Chrissy has taught secondary English and history and writes online curriculum. She has an M.S.Ed. in Social Studies Education.
Was Julius Caesar a Good Leader?
Was Julius Caesar a good leader? This is a loaded question, kind of like asking, Is McDonald's good or bad? You could say that the food tastes good, but it's bad for you! Julius Caesar is a controversial character from history; you could argue his leadership qualities and his impact on Rome for days.
So back to the question: Was Julius Caesar a good leader? The short answer to the question is both yes and no. There were many things that Caesar did that made him a remarkable leader. On the other hand, many of his actions were questionable and upset his fellow Romans.
Caesar the Good Leader
One of the earliest examples of Caesar as a good leader comes from his early life. Julius Caesar was born into a patrician family in Rome; although they were technically considered part of Rome's aristocracy, they didn't have much money. This fact put Caesar at a distinct disadvantage. Despite a lack of wealth and influence, Caesar set himself apart as a smart and confident individual. He joined the military at a young age, demonstrated his prowess on the battlefield, and eventually built up his own personal army. Throughout his early career, Caesar managed to secure multiple positions in the government, another testament to the confidence Romans had in his abilities.
By the year 60 B.C., at the age of 40, Caesar was elected to the position of consul, one of two men in charge of leading Rome at the same time. During his time as consul, Caesar passed a number of reforms through the Senate including:
- Giving land to poor Romans
- Making sure military veterans had land after their service
- A law against extortion, or threatening someone to get what you want
After his time as consul, Caesar spent nearly a decade in the Roman province of Gaul located in present-day France. At the time, Gaul was filled with different warring tribes. Thanks to Caesar's strong abilities as a governor and general, he managed to quash their rebellions and bring all of Gaul under Roman control.
In 44 B.C. Caesar was named the 'dictator for life' of Rome, a title that's not given lightly! During his time as dictator, he managed to overhaul the tax system, rebuild parts of the Roman Republic, and improve the calendar.
Caesar the Not So Good Leader
While Caesar certainly had many positive qualities and did many things that made him a good leader, there's an equally long list of things that make him a not so great leader. For starters, Caesar managed to become consul through a shady political alliance with two other Roman politicians, Crassus and Pompey. Called the First Triumvirate, the three men manipulated the Senate to get what they wanted. Even though the land reforms passed during Caesar's time as consul were beneficial to many Romans, the way he forced them through the Senate were not exactly legal. When he realized things weren't going the way he wanted, Caesar started a riot in Rome and then took advantage of the mayhem to pass the laws.
Caesar knew that as long as he was still a public servant, he could never be brought to trial for the illegal things he did. Despite his impressive work as a governor of Gaul, the Senate decided to take away his official title, effectively removing him from public service and opening the door for his prosecution. Instead of returning to Rome as a private citizen, like the Senate had asked, Caesar decided to go to war. Through some impressive political and military maneuvering, Caesar managed to conquer Rome. While this sounds like a positive aspect of his leadership, his actions ultimately hurt him in the end.
Around this time, Caesar managed to take control of Egypt and start a relationship with the Egyptian queen, Cleopatra. He brought her back to Rome with him. This might not sound like a big deal, but Caesar was married at the time, and Rome had some serious laws about having more than one wife at one time.
When Caesar was named 'dictator for life' in 44 B.C., he made some important improvements to Rome, while at the same time angering the Senate. Like the U.S. Senate, the Roman Senate was made up of representatives that voted to make and pass new laws. Caesar ignored the democratic nature of the Senate; instead he pushed his own laws and his own agendas. At the end of the day, the Senate was alarmed by Caesar's actions and worried that he had way too much power. His reckless behavior and devil-may-care attitude ultimately led to his downfall. He was assassinated on March 15, 44 B.C. by members of the Senate, a pretty good indication that people viewed him as a poor leader!
Julius Caesar can be considered both a good and bad leader. Caesar's ability to rise through the ranks quickly and to command armies at such a young age are good examples of his natural leadership abilities. As a consul, or one of two men in charge of leading Rome at the same time, he effected many changes that improved Rome; and as a governor of Gaul, he managed to conquer the territory for Rome. While dictator, Caesar continued to improve Rome by overhauling its tax system and improving the calendar.
On the other hand, Caesar can be considered a bad leader because of the way he went about changing the republic. As a consul, many of his actions were illegal. Instead of standing for trial, he went to war to take over the Republic. His lack of respect for the Senate and power-grabs made him unlikable. One of the greatest testaments to his poor leadership abilities was his assassination in 44 B.C. at the hands of members of the Senate.
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