Julius Caesar's Legacy

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  • 0:03 A Man for the Ages
  • 1:07 As a Military Genius
  • 2:18 As a Historian and Author
  • 3:15 As a Statesman
  • 4:03 As a Reformer
  • 4:33 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Julia Maypole

Julia has a master's degree in world history and has taught college history and other humanities courses.

Few people change the course of history, but Gaius Julius Caesar was undoubtedly one of those rare individuals. This lesson will examine the tremendous life of Caesar and how his many accomplishments create his enduring legacy.

A Man for the Ages

Have you ever read William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar or seen one of the many Hollywood movies about him? Why is this man such a household name? Well, like many great historical figures, Julius Caesar's legacy continues to inspire and interest us even in our modern day.

Gaius Julius Caesar is one of those larger-than-life individuals that left his mark on history in many different arenas. His unquenchable ambition, military prowess, political genius, and gifts as an author and historian all work together to create the lasting legacy that is Julius Caesar.

Born on July 13, 100 BC into a patrician family with ties to the senate, military, and other powerful people in Rome, Caesar was in a unique position to not only achieve greatness during his lifetime but to make a lasting mark on the totality of Western civilization through the written record of his military accomplishments, social reforms, and expansion into Gaul. Let's examine how his legacy continues to touch our modern consciousness.

As a Military Genius

Julius Caesar remains one of the greatest military minds in history: he never lost a war. Caesar also had an ability to connect with people. He won the hearts and loyalty of his men through his own bravery and self-sacrifice. Caesar often engaged in battle himself, he ate and slept among his soldiers, choosing to lead and inspire his legionaries by his own example. This dedication to his soldiers is a legacy many generals (notably American General George S. Patton) tried to emulate.

Another important aspect to Caesar's legacy, according to historians, is that he was able to conquer Gaul (modern day France) through deft political maneuvering and effective leadership during battle. At the pivotal battle of Alesia in 52 BC, Caesar took Gaul with an estimated 65,000 soldiers (versus an estimated 80,000 Gauls), securing Roman victory. Caesar's win changed the course of Western civilization. His skill as a general also allowed him to beat his ultimate enemy in the final civil war with Gnaeus Pompeius (better known as Pompey) to emerge as the uncontested dictator of Rome in 48 BC.

As a Historian and Author

A part of Caesar's legacy are the books he wrote about his military service in Gaul and his actions during the civil war with Pompey. His seven volume series, Commentaries on the Gallic War, provide much of what we know about ancient Gaul and the Celtic people. From what they ate, to what they wore, to their religion, Caesar's keen observations and meticulous note taking give us one of the few commentaries we have on what life was like in Gaul during Caesar's time. These observations are still used by historians and archaeologists to understand the mysterious Celtic culture, as so much of their history was one of oral tradition that died with the Christian reformation.

He also wrote a three-volume series of books called, Commentaries on the Civil War about the Roman civil war between he and Pompey. The first hand account of this experience provide us valuable information as to what happened during this tumultuous time in Roman history.

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