Julius Caesar

Julius Caesar was born into a family that claimed descent from the goddess Venus through Iulus (Ascanius, son of Aeneas, the Trojan prince). Julius Caesar was one of Rome's ablest generals during the wars that marked the violent end of the Roman Republic. Although literary sources tell how the troops would sing ribald songs about him and his love life, his armies were devoted to him and followed him on many successful campaigns. Having brought Gaul under Roman rule and launched campaigns against Britain, he returned to Rome. Disregarding the authority of the senate he famously crossed the Rubicon river without disbanding his army. His success and ambition were viewed with increasing suspicion and this was compounded when he established a close relationship with Queen Cleopatra of Egypt. He brought her back to Rome to live in his villa outside the city.

Caesar was by now already a dictator - a single ruler with extraordinary political power - but he seemed to be on the brink of creating an eastern-style monarchy in Rome, an idea totally abhorrent to the strongly Republican senators. A group of these, led by Cassius and Brutus, assassinated Julius Caesar on the Ides (15th) of March 44 BC. This sparked the final round of civil wars that ended the Republic and brought about the elevation of Octavian as Augustus, the first emperor.

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