The most famous Roman in history. Brilliant general, orator, politician and writer. Had nothing to do with the salad, the pizza franchise, the casino/hotel in Las Vegas, or (probably) the surgical procedure.
Gaius Julius Caesar (13note July 100 BC – 15 March 44 BC) was born in the month his successor would rename after him, July (then called Quintilis), in the year 100 BC, to a minor aristocratic family that nonetheless traced its line back to the foundation of Rome, as well as the goddess Venus and the hero Aeneas. Caesar's father died when he was 16, making Caesar the head of the household (paterfamilias), and within a year he'd attained the position of Flamen Dialisnote , for which he had to break off his engagement to a plebeian girl and marry Cornelia, the daughter of four-time consul, the populare Lucius Cornelius Cinna, who at that time was allied with Caesar's uncle Marius in a nasty factional fight with the Optimate-backed Sullans. Marius had died about a year before Caesar became a high priest, but he did approve his nephew's nomination, though historians note that there is next to no evidence of any other connection or bond Caesar might have had with "The Third Founder of Rome".
When Sulla returned and took over Rome, driving Cinna, Quintus Sertorius and others away (where they would eventually die ignominiously) he unleashed a round of proscriptions in the capital. Anyone whose name was featured in the notices (which is what proscriptions means) was an Outlaw: they were denied rights and protections, their properties could be seized by the state, and their children and family were permanently barred from political office. This happened, unsurprisingly, to many of Cinna's associates and extended network.
Sulla also tried to control and insinuate himself into political life by controlling and regulating the lives of others. He demanded that Julius divorce his wife Cornelia (daughter of the disgraced Cinna) and marry into his circle as a test of loyalty. Caesar refused to do so, and courageously (and some might say foolishly) defied the dictator. Sulla removed Caesar from the priesthood of Flamen Dialis, and Caesar actually went on the run as a Noble Fugitive, living hand to mouth in the wild before being caught by Sulla's soldiers. He almost certainly would have died if not for the efforts of his mother Aurelia, who appealed to the Vestal Virgins and other friends to help persuade Sulla into sparing him. Sulla agreed, but not before gritting his teeth and saying, apocryphally, "In this Caesar, I see many Mariuses"note .
After being stripped of his post as Flamen Dialis, Caesar was now able to seek a career in the army that would not have been open had it not been for Sulla. Caesar entered the army and wisely stayed out of the capital, returning only after Sulla's death (one year after he surrendered the dictatorship, and then serving a term after that as Consul). One of Sulla's restrictions, possibly ordered as a joke, only allowed him to ride a donkey into battle. Somehow, he still went on to attain distinction, winning the Civic Crown (equivalent of a medal) in a siege, which entitled him to automatic entry into the Senatenote . He also, during this time, was sent on a mission to Bithynia to secure the help of King Nicomedes, but his lengthy stay at court sprouted (probably false) rumours in Rome that the two were having a homosexual affair, rumours that were to dog Caesar throughout his career.note
Caesar returned shortly before Sulla's death, during which time the dictator rescinded his order only allowing Caesar to ride a donkey, and gave him a present of a warhorse with toes instead of normal hooves. He was to ride this horse and its descendants into battle for the rest of his career. Despite these gains, his fortune was depleted, and he had to survive on a fairly low budget, moving into a modest house in the plebian district of Subura.
He took up legal advocacy (like most aspiring politicians of the time) and became famous for his oratory and ruthlessness in the courts. Shortly afterward he sought to improve his oratory further and sought out Cicero's teacher Appollonius in Rhodes. On the way, he was captured by pirates, and infamously acted high-handedly with his captors, demanding they ask for a higher ransom and promising to hunt them down and kill them all once he was freed. The pirates thought he was joking, until he actually came back and had them all crucified.note
After his return to Rome, he was elected military tribunenote , and quaestor in 69 BC at the age of 30.note That year, his first wife died. He served his quaestorship in Hispania, where he reportedly wept before a statue of Alexander the Great, realizing his achievements at the same age were rather less impressive.
