running up hill?! After the surprise attack was repulsed, Caesar counter-attacked and
routed the enemy. It was the fastest victory in his career.
so amused by the effortless victory that he later summed it up with
"Veni, Vidi, Vici" -
"I came, I saw, I
as much as any of his deeds capture Caesar's arrogance and brilliance
at the same time. Julius Caesar was one of the most talented
men in all recorded history. I imagine Caesar's hero Alexander
the Great pulled out a chair at the table for Caesar when he passed
men participated in the execution
Et tu, Brute!
Caesar (63 BC - 14 AD)
The Man Who
Became the First Emperor of the Roman Empire
The rise of Augustus Caesar to Emperor is a remarkable story.
Augustus was no more than a long shot at best. The odds makers
probably would have put it at 10 to 1 or worse.
After the horrible
attack on the Ides of March, for several days after Caesar's
murder there was an enormous political
vacuum. The conspirators apparently had no long-range plan.
So, in a major blunder, they did not immediately kill Mark
Antony (apparently by the decision of Brutus) when surprise
was still in their favor. Antony wasn't stupid. He correctly
feared that the dictator's assassination would be the start of a
bloodbath among Caesar's supporters. In the turmoil that surrounded
the event, Antony escaped Rome dressed as a slave.
Now that he had survived and had his army behind him,
Mark Antony was in the perfect position to inherit Caesar's power. The
conspirators had only a band of gladiators to back them up, while
Antony had a legion, the keys to Caesar's money boxes, and
access to Caesar's will. Furthermore, as Caesar's right hand man, Antony was already a recognized
and respected leader
of Rome. Antony clearly had the inside track to the throne.
had gotten his start
as a military leader under Caesar during the conquest of Gaul.
When Caesar decided to patrol the Mediterranean in chase of Pompey,
he put Mark Antony in charge of running the affairs of Rome.
Although Caesar and Antony had their differences, Antony had remained
loyal to Caesar to the end. Antony learned of the murder plot
just moments before it took place and had rushed to the Forum to
warn Caesar. Alas, Antony was too late.
Afterwards, Antony was the person who decided to punish Caesar's
assassins. First he negotiated a truce with the assassins by
promising them amnesty. But
then he turned the tables on them by publicly exposing their role in Caesar's
death in a marvelous speech at the funeral.
Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears; I come to bury
Caesar, not to praise him. The evil that men do lives after
them; The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Caesar. (Shakespeare)
The citizens of
Rome were outraged to learn the truth. Now the assassins ran
for their lives!
On the other hand, when Antony read Caesar's secret will, he
received a nasty shock of his own. Caesar had named as his chief heir a
virtual unknown by the name of Octavian, adopting him (posthumously)
as his son. Octavian who? Scarcely anyone in Rome had
ever heard of him. Antony barely even knew who Octavian
was the grandson of Julius Caesar's sister Julia. Julia had a
daughter named Atia. Atia gave birth to two
children, Octavian and his sister Octavia. To ensure the boy's
safety, Caesar had deliberately kept his interest in his
great-nephew hidden from the world.
Gaius Octavian was a short, sickly 17-year-old boy living in Greece when he received two shocking pieces of news.
First he learned that his distant great-uncle, the famous Roman dictator Julius Caesar,
had been tragically murdered. In the same message, he learned
that Caesar had named the young Octavian as
his heir. A mere schoolboy with no political experience and no
had just been named the successor of the greatest civilization in
Over the years, his nephew Octavian had impressed Caesar on several occasions.
Obviously Caesar had expected to groom the boy into this role in due
time. However Caesar was unaware of his impending doom and hadn't
quite gotten around to telling the boy yet.
The assassination marked a dangerous time for lots of people, much less an inexperienced boy.
How dare he try
to step into the famous dictator's shoes! Octavian had no
army. He had no security guard. He had no allies or
patrons. He had no reputation. He had no money either.
Octavian had one single thing going for him - Caesar had named him
the successor. But try to claim the prize!
Octavian would be a marked
man for sure. Nevertheless, Octavian was game. Against the worried advice of
his family, Octavian boldly went to Rome to claim his inheritance.
had a game plan. He knew a direct trip to Rome would be too
dangerous. Antony would likely have him murdered on the spot.
So what if Caesar's will had named young
the legal heir? What meaning would the document have if
Octavian was dead? Then Antony
would have no one to stand in his way from assuming his
dead leader's role.
So Octavian took a detour to Brundisium at the southern tip of
Italy. Stationed here was a sizable army of soldiers loyal to
Caesar. Octavian introduced himself to Caesar's legions.
He showed them documents naming him Caesar's heir. Caesar had
always been good to his armies. There was great loyalty to the
name of Caesar. The
soldiers were impressed by the boy's confidence and courage at such a
young age. Maybe the old man knew what he was doing when he
picked young Octavian to take his place. Why not give the kid a
After the warm welcome by Caesar's soldiers at Brundisium, Octavian
demanded (and received) a portion of the funds that were allotted by
Caesar for the intended war against Parthia in the Middle East. This
amounted to 700 million sesterces stored at Brundisium, the staging
ground in Italy for military operations in the east. This must
have taken some smooth-talking. Those were public funds.
