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Julius Caesar's Military Accomplishments

Instructor: Jeremy Battista
Julius Caesar was one of history's most important generals, and many of his tactics and battles are still studied by modern military minds. In this lesson, we will review some of his most outstanding military accomplishments.

The Early Years of Julius Caesar

Julius Caesar was born in 100 BC. He was born into a ruling class family, or patrician family. At age 16, after the death of his father, he was thrust into the role as the head of the family. At the same time, Caesar's uncle, Gaius Marius, was embroiled in a civil war against Lucius Cornelius Sulla and Sulla ended up winning. After some small skirmishes, Caesar joined the army to get away from Sulla.

It was here that Caesar began to move up in rank. He returned to Rome after Sulla's death, looking to restore his fortune as well as trying his hand at politics.

At one point, Caesar was kidnapped by pirates and held for ransom. He kept a superior air about him and once the ransom was paid, he raised an army and ships and captured all of the pirates, promptly having them crucified.

Throughout his life, Caesar held the title of many different roles. Among some notable titles, Caesar was an orator, statesman, quaestor, Pontifex Maximus, Consul, Governor, then finally Dictator for Life.

Bust of Julius Caesar
Bust of Julius Caesar

Military Accomplishments

One of Caesar's main roles was that of a military general. He made himself famous to all Romans by writing about his military exploits. He recorded the tales of his battles and his enemies and these tales were read all over Rome and its countryside. His letters were sent back to Rome to inform the leadership of his progress, but his letters were read far and wide and helped to secure his popularity with the people.

As a governor of some northern provinces, he chose to use his four legions to take over more land in the name of Rome. He pushed north and south and extended Rome over most of modern day France, Germany and Spain. He defeated many of the tribes of these regions as they were ill-equipped and they were easily out maneuvered by the well-disciplined, well-trained Roman legions.

In the year 55 BC, Caesar pushed back a Germanic incursion. In a show of power to the German tribes, he commissioned a huge bridge to be built over the Rhine river so he could move his army over it. The bridge was built in a short time and Caesar's army crossed it waging war against the tribes there. Afterward, he crossed back over and dismantled the bridge.

By 52 BC, Caesar had conquered all of Gaul which is modern day France. Gaul was a land of many different tribes. All of these tribes united under a single leader named Vercingetorix. To his credit, Vercingetorix had proven a formidable enemy throughout the campaign. Caesar used an elaborate siege-works and finally took down this enemy at the Battle of Alesia.

Caesar Takes Rome

Crassus, Pompey, and Caesar were part of the first triumvirate, a group of three men who had consolidated their power, influence, and resources to control the political processes in Rome. The first triumvirate fell apart after Crassus died and Pompey became at odds with Caesar. A civil war was inevitable.

Summoned from Gaul by Pompey and the leaders in Rome to stand trial for his actions as part of the first triumvirate, Caesar had to return to Rome. As he returned, he decided to bring one legion with him. At the time, those with armies were not allowed to bring them into Rome as this would be viewed as an act of war. In our times, imagine someone with a small army that took that army into Washington DC and marched right up to the Whitehouse. It would be viewed as an act of war. This was how Rome viewed Caesar's intentions as he crossed the Rubicon to enter Rome. According to some, as he crossed the Rubicon, he uttered the famous words 'alea iacta est' meaning, 'the die is cast.'. He knew his actions would lead to a civil war in Rome.

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