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Caesar's Legacy

Apparently Caesar didn't have a grand master plan for how he wanted to reform the state, but he did introduce many reforms, confronting problems that had sometimes remained unsolved for more than a century.

The most important problem to confront was to procure land for the landless. Two centuries of conquest had flooded Italy with slaves, many peasants had lost their land, and the public land had been usurped by the elite, leaving the Italian peasants in ever more precarious conditions. The sons of the landless peasants had filled the ranks of the Roman armies, enduring danger and hardship for the promise of a piece of land or the money to buy it. The problem of land distribution had persisted from before the time of the Gracchi in the 130s BCE, and each successful Roman general had tried to find land for their soldiers, but often without success.

Caesar had in the 40s BCE a position that allowed him to dictate a solution to the problem. He took land in the W. empire, mostly in S. Italy, Cisalpine Gaul and Spain, and settled his veterans there, often in newly founded colonies. Also, huge drainage projects created new arable land in marshy areas. Poor landless peasants from Central Italy and from the City of Rome were also sent to the provinces, in an attempt to reduce the problem of immigration of poor to the city.

Roman citizenship had traditionally be restricted to selected cities in Central Italy, but Caesar extended it to people outside Central Italy, including all of Cisalpine Gaul and many of the new colonies. For the first time ever non-Italians were allowed into the senate, much to the dismay of the ancient Roman aristocracy.

Tax-reforms were enacted in Sicily and in Asia Minor, which had both suffered from avaricious governors and tax-collectors.

Many years of uncertainty and civil war had caused inflation and interests had soared, so many people were hopelessly indebted. There was a strong movement for a complete cancellation of all debts, but Caesar chose a middle way, decreeing that all prices and interests should be calculated with the rates from before the civil war.

The purpose of all these reforms were dual: to alleviate the serious socio-economic problems in Central Italy and to consolidate Roman control with the provinces.

Building Projects

Caesar also started a major reorganisation of the City of Rome. He made interventions in construction and traffic, but the most important changes were in the area of the Forum Romanum. As pontifex maximus Caesar lived there, and he made plans for a complete overhaul of the area, practically turning it into a monument to himself. On the S. side he built the Basilica Julia, on the E. side the Rostra was renovated, and on the N. the old Curia was taken down and new building started. On the W. side stood the Regia, the house of Caesar, and after his death the Temple of Divus Julius was built there. Much of this programme was unfinished at his death, but Augustus finished it later.

To the N. of the Forum area he started another grand project: the Forum Iulium or the Forum of Caesar. This was an entirely new kind of monument which would be the model for all the later Imperial Fora. In the centre of this new forum he placed a temple of Venus Genetrix, a celebration of Venus as the devine foremother of the gens julia, hence a statement about the divine descent of Caesar himself.

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

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