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Caesar's Political Career

In the following decade or so Caesar spend most of his time in Asia, pursuing a military career. Here he achieved a victory over forces of Mithridates VI and won several distinctions in battle for personal courage.

Sulla died in 78 BCE, but Caesar did not feel safe enough to return to Rome before 73. Now Caesar embarked on the traditional career of a young aristocrat. The same year he was co-opted in the pontifical college (the most important priestly college), and he was elected tribunus militum. In 69 BCE he was elected questor and assigned the province of Hispania Ulterior, but before leaving both his aunt Julia and his wife Cornelia died. Caesar used these two occasions to underline his own lineage and heritage. At the funerals of Julia he delivered a splendid eulogy and he displayed the funerary mask of Marius for the first time since the proscriptions of Sulla. Likewise, at the funerals of Cornelia, he displayed the funerary mask of Cinna for the first time.

After serving in Spain Caesar return to Rome and started to nurture friendships among the aristocracy to further his career. He married Pompeia, a granddaughter of Sulla, but he also continued his revenge against those who had taken part in the Sullan proscriptions. His performance in the trials earned him a reputation as a brilliant orator.

In 65 BCE he was elected aedile and held lavish games and spectacles, which left him popular but indebted. He was accrued further debts in 63 BCE when he ran for pontifex maximus against senior candidates. The pontifex maximus was the highest pristly office in the Roman religious system. The pontifex maximus was chosen by semi-popular vote between existing members of the pontifical college, the post was held for life and it was normally occupied by an older, accomplished ex-consul. Yet Caesar candidated and he won, by abundant and unscrupulous bribery.

The following year (62) Caesar was elected praetor, the second highest annual political office, and in 61 BCE he had to return to his province of Hispania Ulterior. Some time before his departure the rituals of the Bona Dea were performed in Caesar's house, presided by his wife Pompeia, as the cult of Bona Dea was for women only. During the celebrations P. Clodius Pulcher entered disguised as a woman, allegedly to meet Pompeia, but he was discovered and the rituals declared invalid. This was a major scandal. During the following trial of Clodius, he received the support of Caesar and was acquitted, probably because the jury was bribed. Caesar used the incident to divorce Pompeia, saying that on the wife of Caesar not even a suspicion was acceptable.

Caesar was seriously in debt before leaving for Spain, and some of his creditors tried to get a legal injunction against his departure. Caesar, however, managed to strike a deal with Marcus Licinius Crassus, who was the richest man in Rome at the time. Crassus could use Caesar and his immense popularity with the masses to further his own ambitions, and he guaranteed for Caesar's debts. Caesar could leave for Spain.

As governor of Hispania Ulterior Caesar now had to make a massive amount of money in just one year. To achieve this he largely ignored his normal duties as provincial governor and used some unrest to go on a looting campaign along the Atlantic coast of the Iberian peninsula. His forces would attack and raid the cities of the indigenous inhabitants, sacking the towns even if they surrendered without resistance. He also plundered the rich silver mines in the area.

This article has been split into 11 separate sections. Use the menu below to jump to another section.

  1. Introduction
  2. Caesar's Political Career
  3. The Alliance with Crassus and Pompey
  4. The Conquest of Gaul
  5. The Civil War
  6. Dictator and God
  7. The Assassination
  8. Caesar's Legacy
  9. The Julian Calendar
  10. Literature and Links
  11. Photographs of Julius Caesar

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This page is linked under the names "Caesar", "Julius Caesar", "Gaius Julius Caesar", "Gaius Iulius Caesar" and "Giulio Cesare".

Copyright © 2003 René Seindal, last changed 2003-08-28

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