Julius Caesar & Spartacus in History

Julius Caesar & Spartacus in History
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  • 0:00 Two Famous Leaders
  • 0:37 Julius Caesar
  • 3:24 Spartacus
  • 4:59 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: James Moeller
Although movies show Julius Caesar and Spartacus together, there's no evidence that they ever met. But this lesson will seek to establish that in spite of their varied backgrounds, the two men had many things in common and made their mark on history.

Two Famous Leaders

Two of the most famous men in the history of ancient Rome are Gaius Julius Caesar and Spartacus. One was a general, Roman Consul, and Triumvir, the very height of Roman power. The other was little more than a slave and Gladiator. Although they were alive at the same time, there is no direct evidence to suggest that the two men ever met. It was the Roman Triumvir, Crassus, who was given the responsibility of putting down what is known in Roman history as the Third Servile War, in which Spartacus was defeated.

Julius Caesar

Julius Caesar was born in 100 BCE to a family of limited means in the rural estates just outside of Rome. His ancestry was of the aristocratic, or Patrician class, but the family was not wealthy by any reasonable measure. Caesar climbed the social ladder the way most Roman young men did: through marriage, friendships, and the army. At the age of 16 he joined the army and served in Asia and Silesia. In 78 BCE, Sulla, the ruler of Rome and an enemy of Caesar, died, and the young Caesar returned to the Eternal City (Rome). He was assigned to Rhodes to study philosophy, and during his travels was captured by pirates. A crafty negotiator, he convinced his captors to raise his ransom. He later sent ships to capture the pirates and had them executed.

This was a pattern repeated throughout Caesar's life, and he gained a reputation for being ruthless. In 74 BCE, he raised a private army and put down a rebellion by the leader Mithradates VI of Greece. His social and political stock was rising, and he used his adroit skill at making the right connections when he returned to Rome to strike up a friendship with Gnaeus Pompey, politician and general. In 69 BCE, he was made Quaestor, a minor office. However in 59 BCE, with Pompey's help, Caesar was elected a Consul of Rome, only one of two in the entire Republic. At the same time, he made friends with Marcus Crassus, the wealthiest man in Rome. The three of them ruled in what was called a Triumvirate, or rule of three. Each had responsibility over a different part of the Republic.

Between 58 and 50 BCE, Caesar spent nearly all of his time in ancient Gaul (modern France and Germany), where he conquered the area and wrote a famous book, The Gallic Wars. By 49 BCE, Pompey and Caesar had a falling out, with Pompey supporting the Senate and Caesar siding with the nobility. The two men fought what is known as the Second Roman Civil War, which resulted in Pompey's death in Egypt. When Caesar went to Egypt to set things straight, he formed a relationship with the Egyptian Queen, Cleopatra, and fathered a son named Caesarian. When the two went to Rome, Julius Caesar made a power grab and was named 'Dictator for Life.' This angered the Roman Senate and a group of Senators murdered Caesar on the Ides of March (which is March 15th) in 44 BCE. They feared that Caesar wanted to end the Republic and create an Empire, which he most likely did.

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