Hail Caesar

Vice in the individual was a recurrent theme in Ancient Rome. From it's beginnings the role of vice was part of the roots of the city. As far back a Romulus and Remus, misdeeds were basic to the founding of Rome.

Romulus, himself, by his actions set the standard for the use of vice in this new monarchy. First by killing his own brother, then by making Rome a safe haven for any criminal type in the region. It could be said that vice is a integral part of what made Rome. This statement may seem a paradox but without their vices many of the greatest historical characters may not have risen to the level of power to effect any impact on Rome. One such individual who knew all too well how to use vice for his own agenda was Julius Caesar. Julius Caesar was a master at manipulation. He knew how to use marriages and relationships much like a general uses military tactics on a battlefield. According to Suetonius."...He broke an engagement, made for him while he was still a boy , to marry one Cossutia;,for, though rich, she came of only equestrian family. Instead he named Cornelia, daughter of that Cinna who had been Consul four times.."(Suetonius p13).

He began to at that point to develop alliances that would aid his career and his rise to power.

The dictator Sulla had a distrust of him early on, in Seutonius Sulla was to have said of Caesar upon pardoning him for the marriage to Cornelia, "Very well then, ...But never forget that man whom you want me to spare will one day prove the ruin of the party which you and I have so long defended. There are many Mariuses in this fellow Caesar."(Suetonius p.14) One might wonder what characteristics that Sulla recognized in this young Caesar to disturb him so much.

Caesar continued to build alliances in his military service. One such was with King Nicomedes of Brithmia. It was reported to be a homosexual affair . This tarnished his reputation and was used by his rivals as a point of ridicule. His reputation somewhat improved with his victories over the revolt he was sent to suppress. He was able to rise in rank and with each promotion so did his popularity with the common people.

Julius Caesar took every opportunity to increase that power and popularity. Whether ethical or not for instance at the funeral oration of his wife and Aunt Julia he traced the family lineage to kings and gods. But in reality he was using this event to further his political goals; making the assertion that he too was descended from kings and gods. In the words of Suetonius "....Julia's stock can claim both the sanctity of kings, who reign supreme among mortals and the reverence due to gods, who hold even kings in their power."(Suetonius p15).

Once again in a tactical move Caesar married Pompeia, who just happened to be the grand child of Sulla. Even though the marriage was short lived due to the alleged infidelity of Pompeia ,but the alliance was complete.

As he rose in political life, "Caesar soon made an even more daring attempt at revolution in Rome itself......With Marcus Crassus, an ex-consul, also with Pulius Sulla and Lucius Autronius,......These four agreed to wait until the New Year, and then to attack the Senate house, Killing as many Senators as convenient."(Suetonius pg16) Even though the plot never was executed, it was not beneath Julius to eliminate his political rivals by whatever means available.

Caesar once he was in the office of Aedile used every opportunity to gain the people's support and adoration. He sponsored wild beast hunts, stage plays, and gladiatorial shows. With public opinion behind him, Caesar pressed on for greater achievements, he attained praetorship. During this office his enemies tried to tie him the Cataliarian conspiracy. "Caesar would not lie down under this insult, and appealed to Cicero's own admission that he had voluntarily come forward to warn him about the plot."(Suetonius p19) Once again using the situation to his advantage he caused the informer to be stripped of his property and sent him to gaol. Thus eliminating any threat to himself.

Caesar finally got himself elected Consul along with Bibulus. Caesar successful diluted any power that Bibulus had so that "he felt so frustrated that he stayed home for the rest of his term".(Suetonius p21) Yet one more example of how he used any opportunity and any situation to his own means. Once he was Consul there was nothing to hold Caesar back from ruling as he saw fit. And devices such bribery, plots and dirty tricks were order of the day. He continued to use marriage alliances for political gain. This time he married this daughter Julia to Pompey. And also married Calpurnia the daughter of Piso. Both men who could help him politically.

He had the Senate under such control when the "at the end of his Consulship to praetors.....demanded inquiry into his official conduct during the past year. Caesar referred to the Senate, who would not discuss it." (Suetonius pg 23) After this incident he required his magistrates "in holding some of them to their promises by an oath or even written contract."(Suetonius pg23).

With his legal troubles aside Caesar once again turned to the people to strengthen his power. "Caesar became the one reliable source of help to all who were in legal difficulties or in debt, or living beyond their means; and refused help only to those whose criminal record was so black, or whose purse so empty or whose tastes were so expensive, that even he could do nothing for them."(Suetonius p25) Vice and favor show us here that they all helped with his popularity even if that popularity was not from the most upright citizens. During one of his Consulships he was threatened with impeachment by Cato. Yet with the alliances that he had built up this did not happen. What is so amazing no matter how corrupt Caesar was he continued to receive more accolades and offices, governorships etc.

Much of the loyalty Caesar garnered was from that of his legions. He treated them well. They received gold, a farm and grain and oil when they became veterans. In many ways he was loyal to those loyal to him. This was one of the traits that Julius Caesar had that worked the best for him. He was genuine devoted to his friends and those dependent on him. " He showed consistent affection to his friends..... Having attained supreme power he raised some of his friends, including men of humble birth , to high office and brushed aside criticism by saying: 'If bandits and cut-throats had helped to defend my honour, I should have shown them gratitude in the same way!' "(Suetonius p44) Even his ex-wife Pompeia when brought to trial for adultery, Caesar would not testify against her saying,"Because I cannot have members of my household accused or even suspected"(Suetonius p45)

All in all Caesar was a master of political tactics. He used people either good or bad to attain his goals. One has to admire a man who was so good at these devices. So good in fact that he did not follow the rules of the Republic and no one dared to challenge his authority. And the more he did the more power he was given. "Not only did he accept excessive honours, such as a life-consulship, a life-dictatorship, a perpetual censorship, the title "Imperator" put before his name and the title of "Father of his Country" appended to it, also statue standing among those of the ancient kings, and a raised couch placed in the orchestra at the Theater.......a golden throne in the Senate House, and another in the tribunal.....a new college of Lupercals to celebrate his divinity and the remaining of seventh month as "July"."(Suetonius p46)

His enemies were many and in the end they were successful. They plotted and he was assassinated by Brutus. Yet through the ages and even today that day is remembered as the Ides of March the day a great man of the Rome was no more.

Written by Mary A. Cornwell
CFXS Director

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