Julius Caesar: From Political Ascendancy to Gallic Dominance
Gaius Julius Caesar is a name known all over the world, but how did he get this name? The answer by military campaigns and terms in office. Caesar’s young career started with Pompey. Pompey was at the height of his power. He had everything that we could want. The only thing that Pompey could gain was ultimate power over Rome. However, to get to the top of the ladder, Pompey had to promise much to his soldiers that the Senate refused to oblige. First, we will look into the crucial role Pompey and Crassus played in Caesar’s young life, then Caesar’s first political position, and finally, the famous Gallic Wars, which gave Caesar a lot of fame.
The Triumvirate’s Agenda: Pompey, Crassus, and Caesar’s Rise
Pompey, at the height of his power, formed a triumvirate with Crassus and young Caesar. The plan was to get Caesar elected as consul in 59 B.C. Once consul, Caesar would finish Pompey’s unanswered needs. When Caesar did become consul, he did not only do as Pompey had instructed but also broke tons of rules made by the Roman Senate. Now, the triumvirate had a slight dilemma because as soon as Caesar’s term in office ended, he would be sentenced for all the illegal laws he made and his tyrannical rule.
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The solution was to give Caesar another place in the Roman Republic as soon as his term ended, so as soon as he was no longer consul, Caesar was sent to the sleepy backwater area called Cisalpine Gaul. He also received a legion and the area of Transalpine Gaul. These areas were bordered by the barbaric area of Gaul. Gaul was inhabited by barbaric tribes that often had many conflicts.
Caesar’s Strategy in Gaul: From Conflict to Full-scale Invasion
During Caesar’s five-year reign, the German tribe pushed a tribe called the Helvetii out of their homelands. The Helvetii asked Caesar if they could briefly move through his land to escape. Caesar responded with a definite no. However, the Helvetii had already destroyed their home and had no choice but to move into Caesar’s area of Gaul. Outraged by this blatant ignoring of his answer, Caesar destroyed the Helvetii tribe with his army.
Now, Caesar realized that he could conquer all of Gaul and become a military hero. So off he went, rampaging through Gaul, killing more than 1,000,000 natives and capturing the same amount. The Senate, outraged by these actions, tried to pass a bill to say that Caesar was a war criminal, but allies of Caesar in the Senate stopped the bill. Meanwhile, Caesar had conquered all of Gaul except a couple of the tribes, and turned his sights on larger targets. Gaul was a wonderful strategic military base.
Julius Caesar’s Showdown at Alesia
Caesar continued to use Gaul until, in 52 B.C., the remaining tribes united under a man named Vercingetorix. Vercingetorix was the glue that the Gauls needed. Under Vercingetorix, the Gauls waged a war against Caesar that would turn very ugly. If Caesar could only capture Vercingetorix, the Gauls would be easy to defeat. But without help from the Senate, Caesar’s troops were tired and weary.
Finally, Caesar found the place where Vercingetorix was. A place called Fort Alesia. Planning to ambush all the Gauls in the fort, the Romans surrounded Alesia and waited to starve out the Gauls. Unknown to the Romans, Vercingetorix only had some of his army inside the fort. The rest quickly surrounded the Romans. The Romans were trapped between two armies of Gauls attacking from both sides. The following battle went on for three solid days, with both sides sustaining substantial losses.
In the end, the Romans won, captured Vercingetorix, and crushed the rebellion. What started out with a sleepy country turned out to be ten years of bloody war. Caesar returned home triumphant with his account of the Gallic Wars, De Bello Gallico, to become the first supreme ruler of Rome. Now, Gaius Julius Caesar is a name known all over the world. Every school child has heard the daring tales of the first ruler of Rome, Gaius Julius Caesar.
- Goldsworthy, A. (2006). Caesar: Life of a Colossus. Yale University Press.
- Meier, C. (1996). Caesar: A Biography. Basic Books.
- Holland, T. (2004). Rubicon: The Last Years of the Roman Republic. Doubleday.
- Rickard, J. (2008). Julius Caesar: Conquest of Gaul.