Caesar's Conquest of Gaul

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Caesar's Conquest of Gaul

Gaius Julius Caesar, born 100 B.C.E. in Rome to the impoverished patrician Julian Clan, knew controversy at an early age. Nephew to Popular Gaius Marius, he was earmarked by the Optimate dictator Sulla for prosciption after his refusal to divorce his Popular wife, Cinna. Fleeing Rome, and not returning until after Sulla's resignation in 78 B.C.E, upon his return he gained a position as a pontificate, an important Roman priesthood. Slowly but surely throughout his lifetime he worked his way up the political ladder, eventually becoming Consul, and finally Dictator Perpeteus – Dictator for life. One of the most influential political and military leaders of all time, Caesar was also a highly intelligent man and an exceptional orator. However, acquiring this absolute power was no mean feat, and Caesar had well equipped himself through previous expeditions with all the resources necessary to gain power in Ancient Rome.

One such "expedition" was Julius Caesar's conquest of Gaul. Through Gaul, Caesar found a way to acquire power and prestige for himself within the Roman political arena. Therefore, Caesar's conquest of Gaul was incidental to his rise to power, and was merely used as a "stepping-stone" by which he could climb further up the political ladder, following the traditional path of the cursus honorum. His conquest of Gaul gave him all the resources necessary to climb the political ladder – wealth, popular support by the people of Rome, and, most importantly of all, the support of a staunchly loyal and experienced army.

In previous years, Caesar had relied upon the wealth and prestige of others in order to further his own political and military ambitions. Before his governorship of Cisalpine Gaul, he relied heavily upon the financial support of Crassus (whom was his main creditor) to gain favour with the Roman public. However, with his appointment as proconsul of Cisalpine Gaul and Illyricum in 58 B.C.E, Caesar saw an opportunity to increase his own wealth and prestige without relying upon the support of others. To his command of Cisalpine Gaul, he was also later given the command of Transalpine Gaul. His command of the Gallic region had several advantages. Firstly, the Po Valley was an excellent recruiting ground for troops. Secondly through Gaul, Caesar had an opportunity to acquire great wealth, which would be needed to further his political career. Furthermore, the political instability of Gaul gave Caesar an excuse to gain military glory for himself, and thus the support of the public in Rome.

Almost every single move that Caesar made during his political career was not without a clear purpose; indeed even his acceptance of the position of proconsul was not without purpose: Cisalpine Gaul's proximity to Rome allowed Caesar to keep a close eye of the affairs of Rome. However, it is also apparent that there were other reasons for his acceptance of the post:

"When at the close of his consulship the praetors Gaius Memmius and Lucius Domitius moved an inquiry into his conduct during the previous year, Caesar laid the matter before the senate; and when they failed to take it up, and three days had been wasted in fruitless wrangling, went off to his province. Whereupon his quaestor was at once arraigned on several counts, as a preliminary to his own impeachment. Presently he himself too was prosecuted by Lucius Antistius, tribune of the commons, and it was only by appealing to the whole college that he contrived not to be brought to trial, on the ground that he was absent on public service." (1)

During Caesar's first consulship of 59 B.C.E, his supporters used violence as a means of getting his political counterparts to pass his Agrarian Land Bill (the Lex Campania), which proposed to divide up publicly-owned land between the army veterans, as well as the urban poor. The Optimates vehemently opposed the Bill, and it was only through the use of violence that the Bill was ratified in...
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