Today in World History: July 12th

Julius Caesar, the man whose actions led to the death of the Republic of Rome and the birth of the Roman Empire, was born around this day in 100 B.C.E. to a wealthy family in Rome. His family claimed descent from Iulius, son of Trojan hero Aeneas, who fled Troy before the end if the Trojan War and settled down in Rome, helping to found the city. From this, they also claimed their descent from the Roman goddess of love, who was said to be the mother of Aeneas. Caesar, following the death of his father in 85 B.C.E., and a civil war, left Rome and began his military career in the Roman Empire. After a brief period being captured by pirates, Caesar came back to Rome, where he was elected to his first political position. By 63 B.C.E., Caesar had run for and won the position of Pontifex Maximus, the head of the Roman Religion. In 62 B.C.E. he left to govern part of the Roman provinces in Spain, and also met a future ally, Crassus. He finished his governorship being hailed as Imperator, an honorary title given by the people of Rome after a military victory. He returned to Rome and instead of an honorary feast and parade, he joined the Roman government as consul in 59 B.C.E. and started his rise to the highest position of the republic. At this point Caesar also became allied to Pompey, another wealthy senator.

This began the First Triumvirate, in which the three men shared most control over the Roman Republic. Caesar was still in debt, and he sought glory in the still unconquered provinces of Gaul. He started his campaign in 56 B.C.E. and four years later he had conquered Gaul, present day France. The republic was now on the verge of the civil war as relations between the three rulers were rapidly deteriorating. Caesar was ordered to disband his troops by Pompey, who held control of Rome, but in 49 B.C.E. Caesar refused and marched into Rome with a single legion. Pompey and his army fled, and Caesar, leaving Mark Antony in charge of governing Rome, marched after Pompey, defeating him several times as the battles were fought. He was elected as Rome’s dictator, and left Rome to follow Pompey to Egypt. Arriving there, he saw that Pompey had been assassinated. Caesar promptly had the assassin’s put to death.

Now in Egypt, Caesar became involved in the Ptolemy family’s civil war, in which he ensured that Cleopatra would rise to power, with her sister and brother both being killed in the process, despite his wishes of respecting their father’s will. Caesar and Cleopatra became involved in an affair, during which Cleopatra birthed Caesar a son, Caesarion. He returned to Rome, where he began his political campaign to reform the Roman government, as the increasingly large Republic became corrupted and inefficient. His increasingly alarming attempts to seize power from the Roman Senators, who held large armies and vast treasuries, brought them to assassinate them on the 15th of March, stabbing him more than twenty three times between the sixty conspirators. His friend and ally, Mark Antony, had attempted to warn him of the plot, but had been distracted by other senators who stalled him. Antony fled to Egypt, where he too began an affair with Cleopatra.

In 44 B.C.E., Caesar died, and another civil war broke out in Rome, which would result in the end of the Republic, the rise of the Empire, the deaths of Cleopatra, Mark Antony, Brutus, Cassius, and Lepidus. Caesar’s grandnephew, Gaius Octavius Caesar, inherited Caesar’s titles, and in the civil wars that followed, defeated his enemies, to become the first Emperor of Rome.

“I came, I saw, I conquered.”

-Julius Caesar

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