He married Sulla's granddaughter Pompeia later on and worked to undermine the regime the dead dictator had set up, possibly being involved in two aborted coups. Ironically, he was following in Sulla's footsteps in this regard, as the late dictator had done exactly the same to the previous Roman regime. He also had trouble with moneylenders, taking many big loans and having a hard time repaying them. During this time, he ended up in the debt of Marcus Licinus Crassus, future triumvir and richest man in Rome (much of his wealth having been plunder acquired during Sulla's proscriptions). Fiction and contextual speculation would tend to have Caesar serving under Crassus during the Third Servile War, i.e. the famous revolt of Spartacus, albeit historical record on this remains sparse. Their financial and professional relationship, as will be shown later, will serve them well.
His real climb to power began in 63 BC. He began with a well-followed political theater show trial of the Senator Gaius Rabirius note The public attention from this trial and his vigorous dissents in the Catalinarian Conspiracy debates got himself noticed by the public, and he was elected Pontifex Maximus—chief priest of Rome—a huge gamble that would have ruined him if he failed, as he poured all his money into his campaign, whereas while in office he could not be prosecuted for his debts. As he told his mother before going to the polls, he would return as Pontifex Maximus or not at all. By this point he had become a major player in the Populares, a faction consisting of a loose coalition that traced its legacy to the doomed Gracchi brothers and their policies of distributing land and grain to help the plight of the urban poor and disenfranchised provinces, and of providing regular pay for the army whose low-level soldiers were from the same class as the Roman proletarii. Some of them were sincere reformers, while others were ambitious careerists and opportunists interested in a system that allowed them more room to maximize gains from trade with Rome's colonies.
These policies were opposed instinctively and on principle by the Optimates, the conservative faction devoted to the civic order of Rome and its city-state foundations and who had previously suppressed the Gracchi and supported Sulla. Caesar was far less radical and considerably more moderate than earlier populares, such that he would be able to hang out with firebrands but also get on well with the richest and most snobbish aristocrats, which often confused his friends and his enemies. He spoke for clemency during the Catiline conspiracy, which invited suspicion about his motives from Cato the Younger and from Cicero.
He ruthlessly divorced Pompeia after a sex scandal at his house; she was not involved, but he said that "The Chief Priest's wife must be above suspicion," which is usually taken to mean he didn't want this to hinder his career. (At the time, this was normal Roman behavior.) The guy who had ruined his marriage, Clodius Pulcher, became one of his associates, and was basically the attack dog of the Populares, leading many street gangs across Rome against rival street gangs put forth by Optimates; a certain Mark Antony was one of the leaders of these gangsters. Caesar's third wife and future widow was Calpurnia, also of patrician stock. He was nonetheless a famous ladies' man, and among his mistresses was Servilia, the half-sister of his Arch-Enemy Cato the Younger and the mother of Marcus Junius Brutus. Plutarch was one of many historians to suppose that Brutus could have been Caesar's illegitimate son, but historians point out that Caesar was 15 when Brutus was born, and since this was before his nomination as Flamen Dialis and marriage to Cornelia, when he was still low on the totem pole, it's highly unlikely.
Soon after, he became governor of Spain, where he—completely without sanction from Rome—began attacking Roman allies and annexing their land, expanding the Republic throughout modern Spain. Again, he was partly motivated by the need to pay off his creditors, sending them loot to reduce the pressure on him. At this point, he allied with arch-rivals Crassus and Pompey, forming the First Triumvirate with himself as Consul, or head of state for a year, really a three-man dictatorship by which they would mutually enrich and benefit each other with governorships while nominating clients to various posts as tribunes and consuls, to safeguard legislation that benefited them.
