Authors: Julius Caesar

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Roman ruler and historian

Author Works


Comentarii de bello Gallico, 52-51 b.c.e.

Comentarii de bello civili, 45 b.c.e. (collectively translated as Commentaries, 1609)


Gaius Julius Caesar (SEE-zur) is better known as a leader than as a writer. However, his histories were models of the simple expository style of composition. Born into a Roman patrician family, he was required to prepare himself for political or military service to the state. He determined upon the military life because a relative, Marius, was the leader of the populārēs, the more democratic of the two groups who struggled for control of the state at the time. He was tutored in Greek and Latin literature and rhetoric. When his father died, Caesar at sixteen assumed the toga virilis. He was made a priest of Jupiter during the temporary triumph of the populārēs led by Marius and Cinna after the civil war that followed the social war of 90-89 b.c.e. He married Cinna’s daughter Cornelia, but when the optimātēs party led by Sulla assumed power, he was ordered to divorce her. Refusing, he fled to Asia Minor to join the Roman army under Thermus and there received the highest military award for valor. When he learned of Sulla’s death in 78 b.c.e., he returned to Rome. To further his political career, he studied rhetoric at Rhodes under Molon, and then he slowly advanced himself in Roman politics by supporting the common people to increase his popularity and by revising the popular assembly. He was made quaestor in 68 b.c.e. and, through bribery, pontifex maximus following the Catiline conspiracy in 63 b.c.e. When the Senate welcomed Pompey, whom he had opposed, Caesar went to Spain as its governor. On his return from Spain, he formed a ruling coalition with Pompey and Crassus in 60 b.c.e. He became consul in 59 b.c.e. and the next year secured his military power by becoming governor of Gaul. Caesar’s Commentaries, his only surviving literary works, cover his successful activities as a military leader during the subsequent ten years spent in subduing Gaul and Pompey. In the latter year of his governorship, the triumvirate gradually disintegrated. Crassus was killed in battle, and Julia, Caesar’s daughter whom Pompey had married, died. Pompey and Caesar became distrustful of each other. The senate, under the influence of Cicero, sought to reinstate Pompey. Civil war ensued, but with Caesar’s victory at Pharsala he became master of the entire Roman world. In 44 b.c.e., after being made dictator for life, he was murdered in the Senate building.{$I[AN]9810000687}{$I[A]Caesar, Julius}{$I[geo]ROMAN EMPIRE;Caesar, Julius}{$I[tim]0100 b.c.e.;Caesar, Julius}

Julius Caesar

(Library of Congress)

As dictator, Caesar undertook a complete reorganization of the Roman state. His later writings, such as political pamphlets, grammatical treatises, and even poems, no longer exist. Much of his writing was suppressed by Augustus; of his longer works, only the Commentaries survive. As history and memoirs, and as models of clear expository writing, they give their soldier-author a unique place in literary history.

Further Reading:Caesar, Gaius Julius. Seven Commentaries on the Gallic War. Translated by Carolyn Hammond. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998. Caesar’s own version of his conquest of Gaul and struggle in the civil war against Pompey. One of the masterpieces of classical literature, this work gives a vivid and exciting view of truly world-changing events by the major actor of his time. Indispensable for a full understanding of the period.Fuller, J. F. C. Julius Caesar: Man, Soldier, and Tyrant. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1965. Written by a distinguished soldier and military theorist, this work concentrates on Caesar’s achievements on the battlefield, and why he was such an outstanding and innovative commander. The study, which is generally free of technical obscurities and military jargon, helps the reader understand the difficulties of Caesar’s triumphs.Grant, Michael. Caesar. Chicago: Follett, 1975. Grant is one of the outstanding modern historians of ancient Rome. A well-written, well-researched biography of Caesar and his time, careful to place Caesar within the context of the fall of the Roman Republic. Caesar’s accomplishments become even more impressive when viewed as part of a larger whole, and this Grant does extremely well. The volume is well illustrated.Grant, Michael. The Roman Emperors: A Biographical Guide to the Rulers of Imperial Rome. London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1996. A brief introductory sketch of Caesar can be found in this volume. Although relatively short, it provides all the necessary information to begin an investigation of the man’s life and accomplishments.Grant, Michael. The Twelve Caesars. New York: Penguin, 1989. Both a continuation of Suetonius’s classical biography and a commentary on it. Gives the reader a thorough understanding of what Caesar accomplished and an insight into why and how those accomplishments occurred.Jiménez, Ramon L. Caesar Against Rome: The Great Roman Civil War. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2000. Includes bibliographical references and indexes.Suetonius. Lives of the Twelve Caesars. Translated by Robert Graves. New York: Welcome Rain, 2001. Suetonius’s work is the essential starting point for any study of the early Roman emperors. His biography of Caesar may lack historical rigor and objectivity, but it is a fascinating source of anecdotes and character traits.
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