Octavian made another bold move in 44 BC. Without official
permission, Octavian appropriated the annual tribute that had been
sent from Rome's Near Eastern province to Italy. Mind you,
this was an 18 year old kid making these moves. Octavian may
have been new at this, but he was clearly rookie of the year in
After his initial visit to Brundisium, Octavian began to visit other
pockets of soldiers as well. By emphasizing his status as heir
to Caesar. Octavian bolstered his personal forces with veteran
legionaries and with troops designated for the Parthian war,
gathering support. Next Octavian won over Caesar's former
veterans stationed in Campania. By June, 44 BC, he had
gathered an army of 3,000 loyal veterans.
Now that he had an army behind him, it was time to head to Rome.
Arriving in Rome on 6 May 44 BC, Octavian found the consul Mark
Antony, Caesar's former colleague, locked in an uneasy truce with
the dictator's assassins.
meeting must have been interesting. Mark Antony, 44, was a
brute of a man, a big guy who knew how to wield a sword, command
armies, fend off political enemies, and bed women with apparent
ease. Across the table was a weakling kid
looked more like a nerd than a leader. This kid was unfazed by
Antony's reputation. Octavian demanded his money from Caesar's
estate and asked what Antony had done to chase down Caesar's
you wish you could have seen the look on Antony's face? Surely Antony thought Caesar was a fool
for picking this sickly kid. Did Antony fail to realize Caesar
had recognized a quality in the lad that hinted at greatness?
After all, Caesar had spent his whole life evaluating talent.
Antony wanted to simply strike the lad down and be done with him,
but there was the small problem of that army loyal to the kid
outside his door.
Antony took a
harsh attitude towards Octavian because of his age. He even tried to
block his inheritance from Caesar. Octavian failed to wrest
any money from Antony that day. However, at least Octavian got
the man to accept his political legitimacy.
the next months, more veterans of Caesar's
legions were lining up behind their dead leader's chosen heir.
With Antony's acceptance and this military backing, Octavian had now established a foothold
in Rome. Octavian took the name Gaius Julius Caesar, quickly
won the allegiance of many of his great-uncle's political supporters,
and assumed a role in government.
Octavian took a page out of Caesar's playbook. If you can't
beat them, join them. Rather than oppose Antony, he persuaded
him to join a Second Triumvirate with Lepidus as the
They joined forces to avenge
the death of their mutual benefactor.
Together, the three of them would chase down the assassins and any
troops loyal to them.
To solidify the
relationship, Octavian persuaded Antony to marry Octavian's
sister, Octavia, in a show of allegiance.
At first Octavian worked with Mark Antony and Lepidus to track down all of Caesar's
murderers. They defeated Cassius and Brutus in the
Battle of Philippi over in Greece in 42 BC.
Now that Caesar's murderers were eliminated, the three men turned their wary
eyes on each other. They carved up the Roman territories.
Lepidus got Africa, Octavian got Italy and the west, Antony took the
east. There was no further bloodshed for a while, but clearly
Pompey was up to no good.
Sure enough, the ambitious Antony joined forces with Cleopatra,
ruler of Egypt, and divorced Octavia, sister of Octavian.
Antony had mad his move. He was preparing to dominate the Roman Empire
from the East. With the combined armies of Antony and
Cleopatra, he had the military might to do so. Octavian was
well aware of the growing threat posed by the power duo.
Unfortunately for Octavian, the people of Rome were tired of
fighting. So an uneasy truce developed.
the next ten years, Octavian was forced to wage a public relations
battle. He made sure that Antony's flirtations with the
foreign queen did not sit very well in Rome. The
Roman people began to distrust Antony. When Antony made a
present of Roman territory in the East to his consort, Octavian made
sure all of Rome would interpret his actions as 'traitorous.'
This raised even more suspicion against Anthony. The final
straw came on a tip. Octavian stormed the sanctuary of the
Vestal Virgins and forced their chief priestess to hand over
Antony's secret will. It read that Antony intended to give
away Roman-conquered territories as kingdoms for his sons to rule,
alongside plans to build a tomb in Alexandria for him and his queen
to reside upon their deaths.
Seeing his chance to get rid of his rival, Octavian declared Antony
a traitor. Finally the Roman people were mad enough to follow
his lead. Octavian waged war on Antony and Cleopatra.
In 31 BC, 13 years after the death of Caesar, Octavian finally
tracked down Antony and
Cleopatra's forces on the Actium promontory in western Greece.
blockade, Octavian forced a sea fight known as the Battle of Actium.
Octavian turned to his best friend Agrippa, who was
the better military leader, and let him assume control of one of the
most famous sea battles in history. Antony was routed; he and
Cleopatra fled back to Egypt with Octavian on their heels.
