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Caesar in Rome

After Caesar's victory at Zela over the Pontic King Pharnaces, Caesar sailed for Italy, arriving in September of 47 BC. With little time left in his dictatorship, first given to him either just before or just after his arrival in Egypt, Caesar had a lot of work to do. Citizens in Rome and Italy were suffering terribly under massive debt and the population was on the brink of violence at any given time. Marc Antony, sent by Caesar as his Master of Horse to govern Rome in his absence, did little to relieve the situation, and conditions were nearly desperate by the time of Caesar's arrival. Despite his earlier popularity with the people, street violence between supporters of Antony and Tribune of the Plebes Publius Dolabella seemed to be a continuation of pre civil war politics. This violence was only subdued by a Senatus Consultum Ultimatum, allowing Antony to use force in curtailing Dolabella.

On his journey from Tarentum to Rome, Caesar sought to begin the process of relief by taking on massive loans of his own and securing funds from various Italian cities. By the time he arrived in Rome, clearly unhappy with Antony's performance, Caesar had to deal with the debt crisis. Though some pushed for cancellation of all debts, it likely would have been an economic disaster. As one of the largest borrowers of the time, Caesar himself also couldn't afford to appear as only helping himself, and the idea was only partially instituted. As an alternative, properties seized from dead enemies, such as Pompey, could be put up for sale. Though he didn't proscribe or confiscate from living enemies, as had been done in the past by men like Sulla, there were plenty of properties available to help relieve debt. The sale, which also forced even Caesar's supporters to pay full price, was an enormous relief. Even Antony, who clearly fell from Caesar's favor, was forced to pay the full price for Pompey's former estates.

As the year was running out, Caesar also had to secure elections for 46 BC. Winning the consulship for 46 BC, his third, along with Marcus Lepidus, Caesar next sought to make adjustments to the constitution. First many Senators were added to the roles in order to bring the governing body back to functional state, and in light of the growing empire, control of the provinces from Rome had been a recurring problem. Coupled with that issue the office of the consul typically had too much competition, as magisterial offices for each year were limited. To alleviate the problem, Caesar added 2 new praetor positions, making 10 in total. This allowed for 10 pro-praetor governors with each year, as well as the pro-consuls, making the selection of governors easier and reducing the need for Senators to seek the top position of consul. This strategy worked two-fold; it eliminated some pressures, but Caesar, having nominated his own choices for these positions, also garnered more direct control of the government. Though not quite imperial, a change in control from the Senate to a single man was beginning to take place.

Having taken care of what he could during this limited visit to the capital, Caesar next began to focus on what resistance remained in the Roman world. His next stop would be Africa, where Metellus Scipio, Labienus, Varus and Caesar's sworn enemy Marcus Porcius Cato waited. Before he could set off on yet another campaign, though, Caesar's vaunted and beloved legion, the 10th, mutinied. These were certainly trying times for Caesar's men. They had served in Gaul for nearly 8 hard fought years, faced their fellow Romans in Spain and against Pompey in Greece, and performed their duty admirably in the east. Originally destined to be disbanded and retired on lands in Campania, the men were unhappy with what they found there, and were displeased with their take of the plunder over this long period of war. The last straw seemed to be new orders shipping them off for the campaign in Africa, and things took a violent turn. One of Caesar's new praetors, Gaius Sallustius Crispus (the historian Sallust) was nearly killed in the revolt, but others were, such as Cosconius and Galba.

As the 10th marched on Rome, Caesar took it upon himself to quell the revolt in person. Meeting the men in person, he brought them under his charismatic spell, first apologizing for their trying service, but then chastising them by calling them 'quirites' (citizens) rather than the more respectful 'soldiers'. He offered to settle them on better lands and retire them from service rather than continue to use them, as they were no longer of any use. Catching the men off guard and damaging their pride he was able to stem the violent mood and turn the tables on the 10th. As a result they were practically begging to come back to service. Caesar seems to have understood that the source of the problem rested with a relative few ringleaders rather than the entire legion. Rather than punish the men, Caesar withheld 1/3 of the plunder that was due the various officers and let the rest rejoin him unpunished. With brilliant diplomacy, Caesar not only saved his 10th, but protected Rome and the surrounding countryside from a potentially devastating revolt, simply with a few words.

With the mutiny settled, Caesar focused on the next order of business, Africa. He wanted to start the campaign early (it was now late summer, early fall by season), rather than wait for the next campaign season. His 16 year old grand nephew, Gaius Octavius, had by this time begun to be associated with Caesar. Having fallen out with what most saw as his heir apparent, Marcus Antonius, Caesar aimed to take Octavian under his wing. Unfortunately, the young man was in poor health and wouldn't be able to accompany Caesar to Africa, but nevertheless, the wheels of inevitability seemed to be in motion. In December of 47 BC, Caesar set sail from Italy, stopping first in Sicily, before yet another campaign.

continue to Caesar in Africa

Did you know?

Marcus Aemilius Lepidus was a patrician Roman politician of the 1st century BC.


Caesar in Rome - Related Topic: Italia


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