Please Note: If you are unfamiliar with any of the Historical Personages or Roman Terminology used in my essays on this website, most of these, if not all, are explained in the Glossary of the book, which is a free section. So I urge you to download the e-book.
The following presents my theory as to the motivation behind the actions, which Julius Caesar performed when he undertook his meteoric rise to power in the later part of his life. Although the book “Caius the making of the Hero” is fiction, it scrupulously follows the known details of his early life. His love for Cornelia also is well known and documented even by the Greek misogynist Plutarch. The following facts led me to write the book, and realize that Caesar was not the man the historians would have you believe he was.
Caesar was a scholar and writer of no mean attainment; in later life he was considered an expert in the Latin language and its expression; like Dante who created the Italian language from the Tuscan dialect, so Caesar’s use of Latin transformed Latin and shaped it.
Caesar was also an expert in Greek language and philosophy; he knew and had studied the Greek concepts of democracy and freedom.
Caesar was also trained in Oratory and as an advocate, as was proper for his class at that time. He would later use these talents to prosecute former important Roman officials, including an ex-Consul, for crimes against provincials in their care.
Caesar defied his father’s wishes in marrying Cornelia.
Cornelia was the daughter of Lucius Cinna, who held the Consulship four times (this was quite an extraordinary achievement), and yet except for the fact that he was Caius Marius’ close colleague and successor, he is an unknown entity.
Caesar risked his life and fortune rather than divorce Cornelia.
Caesar gave Cornelia, a mere girl of 28 or 29 years of age, a funeral, fit for an important head of state (an unprecedented event in Roman customs and manners). Even more unusual was the fact that this rather obscure young Patrician was allowed by the Censors to do this.
Caesar was closer to the political ideas of his uncle Caius Marius than he was to the ideas of his mother’s family, the Cottas, who at times tended to side with the Sullans.
Caesar steadfastly supported the popular cause throughout his life, although not strictly along the lines of the popular party platform. In later life he actually split with the Sertorians, and chose to follow a moderate popular course, which tended to tear down the old party divisions that divided Marians and Sullans. He tended to bring together and heal the divisions that his people still harbored because of Senatorial Politics.
This was shown most vividly in his alliance with Crassus (the richest man in Rome at that time), and Pompey (the greatest soldier at that time), both former Sullans, but both of whom adhered to the popular platform at the time of the genesis of the first Triumvirate 1 .
After Caesar achieved power he took none of the steps, which a tyrant, such as Sulla, took to consolidate and perpetuate his power. He left the Senate with the same power it had had before his assumption of power, as is shown in the often irreverent way the Senate acted toward him.
Through feigned tributes and honors, the Senate acted in every way to try to humiliate and dishonor this man, who showed them his generosity and good will, namely: They minted coins 2 showing him as dictator perpetuo. No doubt aimed at raising the ire of the commoners against him, they likened him to Sulla (People seem to forget that the Senate held the purse strings in Rome; they controlled the treasury and all the mints at Rome.) They offered him a crown and kingship, which belittled him in the eyes of all Romans (literally a slap in his face; the Roman hatred of all things “Kingly” was well known throughout the world at that time).
Caesar instead of having his own child opted to adopt his nephew Octavian; this was a very strange action for a man of Patrician blood who was supposed to be an absolute ruler.
That Caesar’s assassination was planned and implemented so relatively openly (some sixty senators were involved), not only shows that Caesar had left the Senate with the same powers they had before he became dictator, but that he was willing to give up his life when he discovered the plot (how could he not have known that they wanted to kill him). His assassination was also most assuredly a suicide.
In the following essay I further discuss the way I developed the above facts in the book, and also probe the tumultuous times of the later Roman Republic, both during and beyond the time of the story. Below you will find nothing that contradicts the facts of History; but what you will find is a new way of interpreting those facts.
Let me say that when I wrote “Caius” I wanted to present to the world a new way of approaching the inconsistencies and contradictions that history left us in the life of Julius Caesar. I created a dramatic vehicle in the form of a novel to get across the real story of Caesar and his first wife Cornelia, as I understood it. This consisted essentially of two parts: their love story, which is in the book, and their political and social views, which are in and beyond the book. These latter views were specifically the plan 3 (or dream) that Caius and Cornelia created (in the book), and which we will now discuss.
