Go to Rome and, aside from seeing some truly remarkable sights, you’ll have the chance to learn about one of the most influential figures in history - Julius Caesar. Initially a Roman general, Caesar transformed the Roman Republic in many ways and implemented changes that had long-lasting effects on Europe. The end of Caesar’s reign brought with it the demise of the Roman Republic, which later transformed into the formidable Roman Empire.
Who really was the man behind it all? Keep reading to find out these 10 things you’ll learn about Julius Caesar when you go to Rome.
10 He Was Supposedly Of Trojan Descent
Julius Caesar was born into a family with political connections. Some historians believe he was also descended from Trojan royalty. By Caesar’s time, it had been thousands of years since the legendary city of Troy was said to have been burned by the Greeks. But still, Caesar could apparently trace his lineage back to a Trojan prince called Aeneas.
Caesar's family claimed descent from the son of Aeneas, who was called Iulus. According to myth, Aeneas was the son of the goddess Venus, whose Greek counterpart was Aphrodite, the goddess of love.
9 At One Point, He Was Kidnapped By Pirates
Caesar certainly led a fascinating life as an older adult, being a man who led military campaigns and changed the history of Rome forever. But he also had a lot of thrilling experiences in his early years. In his mid-20s, it is believed that he was captured by pirates off the coast of Asia Minor. However, capturing him wasn’t the worst they did.
The ransom price they asked was considerably low, which greatly offended the proud Caesar. Once he was freed, he hunted down the pirates who kidnapped him and believed he was worth a low ransom price. Then he had them executed.
8 He Chose His Wife Over Political Alliances
More than anything, Caesar is remembered as a great political leader. However, there was also a romantic side to him. In 84 B.C., Caesar married the daughter of a nobleman called Cornelia. The Roman dictator Sulla did not approve of the union and ordered Caesar to divorce Cornelia. If he didn’t, he would risk losing his property.
But Caesar refused to divorce her and instead served in the military in Asia and Cilicia. Eventually, he was allowed to return to Rome, despite angering Sulla with his decision. In 69 B.C., Cornelia passed away and Caesar soon remarried.
7 Overall, He Had Three Wives & Several Mistresses
During his lifetime, Caesar had a total of three wives. Before Cornelia passed away, she gave birth to Caesar’s first daughter, Julia Caesaris. Two years after her death, Caesar married the granddaughter of his old rival Sulla. Her name was Pompeia, but their marriage only lasted a few years. They divorced in 62 B.C.
Later that year, Caesar married a teenager called Calpurnia, whom he stayed married to until his dying day. Although he stayed married to Calpurnia, he took on a selection of mistresses. The most famous of these was the Egyptian Queen Cleopatra VII.
6 Caesar Had A Son With Cleopatra VII
Caesar met Cleopatra in Egypt, where they soon became politically and romantically involved. While their political alliance resulted in Cleopatra being the sole ruler over Egypt, their personal affair resulted in a son named Caesarion. Although, it is said that Caesar did not publicly acknowledge that Caesarion was his son.
Cleopatra came to rule with her son by her side and had hopes of him becoming a great leader who followed in the footsteps of his father. Unfortunately, Caesarion was killed by Octavian, who would later become Caesar Augustus.
5 He Implemented The Julian Calendar
Julius Caesar made several crucial changes to the world in his time, many of them still being visible today. One is the Julian Calendar he implemented. Although the most widely used calendar in the world today is the Gregorian Calendar, the Julian Calendar was its predecessor.
Before Caesar, Rome followed the lunar cycle to set their calendar system. This was often confusing and out of sync with the seasons, which led Caesar to make a change. He consulted an astronomer and then implemented the Julian Calendar, which was more in sync with the solar cycle.
4 He Was A Vicious Opponent
While it may have been reassuring to follow Julius Caesar into battle, it was not much fun being his adversary. Historical sources show that he was a vicious opponent and could be very cruel to his enemies. Biography.com points out one case where Caesar waited for his opponents to use the last of their water supply. Then he ordered the hands of any survivors to be cut off.
Under Caesar, Rome seized Gaul (now the countries of France and Belgium), which allowed him to establish an even larger military. As time went on, he became quite a force to be reckoned with.
3 His Dictatorship Only Lasted One Year
Considering he is remembered as a dictator and military leader, it’s hard to believe that Julius Caesar’s dictatorship over Rome lasted only one single year. During his leadership, he made great changes to the Senate and the rest of the empire, including the introduction of the Julian Calendar and a reorganization of the government. He also relieved debt and built the Forum Iulium.
While some in Rome welcomed the changes, other figures grew apprehensive about the dictator. Especially after he named himself dictator and consul of Rome for life.
2 His Assassination Ended The Republic Of Rome
After he had served a year’s term, Caesar was infamously assassinated by his enemies on the Ides of March. The murder was led by Cassius and Brutus in 44 B.C. History has shown us that the assassination ended not just the life of Julius Caesar, but indirectly, the Republic of Rome.
The assassination resulted in a round of civil wars that paved the way for Octavian, the designated heir of Caesar and also his great-nephew, to become the first Roman emperor. Octavian later became Caesar Augustus, another notable figure in history.
1 The First Roman To Be Deified
Roman emperors were often posthumously worshipped as gods, and Caesar was the first Roman to be given this privilege after his death. National Geographic explains that the Senate gave him the title of Divine Julius, after which he was regarded as a godly figure.
Although in some parts of the empire, the emperor was considered to be a god, in the city of Rome itself this did not happen until after the emperor had died. The wives of the emperors were also sometimes deified. Among them was Livia, wife of Augustus.