Julius Caesar was a Roman general and statesman who played a pivotal role in the transition from the Roman Republic to the Roman Empire.
From the age of 16 he grew a reputation in the Roman army, serving in Asia and Cilicia. Returning to Rome, he was pontifex maximus in 63 BC, praetor in 62 BC and propraetor in Hispania Ulterior. He gained the title Imperator (an honorary role assumed by military commanders) in 60 BC and again in 45 BC.
Caesar’s military prowess and political acumen propelled him to prominence. His rise was marked by notable victories in Gaul which solidified his reputation as a brilliant military strategist, and expanded the borders of the Roman Republic through what we know today as France, Spain and Britain. In 60 BC serving as Consul, he brokered a peace between Crassus and Pompey, creating the First Triumvirate.
He served as governor in Gaul until 50 BC, during which time his huge popularity and independence created tension between him and other elected officials in Rome.
When Pompey and Crassus ordered him to disband his army and return to Rome, instead, Caesar famously defied the Senate’s orders and crossed the Rubicon river (from the province of Gaul into Roman territory), sparking a civil war between the First Triumvirate.
Upon victory Caesar declared himself dictator of Rome in 49 BC, marking the end of the Roman Republic. He implemented critical reforms aimed at alleviating social and economic inequalities. However, his concentration of power unsettled the Roman Senate, leading to his assassination by a group of senators on the Ides of March 15 March 44 BC.
Julius Caesar left an indelible mark on history, and testament to his legacy are the many things named after him:
The Roman month Quintilis was renamed Julius in honour of Caesar following his death. We know it today as July.
The Julian Calendar
Caesar’s academics reformed the Roman calendar in 46 BC. Before then, the calendar was misaligned to the seasons. 46 BC is also the longest year in history, having 445 days in total.
Caesar / Czar / Kaiser
Caesar’s name is the title for Roman, Russian and German monarchs.
Caesarism is a recognised form of government behind a powerful, usually military leader – Napoleon was arguably a Caesarist and Benjamin Disraeli was accused of it.
The British warship was one of several named after Caesar. The Italian battleship Giulio Cesare saw service in World War Two.
The Caesarsboom (Caesar’s Tree)
Located in the Belgian town of Lo, Caesarsboom is a yew tree believed to be more than 2,000 years old. A local legend has thus emerged that Julius Caesar once rested under the tree.
There are nearly 700 limited companies (LTD) registered in the UK with the name ‘Caesar’. Many are associated with Italian food.
As much as you might wish it, the Caesar salad was not named after Julius Caesar, but the Italian who created it – Caesar Cardini.
This story is featured in History Hit’s Miscellany: Facts, Figures and Fascinating Finds, published by Hodder & Stoughton, on sale now.