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Caesar, Caius Julius

Caesar, Caius Julius (100 B.C-44 B.C), general, triumvir and dictator of Rome, and man of letters. The son of a praetor, his connection by marriage made him espouse the cause of democracy, and he lived chiefly abroad till 74 B.C., when he became a leading spirit in the democratic party. After filling many important state offices, he formed with Crassus and Pompey the first Triumvirate in 60 B.C., being at the same time consul. He used his consulship chiefly to advance his friendship with Pompey, to whom he gave his daughter Julia in marriage; while he cemented a friendship in another direction by marrying Calpurnia, the daughter of Piso, the consul who succeeded him. The government of Gaul and Illyricum, to which he was appointed when ex-consul, gave him the opportunity of proving his great military genius and of training a powerful and devoted army, and 58 B.C. saw him enter upon that nine years' career of conquest which subdued most of Western Europe to the Roman yoke. His first campaign resulted in the defeat of the Helvetii, and the second in the breaking-up of the Belgic Confederacy, for which the senate decreed a fifteen days' thanksgiving. At a meeting in the interval with Pompey and Crassus a common policy was agreed upon, and it was arranged that Caesar's government of Gaul should be prolonged to 49 B.C. His third campaign almost finished the subjugation of Gaul, and in his fourth he attacked the Germans, crossed the Rhine, and remained eighteen days on the farther bank. In this year (55 B.C.) he made his first descent upon Britain, following it up in 52 by another, from which he retired virtually discomfited. An insurrection on the part of the Gallic tribes was finally put down, and in 51 the conquest of Gaul was sufficiently complete and permanent to enable him to turn his attention to home affairs, which thenceforward engrossed his attention. Of his two colleagues, the one - Crassus - was dead, and Pompey, whose wife Julia had died, had joined the aristocratic party. At the end of his period of government Caesar was ordered to give up his command, and the senate called upon Pompey to declare war against Caesar as an invader if he should delay to disband his army. In January, 49 B.C., Caesar crossed the Rubicon, and thus entered on the third phase of his career, not more than fifteen months of which he spent in Rome, and which culminated in his murder in March, 44 B.C. He did not march upon Rome, but made Central Italy his object, and pursued Pompey to Brundisium, but could not prevent his retreating with his army to Greece. In March he entered Rome, the acknowledged master of Italy. In 48 B.C. he routed Pompey at the battle of Pharsalia, and he was appointed dictator for a year and consul for five years, and the tribunitian power, which rendered his person sacred, was bestowed upon him for life. After his stay at Alexandria with Cleopatra, and the defeat of a son of Mithridates at Pontus, and that of Scipio and Cato at Thapsus, he came back to Rome, and as dictator feasted the whole city during four days of triumph for Gaul, Egypt, Pontus and Africa, his car being followed by Vercingetorix the Gaul, Arsinoe, the sister of Cleopatra, and the son of Juba, king of Mauretania. He was made praefectus morum and princeps senatus, his effigy was struck upon the coins, and the title of imperator was made a permanent addition to his name. He was embarking upon a career of usefulness and of far-seeing statesmanship and political and economic reorganisation, when his assassination cut all his schemes short. Shakespeare leads us to half-pity, half-admire Brutus the conspirator, but Dante, no mean lover of liberty, puts him along with Cassius and Judas Iscariot in the lowest depths of hell. As a writer, Caesar's claims are eclipsed by his greatness as a general and a ruler, and most people perhaps look on him in this respect as did the schoolboy who said he was a man who wrote classics for the lower forms of schools. But his writings are terse and vigorous as becomes a soldier's despatches; they have all the vivid interest raised by an accurate observer and graphic describer, and recent researches - especially in North Belgium - have shown the fidelity of his narrative in many minor details.