Caesar was an ambitious army general who commanded fifty thousand soldiers. It was through their support that he managed to conquer new territories for Rome. Certain members of the political system interpreted this as a ruthless endeavor. They believed that Caesar was driven by his personal ambitions and not any noble sentiments.
Consequently, a number of political leaders such as Pompey began opposing him. In fact, Pompey spearheaded firm opposition against Caesar through the Optimate group. This was a faction that had predominant support from aristocrats. They were a conservative lot and wanted to preserve the status quo.
To them, Julius Caesar’s policies were too radical; he needed to be ousted as soon as possible. Julius also lost support from the Senate because he was perceived as a leader of the masses rather than the aristocrats. Caesar therefore came into conflict with his political opponents because he belonged to a rival political group which undermined their influence. Pompey had also conquered vast territories and his leadership was incompatible with Caesar’s (Plutarch, 45).
Julius Caesar was partly responsible for the civil war. He had been pushed to the edge by Pompey and his group. The Optimates had started threatening him with persecution if he came back to Rome as a private citizen. At the same time, they wanted him to relinquish his position as governor of Gaul.
Caesar had devoted a lot of time and resources to the acquisition of vast territories. It would have been immensely dishonorable if he yielded to his opponents. Because of excessive pressure from Pompey’s supporters, Caesar decided to attack another province by marching across River Rubicon and this immediately became a civil war. In ancient Rome, a governor was never supposed to supersede his own borders.
One can therefore assert that Caesar was partly responsible for the Civil war because he wanted to safeguard his political interests. He did not want to lose what he had worked so hard to get. On the other hand, he was pushed into this position by his political enemies. He would never have started the civil war if they had not threatened him with persecution.
Their political ambitiousness forced Caesar to engage in it. It can be said that Caesar and Pompey were in a deadlock and none of them could progress unless they confronted one another through a civil war (Suetonius, 23).
Caesar was just a small piece of the Roman Republic puzzle. The eventual collapse of this institution was brought on by several social and political factors that Caesar has little control over. First of all, Rome had initially started as a city and grew rapidly to a state as seen during Caesar’s reign. Because of this vast expansion, the political structures became insufficient to rule these vast territories. Additionally, the Senate which was considered as a supreme organ in the republic’s political system became really weak.
This institution was not flexible enough to accommodate the ever changing aspects of Roman life. The Senate largely propagated an aristocratic agenda and therefore perpetuated class based inequality. Consequently, partisan politics was rife in this Republic. Some legions supported the conservative elites i.e. Optimates while other groups supported the Populares which propagated the interests of the lower classes (Plutarh, 45).
Julius Caesar contributed slightly to these problems by supporting one faction. He did not bother reconciling these two groups and therefore intensified the weaknesses in this political system. The Republic collapsed because it lacked someone who could control the unruly Senate, the legions and the masses. Romans urgently needed someone who could stabilize a corrupt and ineffective system and Julius Caesar failed to implement these changes.
Rome was pervaded by immense anarchy and for the Republic to survive, it was necessary to tame all these forces. Caesar removed members of the Senate who opposed him but failed to suppress them completely. Instead of taking away their wealth, he let them enjoy it and this eventually led to his death. Had Julius Caesar effectively tamed these contravening forces, then there may have been hope for the Republic.
Julius Caesar had very ambitious and noble intentions for the Roman Republic. It was unfortunate that he did not have time to accomplish all these plans. First, he wanted to resolve the debt crisis. He was also concerned about the plight of the soldiers who had settled abroad after rendering service to the nation. He wanted them to settle down but did not want to displace persons in those conquered lands as well.
Julius Caesar therefore demonstrated that he was concerned about the needs of his populace. He also wanted to establish peace in Italy and the provinces. He therefore understood that unless he could calm down political unrest among the masses then there was no chance of survival for the Roman Empire. He wanted to strengthen the middle classes. Caesar knew that class inequality was a problem in the Roman state so the only way he could deal with that challenge was to facilitate the rise of the lower classes to the middle classes.
He wanted to enlarge the senate to 900. The major problem with this last objective was that Caesar rarely solicited the Senate’s support during decision making processes. Since he did not give them a chance to vote and debate about major policy issues, then it was completely useless to increase their numbers. Enlarging the senate was not going to help Caesar because it was not in line with his leadership style (Suetonius, 151).
Caesar claimed that he did not wish to be king when Antony offered him a diadem. In those times, such ornaments were only won by monarchs. He politely declined the offer and explained that only Jupiter was King of the Romans. Nonetheless, Caesar’s actions contradicted these words.
He often surrounded himself with objects that portrayed monarchical status. For instance, he wore a purple gab, adorned his seat with special decorations and even engraved coins with his image. Also, his failure to involve the Senate in decisions made him appear like a King.
He also saw himself as a god when he ordered inscriptions of the statement ‘unconquerable god’ on public commodities. He even placed statutes of himself around various provinces. When he prepared for a battle against the Parthians, he was warned about certain dangers but he stubbornly refused to leave with a body guard. He was therefore playing god by assuming that he was beyond reprimand.
To some extent, Caesar was a statesman because he cared about the needs of the lower classes. He often inspired his soldiers to do more than they thought possible. For instance when they were tired of their journey to Brundusium, “they came thither, and found Caesar gone off before them, their feelings changed, and they blamed themselves as traitors to their general.” (Plutarch, 33).
His plans for the country are also indicative of his statesmanship. However, he may also be seen as power hungry leader because he continued to expand territories regardless of the repercussions. Caesar’s political enemies became aggressive when they realized that his thirst for power had spiraled out of control.
Nonetheless, this distinction is not helpful because he was a villain to certain people and a hero to others; Caesar’s selfish leadership style isolated the Senate and this put Rome at his mercy. On the other hand, he was also a reformer and a champion of the masses. So this distinction cannot be helpful because these classifications were not universal. Others saw him as a statesman while others thought of him as an overambitious and rebellious danger.
Suetonius, Tranquillus. On the life of the Caesars. London: Loeb classical Library AD 121
Plutarch. Caesar. 75 AC. Internet classics. Web. Retrieved on 18 July 2010