Both Crassus and Pompey were former supporters of Sulla and had profited from the dictator's proscriptions, judicial murders, and purges. At the time, Caesar was the least powerful—a forty-year-old politician whose only achievement was winning a few elections, compared to Pompey, a self-proclaimed military prodigy who expanded Rome into Judea, followed by Crassus, who suppressed the Spartacus Rebellion (and who, again, was the richest man in Rome). Caesar shared the Consulship with Bibulus, whose ineffective attempts to oppose the Triumvirs' agenda led to their term being jokingly called the Year of Julius and Caesar (Romans referred to a year by the Consuls' names). After establishing their authority and passing agrarian reform laws that both helped themselves and benefited the poor, Caesar again went on military campaign as governor of Cis-and Transalpine Gaul and Illyria, conquering most of Gaul (France) and entering Germania across several years of campaigning, with a failed attempt to grab Britannia. While there his daughter Julia—Pompey's (very) young wife—died of illness. Within the same period, Crassus had died on the campaign against the Parthians, and the Optimate (or Conservative) faction, allied with Pompey, ordered Caesar to disband his army and declared his governorship over, at the same time refusing to allow him to stand for a second consulship. They then declared him an enemy of the state.
Caesar's only choice was to either surrender his career and become an exile, or risk dishonor, infamy and the future of Ancient Rome by rebelling. He chose the latter and marched on Rome, using as an excuse the mistreatment of the tribunes of the people who had presented his case to the Senate, by crossing the Rubicon, the border of Italy where Roman armies are supposed to disband. Considering that Sulla had crossed the Pomerium (the boundary of Rome beyond which the army was not supposed to enter) twice and was rewarded by the Optimates with absolute power, Caesar undoubtedly saw his own actions of a comparatively milder nature.
He campaigned through Italy, winning support along the way from many provincial nobles who were not big fans of the snooty Romans, while the Optimates banked everything on Pompey. Caesar eventually took the city unchallenged, even though he had only one legion, his enemies did not trust the newly-recruited troops raised in their defence and fled.
This started the Roman Civil War, and after gathering the rest of his forces from Hispania, Caesar eventually fought and defeated Pompey at Pharsalus in 48 BC, despite being vastly outnumbered. Pompey fled to Egypt where he died in ignoble circumstances, likewise Caesar's Arch-Enemy in the Senate, Cato the Younger committed suicide. While many Pompeyan remnants were hunted down, Caesar made a policy of sparing prominent backers of Pompey, and guarantees (which he honoured) that there would be no more proscriptions in reprisal in the manner of earlier Optimate-Populare dust-offs. Among the people Caesar gave clemency to are Brutus and Cassius.
As dictator he chased Pompey to Egypt, where Caesar was horrified at his enemy and ex-Son-in-Law's fate, who had ironically been killed with the hope of earning Caesar's favor; far from it, Caesar was outraged, and had the assassins all executed. After that, citing a treaty with the old Ptolemaic King that made Egypt a client of Rome, Caesar saw fit to interfere in an ongoing civil war in favor of Cleopatra VII Philopator. They became lovers until his death and she claimed him as the father of her son Caesarion.
During the Civil War in Egypt, Caesar's forces accidentally sparked a fire that burnt a portion of the Library of Alexandrianote . On the plus side, while hanging out with Egyptian astronomers, Caesar finally formulated an improvement on the cumbersome Roman calendar based on lunar cycles. This became the Julian Calendar, which after modification by Pope Gregory, is the calendar that has become the international standard.
In his five-year dictatorship, Caesar was actually only in Rome for some five months and spent most of his time in the provinces, reforming and improving administration in places like Roman Athens. Rome in the meantime was administered, badly, by Mark Antony as Consul. Caesar's only intervention, and the only real tiff between him and Antony, led to him sending the latter out of town for a while. He made plans for all kinds of ambitious projects based on his experiences in Egypt, this included a modern bureaucracy as well as an institution of census and other reforms, as well as public works and architectural policies that Octavian later instituted.
The Senate bestowed unto Caesar a series of honours, partly because he was so merciful — unlike Sulla, almost none of his enemies were proscribed, indeed most were pardoned, and Caesar restricted violence and denial of quarter to non-Roman barbarians like the Gauls (who were targets of derision). He began a series of reforms to alleviate the plight of the poor, built many famous buildings, while also reviving an old project of Gaius Gracchus, the rebuilding of Carthage, together with Corinth, both destroyed and famously salted a century before.
