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Importance of Julius Caesar to History

Importance of Julius Caesar to History
Coming up next: Was Julius Caesar a Good Leader?

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  • 0:02 Who Was Ceasar? / A…
  • 2:04 Caesar Crosses the Rubicon
  • 2:55 Statesman and Dictator
  • 3:42 Caesar's Calendar
  • 4:20 Caesar's Death & End…
  • 5:09 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Charles Green

Dr. Charles Green earned his BA from the University of Texas, and his MA and PhD from the College of William and Mary. He has taught classes in composition, literature, American studies, and communications.

In this lesson, you will learn about Julius Caesar and why he is such an important figure not only to Roman history, but to the history of the world as well.

Who Was Julius Caesar?

Have you ever heard the phrase, 'Hail Caesar!' and wondered just who Caesar was? Well, he was Gaius Julius Caesar, and he was born in Rome on July 12 or 13, 100 BC. During his life, he served as a:

  • Military leader
  • Statesman - a political leader who promotes the public good
  • Dictator - a ruler who wielded absolute power over his people

You'll learn why Caesar's actions in the context of these three roles in addition to his contributions to the calendar and the impact of his death all make him an important figure not only to Roman history but also to the history of the world.

A Military Leader

Caesar was a brilliant military leader. This made him very popular with the people of Rome but a figure of envy and jealously among portions of the Roman nobility. His mastery of strategy, tactics, discipline, and military engineering are still admired and studied today. With his armies, he conquered or attacked:

  • Gaul, or modern-day France, Belgium, and Switzerland
  • Parts of what is now modern Germany
  • Britain, or modern-day England
  • Egypt, where he defeated the Egyptian pharaoh and placed Cleopatra on the throne

In a letter to the Roman Senate dated around 46 BC, Caesar, after achieving yet another victory, is reported to have stated, 'Veni, vidi, vici,' which is Latin for 'I came, I saw, I conquered.'

Through his campaigns, Caesar is credited with expanding the power of Rome and redrawing the map of Europe and the East, creating provinces that, in some cases, outline nations that still exist today. Into these conquered lands, his efforts helped to spread Roman knowledge, culture, customs, and traditions that continue to influence the modern world.

Caesar Crosses the Rubicon

In 49 BC, Caesar, learning of political intrigues being carried out against him and his family back home, led his army across the river Rubicon, an act forbidden by Roman law and considered an act of rebellion: The phrase 'crossing the Rubicon' has come to mean passing 'the point of no return.' Upon preparing to cross the river, Caesar is said to have uttered his famous phrase, 'alea iacta est,' which is Latin for 'the die is cast.'

After chasing his political rivals from the capitol, Caesar decided the best recourse, at least until new and fair elections could be conducted, would be to declare himself dictator. This created even further animosity among a number of the nobles of Rome.

Statesman and Dictator

As dictator of Rome, Caesar initiated a number of reforms meant to strengthen Rome and benefit its people. Many of these efforts still resonate in modern times, including measures designed to strengthen marriage and the family, to encourage the rich to care for the poor, to promote job creation for the unemployed, to provide bread for the hungry, and to increase the number of facilities available to the public, such as temples, forums, theaters, and libraries.

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