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Caesar the God

Caesar returned to Italy in September, 45 BC, and among his first tasks was to file his will, naming Octavian as his heir. That out of the way, he returned to Rome approximately October 1. While away, the Senate had already begun heaping honors on Caesar. Whether Caesar started this process through his own supporters, or others did so trying to gain Caesar's favor is unknown, but there the Senate went along with nearly every recommended honor. Even though Caesar didn't proscribe his enemies, and in fact pardoned nearly every one of them, there seemed to be little open resistance to the great conqueror, at least publicly.

Word of Caesar's victory in Spain reached Rome in late April, and games celebrating this event were to be held on April 21. Caesar apparently began to act with little deference towards the Roman state, and his ego began to alienate the Senate. Along with the games, Caesar was honored with the right to wear triumphal clothing, including a purple robe (reminiscent of the Kings) and laurel crown, on all public occasions. A large estate was being built at Rome's expense, and on state property, for Caesar's exclusive use. The title Imperator also became a legal title that he could use before his name for the rest of his life. An ivory statue in the likeness of Caesar was to be carried at all public religious processions. Another statue of Caesar was placed in the temple of Quirinus with the inscription "To the Invincible God." Quirinus, to the Roman people, was the deified likeness of the city's founder and first King, Romulus. This act clearly identified Caesar not only on equal terms with the divine, but with the kings as well. More outrageous, and even more clearly identifying Caesar with the kings, was yet a third statue. This statue was erected on the capitol alongside those of the seven Roman Kings, and with that of Lucius Junius Brutus, the man who led the revolt to expel the Kings in the first place. In yet more scandalous behavior, Caesar had coins minted bearing his likeness. This was the first time in Roman history that a living Roman was featured on a coin, clearly placing him above the Roman state, and tradition.

When Caesar actually returned to Rome in October 45 BC, he further irritated the Senate by giving up his fourth Consulship (which he had held without colleague) and placed Quintus Fabius Maximus and Gaius Trebonius as suffect consuls in his stead. The act of giving up the Consulship was not the issue, but completely disregarding the Republican system of election, and performing these actions at his own whim was. He celebrated a fifth triumph, this time to honor his victory in Spain. Much like his triumph in Africa, even the common people were dismayed, knowing that the victory came directly against fellow Roman opposition. The Senate, however, despite their frustration, did little to stop Caesar's excesses. In fact, they continued to encourage more honors. A temple to Libertas was to be built in his honor, and he was granted the title 'Liberator'. They elected him Consul for the next 10 consecutive years, and allowed to hold any office he wanted, including those generally reserved for Plebeians, like the Tribune. They also seemed willing to grant Caesar the unprecedented right to be the only Roman to have imperium. In this, Caesar alone would be immune from legal prosecution and would technically have the supreme command of the Legions. There was a seemingly continual flow of honors, and while most sources agree that Caesar likely did little to encourage these, he also accepted them all with little objection.

More honors continued, including the right to appoint half of all magistrates, which were supposed to be elected positions. He also appointed magistrates to all provincial duties, a process previously done by draw of lots or through the approval of the Senate. A tribe of the people's assembly was to be named for him, and his birthday, July 13, was to be recognized as a national holiday. And this after the month of July had already been named in his honor. He began to wear the red shoes previously only worn by the ancient kings and a temple and priesthood was established and dedicated in honor of his family.

Caesar, however, did have a reform agenda and took on various subjects social ills. He passed a law that prohibited citizens between the ages of 20 and 40 from leaving Italy for more than 3 years unless on military assignment. This theoretically would help preserve the continued operation of local farms and businesses and prevent corruption abroad. If a member of the social elite did harm or killed a member of the lower class, then all the wealth of the perpetrator was to be confiscated. Clearly Caesar, despite his now raging ego still had the best interest of the state at heart, even if he believed that he was the only capable of running it. A general cancellation of of all debt also greatly relieved the public and helped to endear him even further to the common population.

Additionally great public works were undertaken. Rome was a city of great urban sprawl and unimpressive brick architecture and it desperately needed a renewal to show it as the capitol of the western world. A new Rostra of marble, along with court houses and marketplaces were being built. A public library under the great scholar Varro was in the works. The Senate house, the Curia Hostilia, which had been recently repaired, was abandoned for a new marble project to be called the Curia Julia. The Pontine Marshes were drained and filled and a canal dug in the Corinthian Isthmus to aid in trade. The city Pomerium (or sacred boundary) was extended allowing for additional growth. Despite these improvements, the enmity between the Senate and Caesar continued to grow. The Senate, however, did little to argue with Caesar in person. Instead they continued to heap honors on him, yet blamed him for his excesses.

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Did you know?

On his death, Julius Caesar was officially recognised as a god, the Divine ('Divus') Julius, by the Roman state.


Caesar the God - Related Topic: Imperial Cult


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