Julius caesar and the rulers of rome

The Etruscan Kings were the first ones to rule rome. They were in command during the time of 600 BC, when persia and greece were the major controlling powers in the mediterranean area. the etruscan’s meanwhile, developed the city of rome quietly, trying to stay out of the way of the much more powerful forces in other lands. when the greeks fought the persians and won, during the persian wars, the etruscans saw that perhaps a great and powerful army could be overthrown after all. with this in mind, the etruscan kings brought rome’s army up against the greek empire and attacked them in ongoing battles. these battles were for the control of italy. rome could not compete, lost the battles, and the etruscan kings who pushed their people into fighting and terrible loss were seen as treacherous rulers. they were viewed as dictators who did not care for their people, but only for power and the spread of their kingdom.

In 470 bC, the etruscan kings were overthrown. The people of rome vowed never again to allow a dictator to rule them, or even a family of royalty. they feared dynasties and would take many actions in the future to avoid being under the leadership of a ruling family ever again. Instead, romans decided the power should rest with the people, an idea lifted from the democratic greek state of athens. there would be no single leader of rome, and instead there would be full bodies of government officials who represented a political authority and had the interests of the people as their main agenda.

The upper class people of rome were broken up into two different groups. these were the patricians and the plebians. Both groups of people were citizens of rome, and both served in the roman army. the major difference was that the patricians had history through their family lines that tied in with the past of rome. their family members could be traced back throughout the early history of rome. because of this, the patricians considered themselves superior to the plebians.

the governing body of rome consisted of two consuls and a senate. the consuls were officials who were elected on a yearly basis and who were in charge of running the senate. the problem was that only patricians were eligible to be elected as consuls. the plebians did not like this rule at all. they threatened to secede from rome.  The army of rome was composed mostly of plebians, and so the patricians did not want them to secede. with this in mind, the particians created another position, known as tribunes. this government position was one that could be filled only by plebians.

the tribune position was designed to have figures in government who represented the interest of the plebians. one of the most important powers of the tribunes was that they had the authority to veto the actions of any other government official. now, with this new position, the plebians felt like they were being represented. just like the way that only a patrician could be a consul, only a plebian could be a tribune.

as time went on, the plebians rose in power. with the plebians having positions in government that represented their interests, the patricians began realize that the rigid rules which separated the classes were not really so important. it began to matter less and less whether or not a plebian was allowed to hold a position in senate. and so the plebians were allowed to become senators. once this started happening, the senate quikcly rose up and became the most powerful body of the roman government. the senate members were the ones who decided on what the money of rome was to be spent on, and anyone who held a position in senate held that position for life.

the republic of rome stood strong as the greek empire continued to rule the mediterranean. when the greek cities of athens and sparta fought each other in the peloponnesian wars, the romans saw that the greek empire was getting weaker. the romans knew it was only a matter of time before they would have the opportunity to strike. still, they continued waiting, patiently. when alexander the great was the first to conquer the greeks, after they had been weakened from fighting each other in those peloponesian wars, the romans knew there was now only one man who stood in their way. alexander the great oversaw the biggest military empire in the history of the world, and so the romans felt it was best not to fight him. instead, they waited him out. when alexander the great died at a young age, the military generals of rome at last knew that their time had come.

alexander the great died in 310 BC, and by 300, rome was on the rise. the military generals stopped listening to orders from the senate and instead decided to take action on their own accord. Their first idea was to challenge carthage, which was now the most powerful army that had claims to the area. carthage was a city in north africa, somewhat distant from the mediterranean sea, and yet this city had ownership of the island of sicily, off the coast of italy. the romans wanted sicily for themselves, and they wanted to rid carthage from the area. they fought the punic wars against carthage in order to accomplish these goals.

it was a roman general named scipio who won the punic wars for rome, and these wars consisted of three major battles. by the end of the third battle, scipio had defeated the carthaginian general, hannibal, and burned the city of carthage down to the ground. scipio was now elected to the roman government. but there was a problem among the people. to be a citizen of rome, one needed to own land. and land ownership expired if a man had been away from the land for too long of an amount of time. the roman soldiers who fought in the punic wars were away from their land for the entire time that they were fighting, and were no longer entitled to it’s ownership. since they were no longer land owners, these men were no longer considered citizens of rome. scipio’s cousin, a man named tiberius grachus, had an idea. gracchus came up with the plan for the roman government to just give land to the soldiers who were returning from war as payment for their service. this way the soldiers could reclaim their status of citizens of rome.

