Julius Caesar’s rise to prominence up until 60BC transpired due to a number of factors. The first of these being his family background and Marian connections, which at varying stages of his life were both a help and a hindrance. We can also note that most of his marriages were used to gain political and financial resources accentuating his connections to powerful families and individuals. This rise to prominence can also be attributed to Caesar’s opportunistic nature and vast ambitions coupled with his education and specialised tuition in the art of rhetoric, skills essential to gain popularity and political office. Additionally his acquisition of religious titles added prestige and status to his name while providing him with an array of religious powers. We also see his political alliances reflecting the success of his early political career and rise through the cursus honorum. All of these aspects were an integral part of Caesar’s public and personal life contributing in no small way to his eventual rise to prominence.
Caesar’s family background and Marian connections gave him a base to build his career as well as enhancing his reputation and status in society. His family, Gens Julia were of noble patrician roots, but at the time neither rich nor influential. However they were able to claim decent from Trojan prince Aeneas, supposed son of the goddess Venus. This claim to both royal and divine decent gave Caesar high social standing within roman society at the time. Caesar’s aunt Julia was married to Gaius Marius who during Caesar’s infancy was the most powerful man in Rome, holding an unprecedented seven consecutive consulships along with leading the faction known as the populares. These Marian connections were exploited by Caesar himself at every possible opportunity most notably the funerals of his aunt Julia and his wife Cornelia. While delivering their eulogies he flaunted his Marian heritage, Plutarch telling us that “As nephew of Julia the deceased wife of Marius, he pronounced a splendid encomium upon her in the forum, and in her funeral procession ventured to display images of Marius, which were then seen for the first time since the administration of Sulla”.1 In regard to Caesar’s rise to prominence the acclamation of divine and royal ancestry along with his ties to the previously most powerful family in Rome gave Caesar reputation and status as well as providing a host of available clientele to enhance his political career.
Caesar’s marriages linked him to some of the most powerful men in Rome enhancing his influence amongst his peers. Caesar’s first engagement and possible marriage had little significance in his rise to prominence and was ended around 86BC. However Caesar’s second marriage was to Cornelia, daughter of Cinna, in 84BC and was of much higher importance to Caesar’s rise. Not only did it emphasise his ties to the populare faction, it made him the son in law of the most powerful man in Rome as Cinna was holding the office of consul at the time. His third and final marriage before 60BC was to Pompeia the granddaughter of Sulla and the daughter of rising general Pompey. Pompeia brought with her a large dowry along with access to two of the most influential people at the time. The marriage ended in 61BC due to a supposed affair where Clodius was accused of sacrilege. Caesar immediately divorced Pompeia on the grounds that “I thought my wife ought not even to be under suspicion.” 2 separating him almost completely from any affiliation with the Optimates. Caesar's marriages were used for political gain, the procurement of financial resources and for access to the most influential men in Rome all of which enhanced Caesar’s prominence.
Caesar’s opportunistic nature, vast ambitions and education were all essential aspects of his continual rise to prominence. We gain insight into the depth of his ambition through Plutarch’s reporting of Caesar bursting into tears upon reading about Alexander the...
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