Julius Caesar was born in 100BC in Rome to a well known, but not rich family. The young Caesar left Rome for military service in Asia and Cilicia. When the dictator Sulla died, he returned, and began his political career as a prosecuting advocate.
He travelled to Rhodes for philosophical studies and, on the way, was kidnapped by pirates. He convinced his captors to raise his ransom, then organised a naval force, captured the pirates and put them to death.
He held a number of government positions under Pompey, and was elected consul in 60 BC. In 59 BC he also became governor of Gaul and Spain. In 55 BC he attempted an invasion of Britain. Three years later, in 52 BC, he defeated a union of Gauls.
After defeating his former ally, Pompey, Caesar went on to Egypt, where he involved himself in upholding the rule of Cleopatra, with whom he had a son Caeserion.
He was made dictator for life in 45 BC and was called Father of his Country (Pater Patriae). The month of Quintilis was re-named in his honour, and continues to be known as July. He was also the author of a large body of important political writings.
However, his apparent arrogance and ambition brought him great unpopularity and the suspicion of his peers. He made a number of political reforms, which served to give him more power and alienate his fellow senators. In 46 BC, he gave himself the title of 'Prefect of Morals', which meant he could hold censorial powers without being subjected to them himself.
Caesar used this power to fill the senate with his own partisans, while setting the precedent of requiring the senate to bestow honours and titles upon him. Coins also bore the likeness of Caesar while he was given the right to speak first at assembly meetings. He also increased the number of magistrates and senators who could sit in the Senate. He also tried to transform Italy into a province.
Caesar was assassinated in the Roman Senate on the Ides of March (15 March) of 44 BC by a group of conspirators (including his adopted son, Brutus) who wanted to save Rome from his alleged monarchical ambitions. His famous last words were immortalised by Shakespeare as "You too, Brutus?".
A bitter power struggle broke out after his death, which led to the end of the Roman Republic. Caesar had been popular with the middle and lower classes, who became angry that he had been killed by a small number of aristocrats. They turned into a mob at Caesar's funeral and attacked the homes of Brutus and Cassius.
Caesar's heir Gaius Octavian, who was his great-grand nephew, played on this discontent and raised an army to fight the troops gathered by Brutus and Cassius.
The 18-year-old initially worked with Marc Antony to defeat this army. He then had to fight Antony who had teamed up with Cleopatra to make Egypt a base from which to take over Rome. They were defeated and Octavian became the first Roman emperor, taking the name Augustus.
On 1 January 42 BC, Caesar became the first historical Roman to be deified, being granted the title 'the divine Julius' posthumously by the Senate.
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