Gaius Julius Caesar (13 July 100 BC - 15 March 44 BC) was a Roman politician and general.

Life and history Edit

Early life and military career Edit


Caesar had a turbulent childhood under a misgoverned Roman state. His father died when he was 16 years old but he made well of an unfortunate situation. He married Cornelia, the daughter of noble Lucius Cornelius Cinna, who aided Caesar's uncle Gaius Marius in a civil war against Lucius Cornelius Sulla. When Sulla found victory, Julius Caesar would be forced to divorce Cornelia and be stripped of his property and priesthood, but Caesar refused and avoided the threat against him by joining the military for campaigns in Asia and Cilicia. After Sulla's death, Caesar returned to Rome and entered the political sphere as a prosecuting advocate.[1] While traveling to study philosophy abroad, Caesar was captured by pirates. He managed to raise his ransom before gathering a naval force to exact revenge. Caesar's naval group found and crucified the pirates. This portion of Caesar's life is the basis for Julius Caesar Against the Pirates.

Beginnings in politics Edit

Julius Caesar's rapid rise through the Roman political system is notable, having gone from quaestor to governor to consul in just ten years, from 69 to 59 BCE. The majority of this success came after his wife's death in 69 BCE. Caesar's advancement was affected heavily by his popularity with the Roman people and relationship to Pompey, a former lieutenant under Sulla.[1]

First Triumvirate Edit

As consul, Caesar quickly sought to secure his power. He possibly reconciled the two other most powerful men in Rome, Crassus and Pompey, all of whom made their alliance clear by supporting the same legislation to redistribute public lands and by the marriage of Caesar's daughter Julia to Pompey.

Caesar sought governorship to avoid prosecution. He gained this in Gaul, which he conquered by fighting individual tribes before they could mount a collective defense of their lands from the Romans. Before this conquest was complete, Crassus had died and Pompey had been made sole consul. Pompey married the daughter of an opponent of Caesar's, and the triumvirate ended with Caesar in Gaul and Pompey ordering Caesar to disband his army. Caesar instead marched across the Rubicon with one legion and eventually defeated Pompey and regained consulship, continuing to pursue the escaped Pompey. Arriving in Egypt around 48 BCE, he was disappointed to find Pompey had been murdered by the young pharaoh. Caesar's arrival coincided with a civil war between Cleopatra and her brother/husband/pharaoh. After siding with Cleopatra, defeating the pharaoh's forces, and installing Cleopatra as the ruler of Egypt, he spent some time in Cleopatra's company before continuing a military campaign through the Middle East and Africa, wiping out foreign enemies and Pompey's remaining supporters alike. After defeating Cato in 46 BCE, he was appointed dictator for the next ten years. Much of this period in Caesar's life, his time in Egypt and growing power as dictator, is covered in the Cleopatra films.

Dictator Edit

As dictator, Julius Caesar worked to undo the corruption and weakening of Rome. He wanted to reduce the power governors had over Rome's provinces and bring those provinces together under a strong central government. His campaigning worked to reign in rule of the provinces, and he expanded his own authority as that central power.[2]

Caesar was able to dilute the Senate by adding seats and filling them with his supporters and resisted challenge by a general by imposing term limits on governors.[3] He was able to veto the Senate through tribunician powers, and exercised his power against tribunes who opposed him by stripping them of their position.[4]

End of rule and death Edit

Caesar's ever-growing power caused worry in the Senate, fearing that Caesar would proclaim himself king and gain total power in Rome. According to Nicolaus of Damascus, Caesar attended the Senate on the Ides of March, 44 BCE despite warnings from friends, including his wife Calpurnia, who was frightened by visions in her dreams.[5] [6] Sixty or more men stabbed Caesar a total of twenty-three times[7] These events are covered in the Shakespeare play The Tragedy of Julius Caesar and its film adaptations.

Depictions in Sword & Sandal film Edit

Julius Caesar has been depicted in over a dozen films since the beginning of the filmic tradition. Different depictions of the same events in Caesar's life can be used as a point of reference to track how changes in society and the advancement of film culture affect the characterization of historical figures.

List of films Edit

Caesar the Conqueror (1962) Edit

Italian film depicting the Gallic Wars, based on Caesar's firsthand account, Commentaries on the Gallic War.

