Caesar's Civil War Lesson for Kids

Instructor: David Wilson

David has taught college history and holds an MA in history.

Julius Caesar launched a civil war in ancient Rome in order to take control of the government as the most powerful leader. Learn about the origins of this fighting and how it changed the Roman Republic in this lesson.

I'm In Charge

Can you imagine a world where you get to make all the rules? You can have pizza and ice cream for every meal, you never have to do homework, and you can stay up until midnight watching TV. However, first you have to take over the government, which is pretty difficult.

Through history, leaders who have wanted power above all else have taken over governments, but not always cleanly. One of the most famous fights for power took place in ancient Rome, when the general Julius Caesar overthrew the Roman Republic to make himself dictator, meaning he had total control of everyone. Romans fought back in a period of conflict remembered as Caesar's Civil War, from 51 to 47 BCE.

Bust of Caesar
Julius Caesar

Too Big For The Three of Us

Julius Caesar had become one of the most powerful men in Rome by the year 51 BCE. He was one of the members of the Triumvirate, meaning three powerful persons, along with the general Pompey and the rich businessman Crassus. However, Crassus died and Caesar discovered that the Roman Senate wanted him to give up his armies fighting in France. Caesar had a choice: either give up, or fight back. He chose to fight.

Painting of Caesar and surrendering chieftain in France
Caesar and soldiers

Instead of coming back alone, Caesar brought his army from France into Italy. He crossed a river called the Rubicon, the traditional boundary of Rome, which soldiers were forbidden to cross with weapons. Caesar famously said 'the die is cast' when he crossed it, because he knew that it would lead to war.

Crossing the Rubicon

Caesar wasn't in the best position when he brought his army into Italy to fight back, since it was small and many of his soldiers had to stay behind in France. However, the Roman Senate that opposed Caesar made a big mistake, believing that the cities in Italy would send soldiers to fight Caesar. Caesar was popular and promised his soldiers double their wages, leading to many people in Italy joining him instead of fighting against him.

Painting of Roman soldier
Roman soldier

The Senate had no army to fight Caesar and decided instead to run away. Some stayed in Rome to face the consequences, but many others followed Pompey, who ran to Greece to raise an army. After just two months, Caesar controlled all of Italy, but he had a number of enemies elsewhere.

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