Caius and Cornelia’s dream, was a direct, although less radical culmination of the aspirations of Marius (Caius’s uncle), and his colleague Lucius Cinna (Cornelia’s father) and their Popular party. I say less radical since Caius and Cornelia saw all classes working together for a united Rome, instead of the Poor and middle classes facing off against the rich and privileged. Their dream was of a united Roman Senate, made up of all the peoples of the world who the Romans had assimilated; a truly worldwide democratic people’s Republic. It would end up that Caius would face the achievement of this difficult task seemingly alone, but in reality Cornelia was always there with him in spirit. Lets now see how these aspirations came about and trace their development.
The Gracci were two brothers who were tribunes of the people some fifty years before our story. The Aristocracy murdered them when they agitated for land and agrarian reform for the poor Plebeian farmers. The people never forgot them and their martyrdom for the cause of justice. Later Caius Marius, Caesar’s uncle, took up their cause in the form of the Popular or People’s Party, which he led. Although Marius was rather extreme in his views, Lucius Cinna through his more moderate stand allowed the party to become more acceptable to the Equestrian class (the merchant class), which was emerging into power at that time. Caesar always supported this Popular party, but in a more moderate way than his uncle’s family. This party would help him in his rise up the string of political positions (cursus honorem) needed to become Consul.
The party (the Popular or People’s party), which Caesar supported, became extinct after Caesar’s death. With the entrance of the tyrant emperors, even the Aristocracy took a subordinate role. So history is left with the one sided picture of his time, which the tyrants wanted portrayed. The unknown period of Caesar’s life, while he was married to Cornelia, was I believe the crucial time during which he and Cornelia hatched the plan that would guide him for the rest of his life. This plan was the very thing, which the Roman emperors wanted to hide from the people of the world. 4
Although Caesar would carry on many of the ideas of Marius, his own ideas would be closer to that of his father in law, Lucius Cinna. I feel that Caesar was more of a moderate than his uncle Caius Marius. He supported the People’s Party in theory but he was also a man who read the signs of the time and understood them. Marius’s party was too extreme and uncompromising to produce lasting benefits. Also because of his mother Aurelia and her family, the Cottas, Caesar was well aware that all classes needed to be represented justly and equitably 5 . The slaughter of one side and then the other had gone on too long; only a compromise government could achieve lasting results.
The democracy that Rome presented to the world at that time was not the democracy that say, for instance, America has today. It was a democracy where the Aristocracy held an advantage 6 ; this was more like the English democracy, where there is a house of Commons and a house of Lords, rather than one house and Senate representing all the people as America has. The problem in Caesar’s day was that the Aristocracy was even further usurping this power, to the point of the total exclusion of the commoners.
Also there was the problem of the amalgamation of the Equestrian class into the Aristocracy. The word “Nobiles” is used to describe this amalgamated Aristocratic class, made up of both Patricians and Plebeian “New men”. In essence there was only one class when the wielding of power was considered, the Nobiles. This further brought economics into the field of government. And with the arrival of economics, immediately followed the expansion of the Republic for gain. The rich and greedy now found that government service could be quite lucrative. Thus a democratic imperialism grew up with the Nobiles cashing in on plum jobs as governors of the new provinces and colonies, which they proceeded to milk to the maximum. This was the true genesis of the government sanctioned military-industrial complex we have today. The difference was that in that time the Generals held greater power than they do today; and this was the result of the changes in the army, which Marius had made.
Marius had created an army that was professional. They were not the citizen soldiers that fought a campaign and then went home to their farms. These soldiers were from all walks of life and every class, from citizen to slave and gladiator. And their loyalty was to their General, not the state. The Nobiles had become so wealthy that in many cases they could afford to equip and maintain an army of their own, as, for instance, Crassus had done 7 . All they needed was the government sanction to use it; again, which they had. Their goal was the barbarian lands to the North and East; wealthy new provinces to be wholesaled.
Caesar saw what was happening and realized that this was an inevitable process given human nature and the desire for wealth. His desire for a worldwide democratic government could not be realized under the Aristocracy, for their greed would again conscript the masses as their lackeys, as Sulla had done.
But the conquest of new provinces 8 would allow him to make them believe that he was just another one of them, and yet accomplish his plan for the new people’s democracy. It would mean subjugation for these peoples for a while (really no different than what they already had), but it would also allow their eventual freedom when the time came for him to throw off Aristocratic rule and allow these peoples to represent themselves in the new Senate which represented all peoples of the Republic; and it would also allow Governors that were also provincials to represent their own people 9 .