Carry On Cleo (1964) Edit

Ahistorical British comedy depicting Caesar, Antony, and Cleopatra.

Cleopatra (1917) Edit

Cleopatra (1934) Edit

This film has a lot in common with the 1963 version, including Cleopatra being snuck into Caesar's quarters in a rug. Caesar is once again Cleopatra's initial love interest before his assassination. His desire for power and ignorance of warning about his impending doom are shown, but giving Cleopatra power and returning to Rome with her make him likable to the audience.

Cleopatra (1963) Edit

This film depicts Caesar arriving in Egypt, his time there, his return to Rome, and the Ides of March. His desire to become king is shown in this film to be (at least in part) spurred on by Cleopatra's dreams of ruling the world with Caesar. His romance with Cleopatra and acceptance of Caesarion depict him in a positive light, pitting Cleopatra against Octavian as the enemy after Caesar's death.

Julius Caesar (1914) Edit

This 1914 silent epic was Italian director Enrico Guazzoni's follow-up to the successful Quo Vadis? (1913). It is in the unique position as an Italian film of being preceded by 70 years of Italian nationalist discourse using Caesar as an example and hero. Ancient Rome was constantly used as an example to support Italian unification, and the film came at a peak of organization around this nationalist movement. Other than the crossing of the Rubicon, the film praises Caesar's military victories, with the campaigns in Gaul depicted as a battle between civilization and savagery. For these reasons, some modern critics believe the film was inspired or even written by nationalist Enrico Corradini.[8]

Julius Caesar (1950) Edit

The first adaptation of Shakespeare's play to use sound. Young Charlton Heston plays Mark Antony. Filmed in Chicago using drama students.

Julius Caesar (1953) Edit

Joseph L. Mankiewics directed this 1953 epic, shot in black and white. The film was shot sequentially, and weeks of rehearsals were done on set to achieve control over the sound-recording and avoid re-recording lines. Producer John Houseman states that the black and white palette and lack of CinemaScope were due to the "intensity and intimacy," required for a Shakespearean tragedy. The palette also allowed the filmmakers to use sets from Quo Vadis (1951) while avoiding the appearance of duplication.[9]

Julius Caesar (1970) Edit

Julius Caesar Against the Pirates (1962) Edit

This film takes Caesar's early years, fleeing Sulla and escaping the clutches of pirates. It is far more of an action/adventure movie than some of the epics and dramas on this list.

A Queen for Caesar (1962) Edit

An Italian Cleopatra film focusing on the struggle within Egypt, Caesar only appears at the end.

Spartacus (film) (1960) Edit

Depictions in other media Edit

The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, a play by William Shakespeare, has become one of the most influential works regarding Caesar's depiction in modern storytelling. The play does not offer a clear interpretation of Caesar and is thus the subject of much debate over who the protagonists and morally good characters in the play are. Both Caesar and Brutus feel the use of Shakespeare's ironic epithet, such as when Caesar boats that he is "constant," though the audience knows his fate.[10]

Television Edit

Julius Caesar



Xena: Warrior Princess

Little Caesar's pizza commercials

Video Games Edit

Civilization series

Age of Empires: The Rise of Rome

Total War: Rome 2

Literature Edit

The Ides of March

Masters of Rome

References Edit

  1. 1.0 1.1 "Julius Caesar Biography." Biography. N.p., 14 Nov. 2016. Web. 1 Dec. 2016.
  2. Abbott, Frank Frost (1901). A History and Description of Roman Political Institutions. pp.133-134. Elibron Classics. ISBN 0-543-92749-0.
  3. Abbott, 136-138
  4. Abbott, 135
  5. Nicolaus of Damascus' account appears in Workman, B.K. They Saw it Happen in Classical Times (1964)
  6. Suetonius, The Twelve Caesars (Penguin Classics), translated by Robert Graves (1957)
  7. "Julius Caesar's stabbing site identified," History. 11 October 2012. Web.
  8. Wyke, Maria. "10. Caesar, Cinema, and National Identity in the 1910s." Julius Caesar in Western Culture. Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub., 2006. 170-89. Print.
  10. Reynolds, Robert C. "Ironic Epithet in Julius Caesar." Shakespeare Quarterly 24.3 (1973): 329-33. Web.