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Julius Caesar's Accomplishments as a Man of Letters

Instructor: Carol Cook

Carol has taught high school Government and middle school U.S. History and Global Studies and has a master's degree in teaching secondary social studies.

Julius Caesar, an educated statesman of Rome, is known for his record of ''The Gallic Wars'' while he was governor of Gaul. This record of his accomplishments helped secure his place in history.

Caesar Writes to Stay In Touch

Whether across a continent or a city, most everyone today stays in touch via social media. Friends send pictures of their pets. We tell them where we're going. That's what Julius Caesar did when he started writing in the century before the Common Era. He was a man of letters, literally, by writing letters from Gaul back to Rome and, figuratively, as an intellectual who wrote to influence large audiences.

Recording a History of Gaul

Realizing the importance of remaining in Gaul as governor to avoid both debts and adversaries back in Rome, Caesar wrote to encourage the Senate to extend his service beyond the tenure of office and to support his endeavors financially. He was known to make time to write each day, even while in battle or while traveling. His letters to his supporters in the Senate were read and repeated en route and circulated in the city. Received as seven books or commentaries on Rome's holdings in Europe, the messages were called Commentarii de Bello Gallico, commonly referred to as The Gallic Wars, with each book representing one year during his first seven years as governor.

Julius Caesar writes on the battlefield in this 1783 edition of The Gallic Wars
Title Page of the Gallic Wars

Writing for All the People

As an educated man, Caesar served earlier as a priest, soldier, and legal consul. A well-travelled and highly-regarded orator, he made his mark in the public arena before governing first Spain and then Gaul. Most well-known writers of the day wrote in a flowery and verbose Asiatic literary style that appealed to wealthy, educated citizens. However, Caesar wrote in a direct, concise and clever Attic style that made his messages clear and engaging to anyone who may have intercepted them or heard recitations of his conquests as his legions moved north and west. The tales featured the exploits of those who served in his legions and the lives of allies and foes. Deflecting any sense of ego, he wrote about himself in the third person, recording his exploits as if he watched his own actions and favorably commented on his decisions.

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