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Free Study Guide-Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare-Free Booknotes
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HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

In history, Julius Caesar was a well-known general and statesman who wanted complete control of the Roman government. From an early age, he was a controversial figure. At age 17, he married Cornelia, the daughter of Lucius Cornelius Cinna, who was the leader of the Marian group that was devoted to Gaius Marius. The Roman dictator, Lucius Sulla, ordered Caesar to divorce Cornelia, but he refused. As a result, he was forced to leave Rome. He traveled to Greece and studied philosophy and oratory. Caesar was later pardoned by Sulla and returned to Rome to begin his political career. In 65 B.C., he was elected to his first public position, the Director of Work and Games. He gained popularity for the recreation he provided for the people. In 62 B.C., Caesar became a praetor, the office next in rank to consul. In 60 B.C., Caesuras allied himself with Crassus and Pompey to form the First Triumvirate. Although popular with the general populace, Caesar was hated by the conservatives.

Caesar knew that he needed a loyal army and military fame in order to become more powerful. As a result, he began a campaign against Gaul (France) in which he proved his military genius. During nine years of fighting, he only lost two battles in which he personally took part. He conquered all the territory west of the Rhine River. He also invaded Britain in 55 and 54 B.C. When he returned victorious to Rome, there were great public celebrations to honor him. Pompey, however, was jealous of Caesar's success; he eventually joined forces with the conservatives, who hated Caesar. Together they demanded in 49 B.C. that Caesar give up his army, which Caesar refused to do. To prove his might, he marched into Italy, starting a civil war. Within sixty days, he conquered Italy and had himself appointed dictator, consul, and tribune for life.

In 48 B.C., Caesar's army attacked Pompey's army in Greece. Caesar won the battle, but some of the enemy escaped. He then followed Pompey into Egypt, where Pompey was murdered. While in Egypt, Caesar fell in love with Cleopatra and fought a successful war to make her the ruler of her country. In 47 B.C., Caesar conquered Pharnaces II, the King of Pontus (now Turkey). A year later, Caesar defeated the last of Pompey's army in the north of Africa. In 45 B.C., he defeated the last two sons of Pompey in a battle at Munda. It was Caesar's last battle. He was the undisputed master of the Roman world, and he was ready to return to Rome in triumph.


The Roman citizens gave Caesar a warm welcome home. He further won their favor when he refused to be crowned King; an astute politician, he knew that Roman citizens really resented kingdoms. The conservatives of Rome were alarmed at Caesar's popularity and the power that it gave him. Gaius Cassius, joined by Marcus Junius Brutus, led a group of conservative aristocrats in a plot to murder Caesar. On March 15 (the Ides of March) in 44 B.C., the conspirators stabbed Caesar as he entered the Senate Building. He quickly died from the more than twenty wounds he received.

Caesar's importance in Rome lasted after his death, for he was responsible for many reforms. He cleared up the confusion of the Roman calendar, stopped dishonest government practices, reorganized city government, granted citizenship to many people who lived in the provinces, improved living conditions for the poor, gave grain to the hungry and founded a public library. Because of such reforms, Caesar was secure in his popularity with the Roman people. Because of his self-confidence, he dared to treat the Senators with disrespect. As a result, they plotted his demise and succeeded in his assassination.

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