But he could not achieve all of this alone. Thus he enlisted Crassus and Pompey as his aides; this was the emergence of the powerful association known as the first triumvirate. The army he would raise to subdue the new provinces would allow him, in combination with Crassus and Pompey to force the new order on the Nobiles, and thus in turn create a new Nobiles which included provincials (ironically the tyrant Caesars would eventually in fact do this and create a Nobiles which included provincials; so the peoples of the provinces would eventually see something like local rule). But there were surprises in store for him; Crassus would meet an ignominious end in Parthia, in his zeal for military prowess, and Pompey would actually join forces with the Aristocracy because of his crazed grief over Julia’s death 10 . Caesar eventually did overcome even these hurdles through Civil War. But just when all his plans for the new Republic had been accomplished, almost flawlessly, he discovered a fatal glitch… man’s nature. The only way he could ensure real freedom for the masses would be to become himself a tyrant. This he could not reconcile. He would sooner let them kill him; which he did.
1 It is interesting to speculate as to whether Caesar fully took Pompey and Crassus into his confidence as to his long-range goal of a truly representative worldwide People’s Republic. There is every reason to believe that he in fact did, as he seems to have truly liked these men. He gave his daughter Julia to Pompey in marriage, because Julia loved him and he her. If Julia had lived the world may well have taken a better road into the future. The Empire would never have existed, and the “United States of Europe and Asia” may have changed history.
Also let me now mention something I will take for granted when I mention the word “freedom“ in any of the essays, footnotes, etc. in this web site.
The freedom that I feel Caesar meant was a freedom of local or group self-determination through representation under a central governing democratic administration. That is, the provinces and colonies decided how they were locally ruled, but sent elected or appointed representatives to Rome to represent them in empire-wide (for lack of a better word) decisions. This allowed even local monarchies, or oligarchies to be a part of a central democracy. For example, this is why I feel that Caesar allowed Cleopatra, as queen of Egypt instead of her brother, to rule Egypt, because she better represented what the Egyptians wanted. This idea of local rule and autonomy also allowed him to pacify his conquests much more readily. By this method, he was not so much a conqueror, but a conduit through which Roman prosperity and civilization flowed to the new provinces through their acceptance in the overall representative union.
Of course all of this relied on the fact that he would replace the Roman governors with local people. I think he promised the conquered provinces this very thing.
This meant a reckoning was definitely coming with the Nobiles, one way or the other. Unfortunately, all these very important facts seem to have very conveniently disappeared in history. But we do know that he was introducing the appointment of foreign senators, and we also have the very important plaque at Heraclea as evidence.
2 I give some illustrations of these coins in the book. It is amazing to me that in every book I have ever read in which these coins are mentioned or shown, they all say that these were coins minted by Caesar or the Caesarians. Did they even look at them! The picture of Caesar shown on them is grotesque! Caesar is always referred to as a handsome man; in fact, somewhat vain about his looks. Would he have minted coins with images of him that look like emaciated scarecrows? It is absolutely unbelievable to think that historians would actually use these coins as examples of Caesar’s self-aggrandizement. Obviously, whoever minted these coins was trying to ridicule and humiliate Caesar, not honor him!
[Added: July 7, 2008] In 2007 a portrait bust of Caesar was discovered in a river near the city of Arles in France. This is significant because it was made during Caesar’s lifetime, probably only a year or two before his assassination, and was probably commissioned by the veterans of Caesar’s legions who founded Arles. This true to life portrait, created by his friends, shows a handsome and athletic older man, in vivid contrast to the portrait on the coins I have mentioned above. Again, as I have said before, History is written by the victors.
3 This “plan” or “dream” is my hypothesis to explain the motives for Caesar’s later actions.
I admit I follow a dangerous course in presuming to explain the motives of such a man, especially on such scanty evidence. But then again, I don’t think that the evidence, although scanty (as it was the purpose of the later tyrants to make it so), is not without great significance.
The man himself was so unique, so extraordinary, that even his steadfast enemies admitted this (for instance, Cicero). In attributing to him the very same low and common motives that were held by those around him, history has in fact broadcasted a glaring contradiction, which even a child can point out.
To me the facts are incontrovertible, we need only follow such motives as are compatible with the character of the man who held them. Deeds in early and later life confirm a character that was: brave, honest, idealistic, magnanimous, compassionate, just and true. He was revered equally by all classes, from the lowest “rabble” to the haughtiest, and most begrudging, Patricians. The very fact that he spent 10 years conquering and pacifying such a huge and diverse area as Gaul, shows that his motives were not consistent with greed or megalomania, but with a goal of bringing Roman prosperity to these new provinces. Likewise his crossing the Rubicon was not the pompous proclamation of a tyrant, but the stirring call to freedom from the cliques that were strangling Rome, the greatest hope of mankind.
