MILITARY (0100–0044); ROME, ITALY
A powerful politician, army general, and emperor, Julius Caesar helped transform Rome into one of the most powerful empires in history. Caesar was beloved by many; however, his power also garnered much resentment from his fellow politicians. Read on for more about Caesar's life, his affair with Cleopatra, his assassination, and the famous William Shakespeare play that helped immortalize him, despite taking plenty of liberties with the true story.
1. Julius Caesar was born on either July 12 or 13, 100 BCE, but likely not via cesarean section.
For centuries, it was believed Julius Caesar was the first baby born via Cesarean section, but that's likely far from the truth. A 10th-century Byzantine-Greek historical encyclopedia called may be the source of the confusion, since it claims C-sections got their name from Caesar himself, stating:
"The emperors of the Romans receive this name from Julius Caesar, who was not born. For when his mother died in the ninth month, they cut her open, took him out, and named him thus; for in the Roman tongue dissection is called ‘Caesar.’"
The story, however, is highly unlikely for several reasons. First, C-sections were already performed in Rome at the time. For centuries, there was a law that required C-sections be performed under certain circumstances, which was instated during the reign of Numa Pompilius, who ruled from 715–673 BCE, long before Caesar.
According to the law, if a woman died while pregnant, she had to undergo a C-section, because it was against Roman beliefs to bury a mother with her baby in her womb. The law also stated that dying pregnant women must undergo a C-section to attempt to save the life of the baby. The Suda mistakenly says Caesar’s mother, Aurelia Cotta, died during childbirth. But we know Caesar's mother lived well into his adulthood, and some historians believe she may have even outlived him, so it's unlikely she underwent a C-section and survived.
2. William Shakespeare’s play The Tragedy of Julius Caesar left out a key player in Julius Caesar’s assassination.
William Shakespeare’s play, The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, is set in 44 BCE. It explores what lead to the assassination of Caesar and the aftermath. One of the most famous quotes from the play, uttered by Caesar upon his death, is “et tu, Brute?” or “and you, Brutus?” But Caesar didn’t actually say that; he didn’t even know Brutus particularly well.
The real traitor was Decimus Junius Brutus Albinus. However, he was barely mentioned in the play, and his name was spelled incorrectly. In actuality, he was like a friend to Caesar. The emperor even gave him a job in politics to help restore the name of his disgraced family, and they fought alongside each other in battle. But in the end, Decimus played a key role in the assassination.
3. Julius Caesar and Cleopatra had an affair that led to a son named Caesarion.
Caesar and Cleopatra’s affair was about more than lust; it was a relationship the both of them needed to reach their own goals. For Cleopatra to secure her place on Egypt's throne, she needed an army; more accurately, she needed Caesar's vast army. On Caesar's end, he needed access to Cleopatra's incredible wealth (imagine a fortune far greater than Bill Gates's today) to pay off debts and keep his own position in power. Cleopatra would eventually go to Rome with Caesar, where he was apparently very open about their affair. Together, they had a son, Caesarion, and Caesar's public displays of affection even included having a statue erected of Cleopatra in Rome's Temple of Venus Genetrix. She remained in Rome until Caesar was assassinated, which ultimately forced her and her son to flee.
4. Julius Caesar was assassinated on March 15, 44 BCE, after he was stabbed 23 times.
In 44 BCE, Caesar declared himself dictator for life. While many of his changes and reforms were well-received by lower- and middle-class populations, other politicians grew anxious about his ever-growing power. The animosity eventually boiled over, and on March 15, 44 BCE, the emperor was stabbed to death by what's been described as a group of approximately 40 senators.
5. Julius Caesar was Kidnaped by Pirates and demanded they ask for a higher ransom.
When Caesar was 25 years old, he was sailing the Aegean Sea and was kidnaped by Cicilian pirates. The pirates said they were going to demand 20 talents of silver (about $600,000 today), but, apparently, Caesar laughed in their face and told them they should ask for 50 (about 1550 kg of silver). While his associates went off to get the ransom, Caesar was forced to wait in captivity as the money was gathered and delivered. After he was freed, he gathered a small group of soldiers, hunted the pirates down, slit their throats, and took his silver back.
6. Julius Caesar had three wives during his life.
Caesar married Cornelia, his first wife, in 84 BCE. They had a daughter together but Cornelia died in 69 BCE. In 67 BCE, he married Pompeia, who he later divorced. Julius Caesar then married Calpurnia in 59 BCE, and they remained together until his death.
7. You Can visit the site Where Julius Caesar was assassinated.
Largo di Torre Argentina is Rome’s oldest open-air square, and it was where Caesar was stabbed around 23 times on March 15, 44 BCE. It fell into disrepair during the following centuries, but after a $1.1 million restoration project, the historic site will be open to the public in 2021.
8. A bust thought to be of Julius Caesar was found in 2007.
Some historians and archeologists believe a bust pulled from the Rhône River in France in 2007 is actually of Julius Caesar. If so, it would be the only surviving statue made of the emperor while he was alive. Since most visual representations of Caesar were made after his death, historians say they tend to be idealized versions of him. But this bust is thought to resemble the leader as he really looked, showing a receding hairline and wrinkles developing on his forehead. It’s currently housed at Musée Départmental de l’Arles Antique.
Famous Julius Caesar Quotes.
- “I came, I saw, I conquered.” Or “Veni, Vidi, Vici,” in Latin
- “Men willingly believe what they wish.”
- “If you must break the law, do so to seize power: In all other cases observe it.”
- “No one is so brave that he is not disturbed by something unexpected.”
- “I love treason but hate the traitor.”
Famous quotes from William Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Julius Caesar.
- “Cowards die many times before their deaths; The valiant never taste of death but once.”
- “Death, a necessary end, will come when it will come.”
- “Beware the Ides of March.” (said by a fortune-teller)