Gaius Julius Caesar was born during July of 100 BC in Rome to a ruling class family.
The name “Caesar” reportedly originated, according to Pliny the Elder, with an ancestor who was born by caesarean section.
Julius Caesar would later lend favor to the story that an ancestor had killed an elephant (caesai in Moorish) in battle.
His father died suddenly in 85 BC, forcing the sixteen year old to take over as head of the family.
Around this time, his uncle Gaius Marius gained power and nominated Julius as the new high priest of Jupiter and married him off to Cornelia (the daughter of his uncle’s political ally Lucius Cornelius Cinna).
But when rival Lucius Cornelius Sulla gained power, Julius was stripped of power, his inheritance, as well as his wife’s dowry and his priesthood.
Rather than divorcing his wife and joining forces with Sulla, Julius went into hiding until his wife died in 76 BC.
Ironically, his mother’s family had been supporters of Sulla and Julius Caesar was ultimately accepted as a soldier in Sulla’s army.
Julius served well and rose in the ranks distinguishing himself as a military leader.
Then in 60 BC, Julius Caesar sought election as consul and reportedly bribed his way to victory.
Julius joined a political alliance with Crassus and Pompey that became known as the First Triumvirate (”rule of three men”) with the marriage of his sixteen year old daughter Julia to Pompey.
Julius also married again, this time to Calpurnia, the daughter of another powerful senator.
When Caesar was first elected, the aristocracy tried to limit his future power by allotting the woods and pastures of Italy, rather than the governorship of a province, as his military command duty after his year in office was over.
With the help of political allies, Caesar later overturned this, and was instead appointed to govern Cisalpine Gaul (northern Italy) and Illyricum (southeastern Europe), with Transalpine Gaul (southern France) later added, giving him command of four legions.
Caesar went on to his famous military conquest of Gaul, completed by 51 BC, which extended Rome’s territory to the English Channel and the Rhine.
Caesar became the first Roman general to cross both when he built a bridge across the Rhine and conducted the first invasion of Britain.
These achievements granted Caesar unmatched military power and threatened to eclipse the standing of Pompey, who had realigned himself with the Senate after the death of Crassus in 53 BC.
When Caesar’s consulship ended, the Roman Senate led by Pompey refused his second consulship, ordered him to give up his commands.
Julius Caesar refused, which led Pompey and the Senate to demand that he return to Rome to face prosecution for insubordination and treason.
Forced to choose either the end of his political career, or civil war, Caesar chose war.
Then on 10 January 10, 49 BC, Julius Caesar led his Roman Legion, the Legio XIII Gemina, and crossed the Rubicon River, the boundary between the Cisalpine Gaul province, to the north, and Italy proper, to the south.
This was a legally-proscribed action forbidden to any army-leading general.
The proscription protected the Roman Republic from a coup d’état; thus, with this crossing Julius Caesar began a civil war.
This act of war on the Roman Republic led to widespread approval amongst the Roman civilians, who believed Caesar a hero.
One historical record reported that Julius Caesar made a decisive comment upon crossing the Rubicon: Alea iacta est (usually translated as “The die is cast”).
The Roman Legion remained faithful to Caesar during the resulting civil war between Caesar and the conservative Optimates faction of the senate, whose legions were commanded by Pompey.
After the decisive victory over Pompey at Pharsalus, Julius Caesar was appointed dictator, with Mark Antony as his second in command.
Between his crossing of the Rubicon River in 49 BC, and his assassination in 44 BC, Caesar established a new constitution, which was intended to accomplish three separate goals.
First, he wanted to suppress all armed resistance out in the provinces, and thus bring order back to the empire.
Second, he wanted to create a strong central government in Rome.
Finally, he wanted to knit together the entire empire into a single cohesive unit.
The first goal was accomplished when Caesar defeated Pompey and his supporters.
To accomplish the other two goals, he needed to ensure that his control over the government was undisputed, and so he assumed these powers by increasing his own authority, and by decreasing the authority of Rome’s other political institutions.
Finally, he enacted a series of reforms that were meant to address several long neglected issues, the most important of which was his reform of the calendar.
On the Ides of March (15 March; see Roman calendar) of 44 BC, Caesar was due to appear at a session of the Senate.
Mark Antony, having vaguely learned of the plot the night before from a terrified Liberator named Servilius Casca, and fearing the worst, went to head Caesar off.
The plotters, however, had anticipated this and, fearing that Antony would come to Caesar’s aid, had arranged for Trebonius to intercept him just as he approached the portico of Theatre of Pompey, where the session was to be held, and detain him outside. When he heard the commotion from the senate chamber, Antony fled.
According to Plutarch, as Caesar arrived at the Senate, Tillius Cimber presented him with a petition to recall his exiled brother.
The other conspirators crowded round to offer support. Both Plutarch and Suetonius say that Caesar waved him away, but Cimber grabbed his shoulders and pulled down Caesar’s tunic.
Caesar then cried to Cimber, “Why, this is violence!” (“Ista quidem vis est!”).
At the same time, Casca produced his dagger and made a glancing thrust at the dictator’s neck. Caesar turned around quickly and caught Casca by the arm. According to Plutarch, he said in Latin, “Casca, you villain, what are you doing?”
Within moments, the entire group, including Brutus, was striking out at the dictator.
Caesar attempted to get away, but, blinded by blood, he tripped and fell; the men continued stabbing him as he lay defenseless on the lower steps of the portico.
According to Eutropius, around 60 or more men participated in the assassination. He was stabbed 23 times.
Caesar’s dead body lay where it fell on the Senate floor for nearly three hours before other officials arrived to remove it.
Caesar’s body was cremated, and on the site of his cremation the Temple of Caesar was erected a few years later (at the east side of the main square of the Roman Forum).
In the ensuing chaos Mark Antony, Octavian (later Augustus Caesar), and others fought a series of five civil wars, which would end in the formation of the Roman Empire.
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