Julius Caesar

Who was Julius Caesar?

Julius Caesar was a famous Roman leader. He won many battles for Rome and helped the Roman Empire grow.

While Caesar had a glowing career in both politics and as a military commander, he was only leader of the Roman Empire for a year before he was assassinated by political enemies. Roman leaders who came after him also called themselves Caesar.

Top 10 facts

  • Julius Caesar was born on 13 July in the year 100 BC.
  • His full name is Gaius Julius Caesar.
  • Caesar created the Julian calendar, which is the basis for the calendar we use today!
  • Caesar commanded all of Rome’s armies, and won many battles that gave more land to Rome.
  • Caesar was elected consul of Rome in 59 BC, which is the highest political office you could have at that time.
  • Caesar invaded Britain twice in 55 and 54 BC, but he didn’t try to set up any permanent forts.
  • Julius Caesar was the first person to have his own bust (face and neck) printed on a Roman coin.
  • Julius Caesar’s defining moment was when he crossed the Rubicon, a river that bordered Rome, and led an army into Rome to take over the government.
  • By the end of the Roman Civil War in 45 BC, Caesar had been appointed ‘Imperator’, which meant Roman leader for the rest of his life.
  • Unfortunately for Caesar, he was killed the next year, 44 BC, on the Ides of March (15 March).

Timeline

  • 13 July 100 BC
    Julius Caesar was born

  • 75 BC
    Caesar was captured by pirates in the Mediterranean Sea

  • 69-68 BC
    Caesar was elected to be a quaestor, which was like a financial administrator

  • 65 BC
    Caesar was elected to be an aedile, looking after temples and public buildings

  • 63 BC
    Caesar was elected pontifex maximus, which was a chief priest

  • 61 BC
    Caesar was appointed governor of Spain

  • 59 BC
    Julius served as Consul for Rome, and formed the First Triumverate with Crassus and Pompey

  • 58-51 BC
    Caesar led armies in the Gallic Wars

  • 55-54 BC
    Julius Caesar invaded Britain twice

  • 49 BC
    Caesar crossed the Rubicon and led an army into Rome to take over the government, starting a civil war

  • 46 BC
    Caesar created the Julian calendar

  • 45 BC
    The Roman Civil War ended, and Julius was declared the dictator of Rome for the rest of his life

  • 15 March 44 BC
    Julius Caesar was murdered by Cassius and Brutus

Did you know?

  • While Caesar was the dictator of Rome, he changed the calendar! He organised it so there would be 365 days in a year, and 366 on leap years.
  • The month of July was named after Julius Caesar.
  • Caesar’s family claimed that they were descendants of the goddess Venus.
  • One of the most famous things Caesar said was ‘veni, vidi, vici’, which in English means ‘I came, I saw, I conquered’.
  • Caesar was the first Roman leader who had his own head put on a coin.
  • In the year 75 BC, Caesar was captured by pirates in the Mediterranean Sea! They held him prisoner for 38 days while a friend of Caesar’s went to collect the ransom money that the pirates wanted. When Caesar did go free, he gathered an army, sailed back to the island and captured the pirates, and put them in prison.
  • Caesar was murdered by two of his friends – Brutus and Cassius. They were afraid he was becoming too powerful, and thought he should be stopped.
  • The day that Julius Caesar was murdered, 15 March, was called ‘the Ides of March’ in ancient Rome. Today, we still use the expression in William Shakespeare’s play about Julius Caesar, ‘Beware the Ides of March’, because of what happened to him on that day.
  • In 42 BC, two years after his death, Caesar was declared a god.

Can you identify the following images in the gallery below?

  • A stone bust of Julius Caesar
  • A manuscript of De Bello Gallico
  • A map of the area covered by the Roman Empire when Caesar died in 44 BC
  • A coin with Caesar’s bust on it

Gallery

About

Caesar invaded Britain twice during the Gallic Wars – once in 55 BC and once in 54 BC.  It wasn’t until 43 AD that the Romans conquered and ruled Britain, winning battles against the Celtic tribes who lived there.

‘Crossing the Rubicon’ was one of the most important events in Caesar’s life, as it led to the Roman Civil War that made him leader of all Rome. Historians aren’t sure where the Rubicon actually was because it’s not really a river anymore, but they think it might have been in northeast Italy.

The reason why crossing the Rubicon river was such a big deal is because Caesar was disobeying what the Roman government had asked him to do. He was marching back to Rome with his armies after fighting in Gaul, but the law was that an army had to disband before entering Rome (which would have prevented civil war). Caesar refused to do this, and kept his army together and under his command even when entering the outer boundaries of Rome – crossing the Rubicon. He then used that army to overthrow the government and claim the Roman Empire for himself.

Not only was Caesar a renowned military commander and political leader, but he could write too! He was known for giving excellent speeches, and wrote books on the Gallic Wars (Commentarii de Bello Gallico) and the Roman Civil War (Commentarii de Bello Civili).

Caesar started to do a lot of good things when he was made dictator for life, but the Roman Senate was worried that he was becoming too powerful and ambitious. They wanted to keep Rome as a republic, while Caesar wanted something like a monarchy. Cassius and Brutus assassinated Caesar for reasons that they thought were best for Rome and themselves, in the end.

Caesar’s adopted son, Octavian, became the next leader of Rome. We know him better as Caesar Augustus.

Famous friends:

Pompey – Pompey was a Roman politician and military leader. Along with Crassus, he and Julius Caesar formed the First Triumverate. He and Caesar eventually became enemies, and Caesar fought against him in the Roman Civil War.

Marc Antony – Marc Antony was a strong supporter of Caesar, and was also a famous military leader and politician. He served with Caesar in Gaul during the Gallic War.

Cicero – A famous orator (speaker), writer and senator. Cicero liked Caesar as a person but didn’t agree with him politically. Historians have learned a lot about ancient Rome from documents written by Cicero.

Octavian – Better known as Caesar Augustus, he was Julius Caesar’s adopted son and ruled the Roman Empire after Caesar died. He was the first Emperor of the Roman Empire.

Brutus and Cassius – Both Brutus and Cassius were Roman politicians who led the plot to kill Caesar.

Cleopatra – Cleopatra was a famous queen of Egypt, who was known for being beautiful, smart and a good leader. She brought prosperity to Egypt, and lived in Alexandria, which was the capital of Egypt at the time. She is also famous for the way she died – when Caesar Augustus was about to conquer Alexandria, she let a poisonous snake bite her.

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See for yourself

The British Museum has a marble bust of Julius Caesar.

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