Octavian and Agrippa then went on to conquer Egypt. Both Antony and Cleopatra
committed suicide. Octavian now used Cleopatra's riches to
consolidate his power.
Upon the demise of Antony, Octavian had finally emerged as the sole master of
the Roman world. The Republic was finally ready to succumb to
imperial authority. In 27 BC the Senate gave him the title Augustus,
Augustus would rule the Roman Empire for 45 years
until his death in 14 AD.
However this exalted position
had not come easily. As you have read, Octavian was forced to fight an
endless series of civil wars over 14 years to achieve this status. Combined
with the Civil Wars of Julius Caesar that started when he crossed
the Rubicon in 49 BC, the Battle of Actium ended nearly twenty years
of bloody battles. The endless series of Roman Civil
Wars read like round after round of preliminaries, semis, and finals in a
tournament! In all, Octavian had to eliminate over a dozen
contenders to finally lay undisputed claim the throne of Rome.
It was quite a feat.
Augustus Caesar would become Rome's greatest leader.
He surpassed his gifted predecessor Julius Caesar in many ways. Although
Octavian had nowhere near the military ability of his uncle, he was
every bit the equal of Julius Caesar in the area of politics.
Thanks to his largely benevolent rule, Augustus established a period
of peace known as Pax Romana that lasted for
two hundred years (27 BC to 180 AD).
Augustus Caesar brought social stability to a region once plagued by
Although Roman leaders were forced to extinguish occasional
rebellions during this period (for example the Great Jewish Revolt
of 68 AD), the interior of the Empire was left
completely untouched by civil war or attack by invaders from the perimeter.
To create 200 years of peace in this brutal age was a remarkable
accomplishment! Although much attention has been given to the tyrannical and often vicious leaders
like the Emperors Caligula and Nero, most of the Roman emperors ruled sensibly
and competently for the next 200 years.
Indeed Rome had reached the very zenith of its power. Thanks first
to the groundwork of Julius Caesar and then to political prowess of
his talented nephew, The Augustan
Age became a time of lasting prosperity throughout the
The greatest legacy of the Pax Romana was the
spread of Roman culture to Western Europe such as Gaul, Britain, and
Under Augustus Caesar's rule, the Roman state began its
transformation into the greatest and most influential political
institution in European history. The Romans and their Empire
gave cultural and political shape to the subsequent history of
Europe all the way through the Middle Ages and the Renaissance to the present day.
The Roman Empire allowed people of many different cultures to retain
their heritage into modern times. The Empire helped to perpetuate
the art, literature, and philosophy of the Greeks, the religious and
ethical system of the Jews, the new religion of the Christians,
Babylonian astronomy and astrology, and cultural elements from
Persia, Egypt, and other eastern civilizations.
The Romans supplied their own peculiar talents for government, law,
and architecture and also spread their Latin language. In this way
they created the Greco-Roman synthesis, the rich
combination of cultural elements that for two millennia has shaped
what we call the Western Tradition.
Rome is where it all started - our language, our culture,
our traditions, our laws, and the way we think.
The impact of the Roman Empire endures until the present day.
Beware the Ides of March:
Julius Caesar loses his life
thrived under Julius Caesar. Now it was chaos
Caesar's assassination, Caesar's
armies transferred their loyalty to Octavian, a move
that Pompey never anticipated. Octavian was still a sickly teenager,
but he had the makings of a brilliant politician
introduces himself to the Senate as Caesar's heir
chases the murderers of Caesar all the way to Greece
Cleopatra on the Nile
BC The Battle of Actium -
Octavian defeats Antony thanks to a lot of help from
takes her life. If it seems a lot of people lost
their lives during
the making of the Roman Empire, that's because they did.
The Greatest Ruler in Roman History - Augustus Caesar
Story: Life in the Roman Empire After Augustus
Do the power
struggles never end in Rome? After what
Augustus had been through to claim his lofty perch,
he was determined to establish an orderly succession
to his position. Unfortunately, getting rid of
Mark Antony proved far easier than finding a
All kinds of things went wrong. His main
problem was that his most suitable male heirs kept
turning up dead. You would assume Augustus of
all people would know better. Julius Caesar
kept the whole world in the dark as to his heir.
Augustus should have learned from his uncle Julius -
don't tell anyone who the successor is or risk
having them assassinated!
Augustus had no
control over the mysterious death plague that
shadowed his male heirs. However, his greatest
blunder was made when he interfered with the love
life of his daughter Julia. Too ridiculous to
be true? Read the story and decide for
Thanks to his
unhealthy preoccupation with the concept of
maintaining the Julian bloodline on the throne,
ironically, the greatest ruler in Roman history
doomed Rome to five of the worst rulers in the
history of the Roman Empire because he couldn't
understand or control his own daughter.
Julio-Claudian Emperors. You have no
idea how insane this story is.
Forum Two Thousand Years after its Days of Glory
Forum of yesterday
Today the Roman Forum is
largely in ruins