Charismatic leader, despot, tactical genius and military historian. Most of the facts we know about Julius Caesar, Ancient Rome’s most famous figure, revolve around his later life — his battles, rise to power, brief dictatorship and death.
Armed with a ruthless ambition and born into the elite Julian clan, it may seem that Caesar was destined for leadership, and it is obvious that the circumstances which shaped the man had more than a little to do with his path to greatness and ultimate demise.
Here are 10 facts about the early life of Julius Caesar.
1. Julius Caesar was born in July 100 BC and named Gaius Julius Caesar
His name may have come from an ancestor being born by caesarean section.
2. Caesar’s family claimed to be descended from the gods
The Julia clan believed they were offspring of Iulus, son of Aeneas Prince of Troy whose mother was supposed to be Venus herself.
3. The name Caesar may have had many meanings
It could be that an ancestor had been born by caesarean section, but might have reflected a good head of hair, grey eyes or celebrated Caesar killing an elephant. Caesar’s own use of elephant imagery suggests he favoured the last interpretation.
4. Aeneas was legendarily a forefather of Romulus and Remus
His journey from his native Troy to Italy is told in the Aeneid by Virgil, one of the great works of Roman literature.
5. Caesar’s father (also Gaius Julius Caesar) became a powerful man
He was governor of the province of Asia and his sister was married to Gaius Marius, a giant of Roman politics.
6. His mother’s family was even more important
Aurelia Cotta’s father, Lucius Aurelius Cotta, was Consul (the top job in the Roman Republic) like his father before him.
7. Julius Caesar had two sisters, both called Julia
Julia Caesaris Major married Pinarius. Their grandson Lucius Pinarius was a successful soldier and provincial governor. Julia Caesaris Minor married Marcus Atius Balbus, giving birth to three daughters, one of whom, Atia Balba Caesonia was the mother of Octavian, who became Augustus, Rome’s first emperor.
8. Caesar’s uncle by marriage, Gaius Marius, is one of the most important figures in Roman history
He was consul seven times and opened up the army to ordinary citizens, defeating invading Germanic tribes to earn the title, ‘Third Founder of Rome.’
9. When his father died suddenly in 85 BC. the 16-year-old Caesar was forced to go into hiding
Marius was involved in a bloody power struggle, which he lost. In order to stay away from the new ruler Sulla and his possible revenge, Caesar joined the army.
10. Caesar’s family was to remain powerful for generations after his death
The Emperors Tiberius, Claudius, Nero and Caligula were all related to him.