the idea was met with great enthusiasm and tiberius grachus was seen as a hero. he rode this popularity for as far as it would take him and found himself being elected to government, just like his cousin, scipio. this scared the people of rome. they remembered the etruscan kings who had their own interests at heart and cared little for the people. they remembered how afraid they were of being ruled by a family of dictators. with both scipio and tiberius grachus in government, many sensed the rumblings of a potential dynasty. they seized tiberius grachus up, and threw him into the tiber river (which bares his name as a result of this.) in 130 B.C., the people of rome showed that they were very much aware of their history and how much they feared it ever possibly repeating again. they allowed their paranoia to outweigh their appreciation for the solutions tiberius grachus offered them, and decided the best action was to have him killed.

The Punic wars against carthage were the major wars that defined the roman empire. they lasted for over a hundred years, from 260-140 BC, and during that time, rome went from an authority in the mediterranean area to the most powerful empire in the world. Innovations were made by the scientists of rome, such as concrete, which was invented in rome in 200 BC. and for a while, the only crisis facing the people was that of who would be their leader.

a military general named sulla took leadership of the city in 80 B.C. by coming up with an plan that would strengthen the army. He had the idea to give the poor people of the city jobs in the army as soldiers. This was enough to clear the streets of the poor and help the city become stronger, and as a result, sulla was put in charge of rome. he was a vicious leader and had anyone killed who appeared to be a potential threat. Sulla would go out with his army, conquering new lands and leave the city of rome unprotected. during one these excursions of his, a number of german tribes came into the city and attacked. they killed most of the military generals and all of the senatorial generals. only marius, a military general who was not a part of the government, was left to drive them out. and so marius stood up and fought the german tribes and sent them fleeing out of the land.

The People of rome were forever thankful to marius and appointed him to be the new leader of their city. marius was the uncle of julius caesar, and his young nephew began to see that one day he could rise up to a position of leadership the same way his uncle had. when sulla returned home to find marius now in charge of the city, he brought his army against the senatorial army that was now under marius’ leadership. the people of rome were caught up in a civil war between those who supported sulla and those who supported marius. Sulla marched against the senate, had marius killed, and retook the leadership of rome.

One of sulla’s closest advisors and military generals was a man named pompey. Sulla knew that julius caesar was marius’ nephew and might one day come seeking revenge for the murder of his uncle. Knowing this, sulla told pompey to have caesar killed. Pompey was to bring sulla julius caesar’s heart as proof. But pompey had other plans. he admired what he had seen from julius caesar, and so he warned caesar to leave the city. then pompey killed a boar and brought sulla the boar’s heart, claiming it belonged to julius caesar.

After this trick turned out to be a success, pompey decided to challenge sulla’s authority once again, only this time to his face. During one of sulla’s baths, he brought pompey to his side and gave him an order to be carried out immediately. pompey disobeyed, and as legend has it, sulla was so shocked that he died of a stroke. this is the story of sulla’s death, although many wonder if pompey killed sulla during that moment and whether the stroke story was nothing more than a convenient fabrication.

Pompey now took over rulership of rome. he sent word to julius caesar and caesar returned to the city to support the leadership of his friend. Pompey took his army outside the city of rome to conquer any threats that might come to his city or to the people outside it’s borders. he started to go after pirates who would rob unsuspecting people out at sea. While pompey was away, a man named crassus began to build up an army of his own, paying men to fight for him with his own personal wealth.

In 70 b.C. there was an uprising of the slaves in rome. the slaves united under the leadership of spartacus, who riled them up and led them to attack the citizens. With pompey out of the city, the senate was uncertain of where to turn for help in putting down this slave revolt. and so they turned to crassus, noting his large personal army, and asked for him to help squash the threat. Crassus saw this as an opportunity for him to rise in power. He made a deal with the senate, telling them that he would only help if they made him a senator afterwards. they agreed, and crassus had his army put down spartacus and the slave revolt.

