August 10, 2015
Great generals and statesmen are not always eminent men of letters, but the founder of monarchical Rome was such a man. He is so well regarded as a writer that for a time he was probably more known as a master of Latin prose, rather than the man who reshaped Western Civilization. Gaius Julius Caesar (100-44 BC), perhaps the most famous Roman of them all, was born a patrician. He rose to power by keenness of intellect as well as a healthy dose of democratic sympathies that made him one of the most popular politicians in Rome. Supposedly descended from Aeneas and Venus, as well as nephew to Gaius Marius, he did not lack an illustrious family. During Sulla’s ascendancy Caesar took the opportunity to gain military experience in Asia Minor, where he showed himself to be a conscientious officer. Caesar, like many Roman statesmen, used his military prowess and experience to his political advantage throughout his life, achieving the consulship in 59 BC. After his consulship he was chosen to be governor of Cisalpine Gaul, Illyricum, and Transalpine Gaul. Such extensive political responsibilities came with the command initially of four legions, probably between 15,000 and 20,000 heavy infantry. Caesar’s Commentarii de bello Gallico tells the story of how he used them.