Before the arrival of Julius Caesar (born in 100 BC), Rome was a republic. It had a Consul, appointed by the Senate, who ran the country as a head. The Senate also had the power to remove the Consul anytime.
After defeat of Spartacus – a slave who rebelled against Rome – three military men emerged as victorious: Julius Caesar, Magnus Pompey, and Marcus Crassus. Only Caesar was without wealth among these three while the other two were arch rivals. Caesar made them an offer of alliance, gave his only daughter in marriage to Pompey and became a Consul of Rome.
Together these three made a ‘Triumvirate’ and ruled Rome for 7 years.
Caesar – as a Consul – used violent means to threaten Senators to pass legislations favoring Pompey and Crassus. Caesar became infamous and with him, the image of the other two had a falling too. So, the other two, who were arch rivals, decided to move a motion in Senate to remove Caesar as a Consul. One of the senators who was against Caesar was renowned philosopher Cicero.
Thus Caesar was removed as a Consul and was made Governor of Gaul (Northern Region of modern day France), which was always under threat of attacks from Gauls.
But Caesar had a plan.
He took his legions, made strategic plans, and gradually started to conquer Gaul. Gaul was considered a foreign land which couldn’t be conquered by Rome, but Caesar took it as an opportunity. In the next 4 years, Gaul was conquered and came under the rule of Rome.
And so came the time for Caesar to March to Rome with his legions. Pompey, along with Brutus and other senators, left Rome to gather an army to fight Caesar. Caesar, rather than moving towards Rome, went after Pompey and finally defeated his army and became emperor of Rome. But as Pompey fled to Egypt, Caesar moved after him after appointing his loyal soldier Mark Antony to take care of Rome.
In Egypt, Pompey was killed by Ptolemy – brother as well as husband of Cleopatra; who were in war of power. Caesar had an affair with Cleopatra. After stabilizing her rule in Egypt, he moved back to Rome. Together, they had a son named Caesarion who would later on become the last pharaoh of Egypt.
Back in Rome, Caesar made Rome an ‘Empire’ for the first time in centuries. He made new laws that made him more powerful, and kept the people happy with food, jobs, and gladiator games. He raised infrastructures. Education and record keeping were streamlined. Rome’s growth at that time was unprecedented. However, his aim of consolidating all powers to himself was haunting senators. He appointed himself Dictator of Rome for life in 44 BC.
But with Rome becoming an ‘empire’, the senators were not happy and hence they had a violent plan under a senator named Brutus. Yeah! Everyone knows Brutus. Caesar had a long affair with Brutus’s mother but that was not the reason for him to stab Caesar. Brutus had a vision and he aimed for Rome to be a republic rather than an empire.
Hence, in 44 BC, Caesar was stabbed 23 times and killed in the Senate by the senators. His final rule was from 49 BC to 44 BC – 5 years.
After Caesar’s death, Marc Antony went to Egypt and married Cleopatra. Their life story is adapted by Shakespeare in his famous play. Antony committed suicide when he wrongly heard about Cleopatra’s death. Cleopatra committed suicide after finding out.
The above mentioned history has different version as well. So, you may have read or heard things a little differently. I was actually fascinated by this story because of various reasons.
- Big names. All the names mentioned above in the post are names we hear and read regularly, without actually knowing that they all existed together in the same era in the same empire. Julius Caesar, Pompey, Spartacus, Antony, Crassus, Cicero, Brutus, Cleopatra, Ptolemy; looks like a classic cast.
- The fall. You can go north and south and down to the oceans and conquer everything. But then you are stabbed in broad daylight in the very citadel of the Senate you owned and ruled. Your own palace becoming your own graveyard.
- How much to attain? After decades of war and risking his life, he almost had no son – a long story of no heir – and had no peace. His consistent struggles gave him fits and he reigned for a mere couple of years in the end.
- How great was Rome? It had a democracy and Senate long before the Christ. It had a system of irrigation, education, record-keeping, voting, legislation, philosophy, etc. Unfortunately, we couldn’t learn from the great minds of the past.
- Where are we? We still have a combination of all the bad things. We have outdated laws from the colonial era. We have an outdated bureaucracy system for appointing the least capable men on the top posts. We have a Senate which can be brought at any moment. We have a military regime in the modern world. We have voting issues. We have bad laws and worse interpretations of laws. In a nutshell, we have a democracy which is not a democracy.