4 His motives, i.e. to create a worldwide democracy with local representation were what they wanted to hide. I mention that his partner in this was his wife Cornelia. I hypothesized a collaboration between them because of the following facts:
His love for her should have prompted a desire for privacy about their relationship – as it did – there is nothing said about her in history, except that: he defied his father’s wishes for him to marry another girl; she was his wife; he risked his life rather than divorce her; and that she was the daughter of a powerful popular party leader, Cinna. And one more fact: he gave her, a very young woman, a very public funeral; a funeral fit for a political collaborator and associate, almost a leader, rather than an adored family member. This together with the fact that she was Cinna’s daughter led me to believe that she was very much involved in his popular party plans.
Also the old adage “like mother like daughter” also drove me to this. Julia’s description by Plutarch, as being a woman very much involved in her husband’s business dealings (Pompey and she were almost inseparable), shows a woman who took after her mother. Plutarch, a Greek, was very disturbed by this very un-Greek (and very scandalous to him) behavior for a woman. See the book about what Greeks thought a woman’s place in society at that time should be.
5 See the explanation Caesar gives in the book: Chapter 21 “A Family Once More”
6 What I mean to say here is that “in form” the democracy that Rome showed was not like the American democracy. In “function” the democracy that Rome showed then was very similar to the pre-civil war democracy of America. In fact it is very similar to the post-civil war democracy of America if we exclude the institution of slavery. In actuality, in America today the wealthy still have an advantage, since their corporations and monopolies control our so called “free trade”; and also these artificial entities (or proxies for the wealthy) possess a disproportionate amount of political clout, (i.e.: lobbies) which in a true democracy they shouldn’t have! Also today we are seeing some very anti-democratic activity going on where government is actually bailing out corporations, which get into financial trouble??
7 Crassus had said that he did not consider a person as wealthy unless he was able to equip and maintain his own army. I believe that Crassus helped Caesar in this capacity very early on. As to Caesar’s finances to accomplish some of the things he did early on, I see Crassus and the King of Bithynia as heavily involved, both financially and militarily. See the book.
8 The conquest of these new provinces has always been a bone of contention especially amongst those who are in the anti-Caesar group; they reassuringly point to this as proof that Caesar was a power hungry madman. What they so conveniently ignore is the fact that the conquest of these provinces was a fait accompli. Someone else would surely have accomplished it (or at least attempted it), if not Caesar. There was a whole slew of Nobiles just waiting in line to do this, with Pompey at the forefront. This also goes for the expedition, which Caesar planned in Parthia. All of this was part of his strategy, which in the end would have disenfranchised the aristocracy and allowed local rule, and representation for all the provinces. See the essays on the interview comments page for more , namely a bronze plaque found at Heraclea which outlines a law passed by Caesar at the height of his power as Dictator.
[Added: October 14, 2007] To show just how corrupt the administration of the Provinces were by the Optimates and Senate, we may take a look at the far reaching reform Law passed by Caesar during his Consulship, Lex Iulia Repetundarum (The Julian Extortion Law). This Law, introduced by Caesar, passed by Plebiscitum, or by the Popular Assembly, made sweeping reform of the “kickbacks” which all governors and proconsuls received from the conquered provinces, they raped, oh, sorry, administered. It also gives a picture of how widespread the misadministration of the provinces had become. That Caesar had to pass it under plebiscite, also shows where the sentiments of the “Boni” (the Senate) lied. This Law is known only in fragments today, although it was huge, over 100 chapters in length (practically everything that Caesar did was either erased entirely, or almost entirely, or distorted; compare this with how much of Cicero’s works came down to us almost pristine! History is very much interpreted!). Not only this, even these reforms are criticized by Historians as being political maneuvers, yet this was passed before Caesar’s conquests in Gaul. If Caesar’s goal in Gaul was as it has been assumed by Historians, to be the money hungry antics of a mercenary madman; why would he reform the office by cutting off all the monetary kickbacks that made such adventures so lucrative, just before going? Or why spend ten years of constant travail, and danger to life and limb, on an adventure that would really end up giving him relatively nothing?
9 I find many indications that the commentaries of Caesar’s conquests in Gaul were later doctored, either in the middle ages by overeager Christians who wanted to empathize the cruelty of the heathen conquerors, or by the later Caesars who wanted to show the warlike superiority of their ancestor. For instance, the numbers of casualties inflicted is absurd. As is the tallies as to the numbers involved. In hand to hand fighting the enormous numerical superiorities of the Gauls would have led to crushing defeats not victories. Also statements made about the make up of the army are not in touch with the military realities of that time.