While Pompey was away, not only crassus, but also julius caesar rose in power by blackmailing and bribes and corruption. Caesar borrowed money from crassus and used that money to buy himself a position in government. most of the senators resented this. When news came that pompey would be returning to rome, around 60 BC, the senators began to look to him in hopes that he would put this corruption down. But the senate had made laws about bringing an army into the city of rome, and pompey followed the laws. he left his army outside the walls of the city, and with no army to come in with him, he was weak. Pompey followed the law of the senate, but ironically it was at a time when the senate was hoping he wouldn’t. they were hoping he would show his power by putting down the corruption, and instead, by following the laws, he came off as weak. The senate now refused to pay pompey’s men, who had been fighting for him. they had looked to pompey as their only hope, and by him not returning as the powerful ruler they were hoping for, they were so disappointed that they took action against him and his men.

Pompey was now about as hated by the senate as julius caesar and crassus were. All three men were seen as outcasts by the government of rome, and so they joined together and formed what was to be known as the first triumverate (rule by three). together they used their armies to overrun the senate and to rule rome.

in 55 B.C. Julius caesar took an army into gaul (what is now france), and conquered the celts, once and for all. the celts had been a threat to rome for quite some time now, and a few hundred years earlier, back in 390 B.C. when athens, greece was the most prominent city in the world and rome was just starting to find it’s way, the celts came in and sacked rome. Caesar now had the power to make sure that could never happen again, and he did by marching on gaul.

about five years after that, in 50 B.C., the senate decided this triumverate business had to stop. the three men who were running rome really had no interest in using the senate or respecting their authority, and the senate knew that once again, it’s one hope lied with pompey. he was the one, of the three-man triumverate, who always respected the senate, until the senate disrespected him, by not paying his men. and so now, once again, they appealed to pompey. they told him that caesar was rising too high in power and would soon try to overtake the leadership of rome as his own. pompey had given caesar an army to go out and fight with. the senate now convinced pompey to ask caesar for the army back.

Julius caesar had other ideas. when pompey asked for his army back caesar refused. and with this, in 50 b.C., Julius caesar knew that the man who once helped save his life, by sparing it from sulla, would now be his enemy. Caesar decided to take his army and to come after pompey. the border of rome was marked by the rubicon river. armies were supposed to be left behind the river, and were not to be brought into rome. As caesar stood upon the banks of the river making his decision, he said, “the die has been cast.” Then he took his army and crossed the rubicon river.

Caesar now took his army into rome, came after pompey, and had his one-time friend and ally killed. crassus also died, fighting wars with his army in foreign lands. and so after pompey had been killed, caesar was the only one left to run rome. he now had complete authority and took advantage of it. in 45 B.C. he decided that he had reached a position where he was all powerful, and formally declared himself dictator for life. this angered the people, who had been in fear of a dictator ever since the early days of the etruscan kings. betrayed by one of his own advisors, named brutus, caesar found himself being stabbed and murdered by the senators, over and over again. julius caesar had been a tough leader, conquering the celts and then gaining complete control of rome, but he let his power get too great, and the people saw this as a threat. in the end, they knew he had to be killed.

A man named marc antony inherited caesar’s army from him and in 40 B.C., he decided to take action against the men who had killed caesar. Marc Antony was julius caesar’s number two man, in command of the army. he felt that the senators who had stabbed caesar to death, needed to be punished. he joined up with Octavian, a big supporter of caesar’s, and together the two of them went after the senators who were responsible for caesar’s death, and had them all killed.

Marc anthony and octavian now joined together with a third man, named lepidus, to form the second triumverate of rome. but like julius caesar, octavian did not feel good about ruling the city alongside two other equals. he decided to change his name to augustus caesar in 30 B.C. and to go after marc antony, the more threatening of his partners. Marc Antony had moved to egypt by this time, and was living with cleopatra. when news spread of augustus caesar coming to kill him, both mark antony and cleopatra committed suicide together.

Augustus was now in full command of rome. He recognized what had happened to julius caesar, when the man became too powerful and had made the senators nervous. and so instead of calling himself a dictator, augustus caesar decided rome needed to have an emperor. he gave the senate back their power, hoping for their support, and claimed that he was restoring the roman republic. augustus caesar was now the first emperor of rome.



Julius Caesar