Julius Caesar was born in 100 BC to Aurelia and Gaius Julius Caesar, a patrian family. The name “Julius” comes from Iulius, the family name. This comes from Iulus, the name of Venus’ son.
At the time of his birth, Rome was still a republic and the empire was only beginning. The senators ruled, motivated by the greed of power in the hope of becoming either a consul or a praetor, the two senior posts which carried imperium, the legal right to command an army. With the help of the army at your command, from those posts it was possible to conquer new territories and so gain a triumph and the pleasure of knowing that your name would be remembered forever in statues and inscribed in monuments, paid for by the war.
Julius made his way to praetorship by 62 BC and many of the senate felt he was a dangerous, ambitious man. Because of this, they deprived him of a triumph after his praetorian command in Spain somewhere between 61-60 BC, they also did their best to keep him out of consulship. He finally became consul in 59 BC.
Much of the thanks for this achievement should be given to Gnaeus Pompeius (Pompey the Great) who had just come back from a campaign which had doubled the income of the Roman treasury and gained three new provinces to the empire. Although, because of Pompey, to become a leading person in Roman politics you had to have more then just an ordinary triumph.
It was because of this that during Julius’ consulship he pushed through a special law giving him a five-year command in Cispine Gaul and Illyricum, both provinces in the empire covering North Italy and the Adriatic coast of Yugoslavia. Julius saw this as a great opportunity to extend the empire either into Gaul or in the Balkins. While in Gaul, the most important section of the Roman Army, positioned at the German border, was under his control.
He was a brilliant military leader and lead many campaigns, which included; The Helvetic Campaign in 58 BC, The Belgic Campaign in 57 BC, The Venetic Campaign in 56 BC, and many others. The whole point of these campaigns was to get high public and political acclaim, he wrote about all the campaigns and sent the books to Rome so people knew and remembered his name. Aside from being a “brilliant military leader,” Julius believed Rome needed him alive and in command, if peace was to continue. He once said:
“It is more important for Rome than for myself that I should survive. I have long been sated with power and glory; but should anything happen to me, Rome will enjoy no peace. A new civil war will break out under far worse conditions then the last.”
While in pursuit of Pompey, Julius fell in love with Cleopatra, who happened to be Pompey’s sister. Julius and Cleopatra met by a dramatic introduction that Cleopatra had set up. It was, she had herself wrapped in a carpet and delivered by a friend to Julius, and unrolled at his feet. He was 52 and she was 21, but her intelligence, charm and wit was what fascinated Julius. With Julius’ support, Cleopatra position as queen of Egypt was secured.
Julius had all the fame he could hope for and the triumph to back it up, but to get the position he felt his achievements deserved, he had to take his troops across the River Rubicon and in doing so declare civil war on the state and Pompey. Pompey, the person who had got Julius to where he was, was sent to stop him but failed. General Pompey fled to Egypt while Julius entered Rome in triumph as Dictator. The battle for Rome continued for five years of bloody fighting. He was assassinated by a group of senators, who stabbed with a dagger in the back, on the Ides of March 44 BC below a statue of Pompey, possibly in support of Pompey. Julius had convened the senate so that it would grant him the authority to be known as king in the lands outside of Rome, but the assignation took place before Julius could claim the new title for himself.
Mark Antony, Julius’ cavalry commander, met Cleopatra in 41 B.C after Julius’ assassination. At first, Antony wanted Cleopatra’s money but quickly fell in love with her and his intentions changed completely. Antony and Cleopatra eventually married and had children, and they were each given Roman provinces to rule.