Did Caesar End The Roman Republic?

Rebecca Deakin

Julius Caesar remains one of the most famous men of antiquity.

He was a visionary, opportunist, soldier, conqueror and dictator. The Roman Republic was in chaos with rioting and street violence. The political system was in decay. The Senate was an advisory assembly within the Roman government of aristocrats who were appointed not elected. The Optimates were supporters of continuing the authority of the Senate, and the Populares favoured the people. Political power now was mostly within the grips of two men, Pompey Magnus a renowned general and Marcus Crassus the wealthiest man in Rome. However mutual dislike for each other had led to a stalemate and spilt the senate. Neither man could get their interests approved. Caesar’s solution was an alliance. Pompey needed persuading, so Caesar offered his daughter Julia’s hand in marriage. All three would benefit, although it was to remain a secret to avoid any suspicion amongst opponents. The First Triumvirate was born in 60BC. It was successful in appointing Caesar as consul, and he made good on his promises to his fellow triumvir’s by pushing through their interests. Caesar departed for Gaul in 58BC recognising there was military glory to be gained. In conquering this region, he earned himself a legendary reputation. Rome had expanded as a result; this success would make the senate incapable of removing Caesar. Crassus was killed whilst entering the Parthian kingdom. Leaving Pompey as the sole counterweight to Caesar. In 54BC Julia died, inevitably severing the families ties the marriage had created. With Caesar away, Pompey started to make alliances with his fellow triumvir’s enemies. Caesar, aware of this, offered his grandniece Octavia’s hand in marriage. This was refused. Pompey had become susceptible to coercion. The Optimates were whispering in his ear. He even married a daughter of an enemy to Caesar. Absent from Rome Caesar tried to again stand for consul but was denied. He was now powerless against efforts to undermine him. Pompey stated that Caesar couldn’t stand for consul unless he relinquished control of his army. This would leave Caesar with no protection against his enemies. The only path of action left for Caesar now was war. The political power was once again with the senate’s traditional powerbase and not in the hands of a few. Caesar’s troops loved him and were devoted to his cause. Caesar set his sights on Rome, where his people were. In 49BC with his solitary legion Caesar crossed the Rubican river. A scared boundary. This act of treason was unforgiveable. He was now an enemy of state. He wished to liberate Rome from the optimates. Rome needed internal stability. The Republic system had been outgrown.
Did Caesar End The Roman Republic?
The Last Senate of Julius Caesar by Raffaele Giannetti

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Did Caesar End The Roman Republic?
Vincenzo Camuccini, The Death of Julius Caesar.

This civil war would come to a head at Pharsalus in Thessaly

Pompey had the numbers, and Caesar was in enemy country isolated with no hope of reinforcements. Pompey wanted to besiege Caesar at his camp, but the optimates wanted a decisive victory that would show their superiority and ultimately undermine Caesar. Pompey as their puppet decided to engage Caesar. Caesar knew surrender was not an option. He thinned his ranks out to ensure a hidden fourth rank. Caesar’s men were experienced in vicious fighting in Gaul, and this helped make up for their lack of numbers. Caesar tore into Pompey’s army, and gave the order for the fourth rank to attack, Pompey’s cavalry crumbled. Pompey fled to Egypt and Caesar followed. He was understanding that his old friend had been led astray and deceived. Caesar was merciful and to many opponents he granted amnesty. He wanted resolution. But on Pompey’s arrival, the Pharaoh Ptolemy XIII had him assassinated, in believing he would win Caesar’s good graces. The opposite happened; Caesar aligned with the pharaoh’s sister Cleopatra against her brother. Egypt had now been brought into the Roman Empire. It was clear to all that Caesar had triumphed and on his return to Rome he became dictator for life. He carried out much needed reforms, he relieved debt, enlarged the senate, granted citizenships, and revised the calendar. Caesar still had enemies remaining, who feared he wanted to become a king and was proclaiming himself to be godlike. As a result, Caesar was assassinated. To the dismay of the conspirators, the Republic failed to be restored to its former glory. Caesar had been loved by the people; they were angry at the assassination of their hero. These events initiated a final round of civil wars that ultimately ended the Republic and Caesar’s great nephew and designated heir Octavian become Rome’s first emperor, renaming himself as Caesar Augustus.
Ancestry UK
Did Caesar End The Roman Republic?

Rebecca Deakin

Rebecca wrote for Edition 3, Key Events in History.
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