The End of the Roman Republic
Caius Julius Caesar was born on July 13th, 100 BCE into the Julii clan; a family of patricians that were members of the oldest aristocratic class of Rome. The Julii boasted an illustrious lineage traced back to Iulus son of Aeneas, whose divine mother was Venus, and leader of Trojan exiles who settled Italy. (Goldsworthy 30-31) Through the generations however, the family lost autocritas, and by the time the young Caesar began his political career it was as difficult to succeed as if he were a ‘new man’. (Goldsworthy 44) Nevertheless he was an ambitious and often ruthless individual who rose to the top against all odds. In 45 BCE after a string of military and political victories, he was granted the dictatorship for life; an event that marked not only his fate, but changed the Roman Republic forever.
Yet, contrary to popular belief, Caesar did not seek to become dictator and neither was he the cause that Rome became an empire. According to Goldsworthy he was simply a “product of his age”. (Goldsworthy 516) In reality, the corruption and greed of the Roman politicians and their continuous use of violence to pass legislation or gain power was what crumbled the Republic.
The Greek historian Polybius observed that the success of the Roman Republic rested on its political system and its unwritten constitution. It kept any one individual from gaining too much control, similar to the United State’s checks and balances system, and distributed power amongst elected officials. (Goldworthy 11) Polybius believed Rome to be internally stable, but hinted that this might not endure. (Goldsworthy 14) He was proven right.
The Republic was flexible in times of need, and disregarded its own rules for the benefit of the state. For example, Caesar’s uncle, Marius, whose legislation proved successful, was elected into office for five consecutive years. Normally, he would have had to wait ten years just to run for a second term. (Goldsworthy 13)...