Julius Caesar takes his place in Real Men of Genius as a military leader and politician who gave his name to the words Czar and Kaiser as well as being the effective founder of the Roman Empire and leader of the then known world.
Caesar was born around 100 BC and became head of his family at the age of 16 when his father died suddenly and at a time when civil war raged between his uncle, Gaius Marius and Lucius Cornelius Sulla.
At the time of your father’s death Rome was a dangerous place?
My uncle Marius and his friend Lucius Cinna controlled the City for a time. I married Cinna’s daughter Cornelia whilst a teenager. As you say, it was dangerous. It was not uncommon to see dead bodies floating along the Tiber.
I lost my inheritance when Sulla and the high priesthood of Jupiter which had been conferred on me earlier. I was told by Sulla to divorce Cornelia as her family was proscribed, but I refused to do so and lived in hiding.
Ultimately Sulla relented following representations made to him by my mother’s family.
What happened to you then?
I left Rome and joined the army. During my earlier absence I studied and went to Bithynia, a Black Sea province, and formed an alliance with King Nicomedes.
When Sulla died I felt it was safe to return to Rome to practise law and gained a reputation for advocacy.
You had a mishap whilst crossing the Aegean Sea on one occasion, didn’t you?
I was seized by pirates and held to ransom. They demanded twenty talents for my release
which I found to rather less than flattering and demanded that they ask for
Whilst in their charge I did manage to forge some sort of relationship with them but warned that I would return to crucify them.
Did they take that seriously?
I think not. My
friends raised the ransom and I was released, and after that I pursued and
captured the pirates.
I was true to my promise and crucified them, but as they had treated me reasonably I ensured that their throats were cut so that they did not suffer unnecessarily.
What happened on your return to Rome?
I was elected military tribune. Cornelia died and I later married Pompeia who I subsequently divorced.
Unfortunately, I had a few financial problems but I was
nonetheless elected first consul and ruled Rome with Pompey and Crassus.
An opportunity came to alleviate that situation so I set off for Gaul to put down bellicose Germanic tribes.
I conducted campaigns in Gaul for nine years and conquered that country.
It is reported that at this time your troops were
utterly loyal to you and recognised your discipline, determination and
You also showed yourself to be a skilful swordsman and had surprising powers of endurance. Weren’t you the first Roman commander to invade Britain?
That would have been around 55 BC. I was, however, unable to advance and returned to winter in Gaul only to find that in my absence there had been a rebellion which I finally crushed at the Battle of Alesia.
But all was not well in Rome?
Government in Rome was now in the hands of Pompey who announced that my term as governor had finished and I was to disband my army and return to Rome.
I felt that if I went back to Rome as a private citizen I might be arrested, so I returned with just one legion of my men and, although we were greatly outnumbered, took the decision to cross the Rubicon, at which point the Senate dispersed and Pompey fled.
I left Mark Antony in charge of Rome and pursued Pompey to Egypt where I found him to have been recently murdered.
Then came your affair with Cleopatra?
Yes. After I defeated the Pharoah’s forces, Cleopatra became ruler and I entered into a relationship with her. As Roman law knew only of marriages between Roman citizens, this was not regarded as adultery.
After a few months in Egypt there were further victories for you?
At Tarsus and then on to Africa to deal with the rump of Pompey’s supporters. That led to further terms for me as consul.
You were, in fact, known as father of the country and declared dictator for life and consul for ten years?
That is so. The
month of Quintillis was also renamed Julius (July) in my honour. I undertook a programme of reforms with a
view to revising the whole Roman law.
Among other plans, I founded libraries, undertook the draining of marshes and the enlargement of Rome’s harbour.
Wasn’t your most important reform that of the calendar?
It may well have been. I replaced the disorderly lunar calendar with the Egyptian one that was regulated by the sun. The length of the year became 365.25 days, so every fourth year an extra day was inserted in February.
I believe in all you married three times?
Yes, but it is right to say that there were many other women in my life also.
What is your association with what we call Caesarian sections?
It is a myth. If babies were cut
out of their mother’s bodies, the mother always perished.
My mother did not die in childbirth but came to be, and remained, a prominent force in my life.
Finally, we turn to the Ides of March and the end of your life.
It appears that others were becoming concerned at the powers which they believed I was arrogating at the expense of others and a plot was hatched to bring me to an untimely end.
Mark Antony apparently got wind of the gossip and attempted to head me off on my way to the Senate. He was, I understand, intercepted by Trebonius and fled.
Without descending into too much detail, I was surrounded by a number of the conspirators, including Brutus, who pulled me down and thrust knives into my body a number of times, only the second of which was apparently fatal.
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