For instance, Caesar conscripted most of his troops in Northern Italy and in Cisalpine Gaul. There is no doubt that the number of native born Romans in these troops was very small (this is excluding the auxiliaries who were all Celtic or German in origin). In fact the number of Celtic Romans (Celts with Roman citizenship) was probably in the majority. In other words, the battles were between peoples of the same race and physical attributes. To say that the Romans were afraid to fight the Germans because they were so much bigger than them was absurd. In fact later on in the commentaries, Caesar mentions the use of German cavalry he had as auxiliaries. Overall the Commentaries are accurate as to the battles and main events, but many of the details are made-up in later times, by people who probably knew less about the times than we do today.
One more important point, which is frequently overlooked, is the complete pacification of this enormous area that occurred at the conclusion of the major battles. This entailed good relations with the majority of the tribes involved, and savvy negotiating (compare this with all the trouble that our army in Iraq is at present experiencing with only three main factions, and our troops not even occupiers but supporters… not to mention the lack of modern communications the Romans had as compared to our space age communications). Probably the hardest part of conquest is this retention and long-term tranquilization of the region in the aftermath. The commentaries were military updates, the behind the scenes negotiating was not spoken of, but obviously the people in this vast expanse could not have been so thoroughly pacified, if they still felt resentment against their conquerors, especially as their were so few Romans over so wide an area (remember Caesar began the civil war directly after this, so he must have felt that there was no threats in this area that would later come back to haunt him). Obviously, a wholesale slaughter of the tribes would not have allowed this to occur. Even more striking than this is the fact that caesar was spread out so thinly, yet he was able to always keep his supply lines intact. How could this be if he was deep in hostile enemy territory? Supply lines are the real determining factor to success or failure in such ventures, yet Caesar always seems to have kept this crucial factor under his control. Obviously he had the help of the bulk of the natives; after all they were the only ones capable of supplying him so deep in-country.
Could it be that most of the Gauls actually welcomed Roman governance and the prosperity it brought? I think this is very possible.
This also applies to the often thought grandiose scheme of conquest which Caesar had planned for Parthia and Germany and parts of Russia. Why would he have had the confidence in undertaking such an unthinkable (to us) undertaking, unless he felt he could succeed? Whatever he was doing in his conquests was not making him enemies (as history would have you think), but friends. His experiences in Gaul, and later in Spain and the middle East (we should be so lucky as to have someone like him there today!), which if we interpret them as the historians do, should have discouraged him from further conquest, instead actually encouraged him, even as a sick (he was supposed to be suffering from epilepsy) old man, to continue.
Could it not be that the irresistible call to freedom that he was proclaiming and spreading to a suppressed world was instead of instilling dread, actually opening up the doors of worldwide unity against the diverse tyrannies that had so long enslaved it; as the armies of Italy had melted away at the approach of his single legion (some sources say 1500 men total) in the civil war. Indeed, his only real enemies were in Rome itself, as he discovered when he uncovered (I think this is obvious) the plot against him.
[Added: July 4, 2008] Also I will add a further note on Caesar’s later, often ridiculed, aborted Parthian campaign. In his book “Julius Caesar, Man, Soldier and Tyrant”(Minerva Press 1965), General J. F. C. Fuller says of Caesar that “absolute power had unhinged his mind” in his later years. As proof of this he cites the clemency towards his enemies that he maintained to his detriment, and the further conquests of Parthia and the East he planned at the end. Probably of all the “so called historians“ that later analyzed Caesar’s motives, Dante in an obscure book, “De Monarchia” which he wrote on the benefits of world government, comes closest to the reasons for Caesar’s later “so-called madness” (although he didn’t attribute them to Caesar). Caesar was trying to do away with war by establishing this very thing, a world government. But Dante thought this could only be achieved under the absolute rule of a King, while Caesar saw that only a true constitutional democracy with local representation could in fact achieve this lasting world peace. Ironically Fuller saw this not as the true innovation of a modern genius, but the crazed delusions of a power hungry madman; he had bought Cicero’s deceptive double talk, and the tyrant Caesars’ bill of goods hook, line and sinker.
10 Pompey went literally berserk, after the death of Julia and her child. He almost seemed to blame Caesar’s absence for their deaths. He became very paranoid, and his paranoia was no doubt greatly aided by the close circle of Optimates, which hovered about him in Caesar’s absence. Also very oddly he buried Julia in the field of Mars, almost as if she had been a close colleague of his (this also gave me more confidence in my theory on Cornelia’s role as mentioned above in 4).
Originally Published:October 14, 2007
Revised:July 4, 2014