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Julius Caesar

Julius Caesar

Julius Caesar was a Roman general and politician who named himself dictator of the Roman Empire, a rule that lasted less than one year before he was famously assassinated by political rivals in 44 B.C.

Grades

9 - 12+

Subjects

Anthropology, Archaeology, Social Studies, World History

Image

Julius Caesar

Gaius Julius Caesar was a crafty military leader who rose through the ranks of the Roman Republic, ultimately declaring himself dictator for life and shaking the foundations of Rome itself.

Photograph by James L. Stanfield, National Geographic

Julius Caesar was a Roman general and politician who named himself dictator of the Roman Empire, a rule that lasted less than one year before he was famously assassinated by political rivals in 44 B.C.E.

Caesar was born on July 12 or 13 in 100 B.C.E. to a noble family. During his youth, the Roman Republic was in chaos. Seizing the opportunity, Caesar advanced in the political system and briefly became governor of Spain, a Roman province.

Returning to Rome, he formed political alliances that helped him become governor of Gaul, an area that included what is now France and Belgium. His Roman troops conquered Gallic tribes by exploiting tribal rivalries. Throughout his eight-year governorship, he increased his military power and, more importantly, acquired plunder from Gaul. When his rivals in Rome demanded he return as a private citizen, he used these riches to support his army and marched them across the Rubicon River, crossing from Gaul into Italy. This sparked a civil war between Caesar’s forces and forces of his chief rival for power, Pompey, from which Caesar emerged victorious.

Returning to Italy, Caesar consolidated his power and made himself dictator. He wielded his power to enlarge the senate, created needed government reforms, and decreased Rome’s debt. At the same time, he sponsored the building of the Forum Iulium and rebuilt two city-states, Carthage and Corinth. He also granted citizenship to foreigners living within the Roman Republic.

In 44 B.C.E., Caesar declared himself dictator for life. His increasing power and great ambition agitated many senators who feared Caesar aspired to be king. Only a month after Caesar’s declaration, a group of senators, among them Marcus Junius Brutus, Caesar’s second choice as heir, and Gaius Cassius Longinus assassinated Caesar in fear of his absolute power.

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Author
National Geographic Society
Producer
Sarah Appleton, National Geographic Society, National Geographic Society
other
Last Updated

October 5, 2022

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