Julius Caesar

Julius Caesar,

the first emperor of the Romans, deserves a place in our work on account of his connection with Jewish history. He was born at Rome, July 12, B.C. 100, and was educated in Greece, whither the Roman youths of his day were wont to resort for instruction. After having successively held the offices of tribune, quaestor, aedile, high priest, and praetor or governor of Spain, Caesar was one of the three parties who constituted the triumvirate of Rome, B.C. 60. He now set out for (Gaul, ostensibly aiming at the subjugation of the Gauls, but actually to form and discipline an army that might enable him to force his coadjutors to leave to him alone the government of the Romans. The success with which his efforts, both as a soldier and a politician, were rewarded, are known to us from the history of the Gallic War that flowed from his own pen, as well as from other distinguished classic historians. When he went to Gaul he was to remain there five years, but the expiration of that time finding him involved in wars with the barbarians, five years more were added. Germany; Britain, and other countries also were invaded in turn; and when, at the death of Crassus, Caesar and Pompey alone were left to contend for supremacy, a quarrel naturally enough arose between the two rivals. Pompey was the favorite of the people, and therefore easily controlled the senate; if only once Caesar could be obliged to disband the army, as whose hero the victorious general of the Gallic wars was worshipped there could be no longer any need for contention, and Pompey alone would be intrusted with the responsibility of the Roman government. A decree was quickly passed by the Roman senate commanding Caesar to disband his forces; but Caesar not only refused to comply with the demand, but actually marched against Pompey, whom he soon drove from Rome, and in the Eternal City, B.C. 49, was made dictator. Of the pursuit of Pompey and the fate of the latter we need not speak here; but the noble conduct of the Roman general towards his fallen enemy and towards his assassins is so meritorious in its character, that it deserves at least, in passing, a Christian commendation. When the news of the death of Pompey reached Rome, Caesar was again appointed dictator for one year and consul for five years, and was invested with tribunicial power for life. His adherence to the cause of Cleopatra led him to enter Egypt and to engage in the "Alexandrine war," which also he brought to a successful termination in March, B.C. 47. In September of this year he returned to Rome, and was once more appointed dictator. But with the death of Pompey his partisans had by no means vanished. It is true that they had quitted Rome, but in Africa they were still dutiful to the memory and principles of their late master. To Africa, therefore, Caesar directed his steps; the party of Pompey was quickly attacked and subdued. The feud of Metellus, of Scipio, of Cato, and Juba was sad indeed, but the display of noble and wise generosity which Caesar now displayed towards those arrayed in arms against him proves him "to have been possessed of a great, magnanimous nature. He was not a man that could stoop to the vulgar atrocities of Marius or Sulla, and so he majestically declared that henceforth he had no enemies, and that hereafter he would make no difference between Pompeians and Caesareans." Returned to Rome, he celebrated his victories in Gaul, Egypt, Pontus, and Africa by four great triumphs, during which the whole Roman populace was feasted and feted by his magnificent liberality. But the display in which Caesar indulged soon led the Romans to fear that he aimed higher than the dictatorship — that absolute government was his object. Roman patriotism had not yet expired. Many there were in the Eternal City in whose veins flowed republican blood, and the man who dared to conspire to deprive them of the liberties they had so long enjoyed was doomed to fall at their hands. His death seemed the only surety of the continuation of their long enjoyed privileges of a free and untrammeled government. While Caesar was planning how soonest to wear the insignia of royalty, Brutus and other senators were sharpening their weapons to take his life. On the fifteenth of March, B.C. 44. after Caesar had taken his accustomed scat in the senate at the Capitol, a friend gave him a paper containing an account of the conspiracy against his life, but, while yet holding it in his hand, the conspirators themselves crowded around him, and at a given signal their daggers pierced his breast, and Rome was visited by the greatest disaster that could have befallen her at this time. To secular works belongs a reference to the writings of this remarkable character. For his reformation of the calendar, SEE CALENDAR, ROMAN. By the ecclesiastical writer Caesar deserves notice for his kind enactments in behalf of the Jews, and generous treatment of them. From this people he had received valuable assistance during his campaign in Egypt, and Caesar always preserved a grateful recollection of Antipater and his brethren. In Egypt he confirmed all the privileges the Jews had previously enjoyed. In Judaea more favorable laws were enacted; Antipater was appointed lieutenant of the country, with the honored title of a Roman citizen; Hyrcanus was confirmed in the priesthood, and provision was made for the fortification of the Holy City and the repair of its walls. See Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, bk. 14, chap. 8, sq.; Strabo, Geography (Bohn's ed.), 3, 184. SEE CAESAR. (J.H.W.)

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