Born in Rome on July 12 or 13, 100 BC, Caesar belonged to the prestigious Julian clan; yet from early childhood he knew controversy. His uncle by marriage was Gaius Marius, leader of the populares. This party supported agrarian reform and was opposed by the reactionary optimates, a senatorial faction. Marius was seven times consul , and the last year he held office, just before his death in 86 BC, he exacted a terrifying toll on the optimates. At the same time he saw to it that Caesar was appointed flamen dialis, one of an archaic priesthood with no power. This identified him with his uncle's extremist politics, and his marriage in 84 BC to Cornelia, the daughter of Marius's associate, Cinna, further confirmed him as a radical. When Lucius Cornelius Sulla, Marius's enemy and leader of the optimates, was made dictator in 82 BC, he issued a list of enemies to be executed. Although Caesar was not harmed, he was ordered by Sulla to divorce Cornelia. Refusing that order, he found it prudent to leave Rome. He did not return to the city until 78 BC, after Sulla's resignation.
Caesar was now 22 years old. Unable to gain office, he left Rome again and went to Rhodes, where he studied rhetoric; he returned to Rome in 73 BC, a very persuasive speaker. The year before, while still absent, he had been elected to the pontificate, an important college of Roman priests.
In 71 BC Pompey the Great, who had earned his epithet in service under Sulla, returned to Rome, having defeated the rebellious populares general Sertorius in Spain. At the same time Marcus Crassus, a rich patrician, suppressed in Italy the slave revolt led by Spartacus. Pompey and Crassus both ran for the consulship—an office held by two men—in 70 BC. Pompey, who by this time had changed sides, was technically ineligible, but with Caesar's help he won the office. Crassus became the other consul. In 69 BC, Caesar was elected quaestor and in 65 BC curule aedile, gaining great popularity for his excessive gladiatorial games. To pay for these, he borrowed money from Crassus. This united the two men, who also found common cause with Pompey. When Caesar returned to Rome in 60 BC after a year as governor of Spain, he joined forces with Crassus and Pompey in a three way alliance known as the First Triumv...
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... violated, she was maligned by gossips, and Caesar then divorced her, telling the Senate that Caesar's wife must be above suspicion. His next marriage which was in 59 b.c. was to Calpurnia and was politically motivated. Since Caesar had no male heirs, he stipulated in his will that his grandnephew, Octavius, become his successor. It was Octavius who became Rome's first emperor under the name of Augustus.
Caesar was a gifted writer, with a clear and simple style. His De Bello Gallico which means On the Gallic Wars in english, in which he described Gaul and his Gallic campaigns, is a major source of information about the early Celtic and Germanic tribes.
Scholarly opinion of Caesar's accomplishments is divided. Some regard him as an unscrupulous tyrant, with an insatiable lust for power, and blame him for the demise of the Roman Republic. Others, admitting that he could be ruthless, insist that the Republic had already been destroyed. They maintain that to save the Roman world from chaos a new type of government had to be created. In fact, Caesar's reforms did stabilize the Mediterranean world. Among ancient military commanders, he may be second only to Alexander the Great.
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