Near his final months, he planned an invasion of the Parthian empire. The prospect of a Caesarian success against the Parthians who had repelled all earlier Roman campaigns made many senators panic. While Caesar was moving at a far more moderate pace with his reforms to the liking of fellow populares, and irritated others for his refusal of proscription as well as making cutbacks on the grain dole. But this only made it harder, in the eyes of the optimates, to deny consensual support to reform and rebuild Rome to a permanent populare. A military victory in Parthia would simply reinforce that.
There was also a suspicion that Caesar wanted to be King (which led Caesar and Antony to stage public ceremonies of the former ostentatiously denying a diadem: whether these were sincere assurances, an elaborate joke about the rumors, or a means to gauge whether people would support it, no one knows). This was further reinforced by his relationship with the Eastern foreign Queen of Egypt, who had also given birth to his son, Caesarion and who moreover was living in Rome in the weeks leading to Caesar's death. By law, Caesarion was not Caesar's heir and had no Roman rights but obviously it would benefit Cleopatra immensely if the Roman-Ptolemaic offspring did get recognition, support and patronage in Rome.note This mix of fear, conservative paranoia, genuine constitutional concerns, xenophobia, and misogyny, led to the most famous and momentous of all assassinations in the Ancient World.
Caesar was killed in 44 BC by a group of rebellious senators, led by Brutus (and the assassination plot was first instigated by Cassius), being stabbed 23 times in the senate. The assassination was clumsy and amateurish, and some of the Senators stabbed and hurt each other when rushing up to Caesar. He was armed with a stylus (a sharp Roman pen, that Gracchian supporters used to defend themselves when they charged and killed Gaius) but was absolutely unprepared for what happened. The assassins inflicted a total of 27 wounds, which, given that up to 60 people are said to have ambushed him, is not a particularly good batting average. What's more, Suetonius relates that a physician who performed an autopsy on Caesar (the earliest known post-mortem report in history) established that only one wound (the second one to his ribs) had been fatal.
The line Et Tu, Brute? is from Shakespeare. Plutarch states that Caesar on seeing Brutus blurted out, "Kai su, teknon (You too, my son)?" either in sadness or in anger that in the end, even Brutus who he had spared and given a governorship in Gaul as a sign of good faith, had betrayed him. The exact site of Caesar's death, in a touch of historical irony, was right under the statue of his old friend and rival Pompey. The conspirators called themselves the "Liberators" and hoped that Caesar's death would resolve the cycle of Civil War and restore the Republic under the Optimate hegemony. The small matter of Caesar's great personal popularity and the mobilization by his supporters dispelled this notion, and the conspirators were chased out of Rome, leading to decades of civil war, with Caesar's faction led by his general Marc Antony, his appointed heir, Octavian with support from Cleopatra. They eventually won, while his nephew Augustus eventually pulled a coup on his fellow conspirators and learning from his Uncle's failures, used a combination of proscriptions and savvy political engineering to permanently transform The Republic into The Empire. Caesar was initially supposed to be buried in the Roman Forum near his daughter Julia, but the crowd as a display of popularity, cremated him in public, throwing furniture, desk and other articles on top of his corpse as a tribute (similar to Clodius Pulcher's funeral which burnt down the old Senate house) and lighting a large bonfire.
Caesar is a controversial figure and historians to this day are divided about him. The Republic he overthrew was extremely corrupt and increasingly ineffective, while he provided strong, stable and popular leadership. He was merciful to his (Roman) enemies and widely respected for his many talents even by opponents like Cicero, who, in his invective-filled orations known as the Philippics, told Mark Antony that he was no Caesar. When he died he was either about to take personal power as the dictator, or possibly reform the Republic to accommodate its new responsibilities and peacefully and moderately end the spiral of factional wars that had gone on for a hundred years at that point. It is one of the great What Ifs of history as to what he would have done. The impact and importance of his legacy in Western civilization are indisputably immense: for the next two thousand years after his death, rulers would invoke and wear his name as a title and honorific. All five Emperors of the first dynasty had the name "Caesar" as part of their regnal name, and the word for "emperor" in many languages is based on it ("Kaiser" in German, "Kaisar" in Hindi, "Csar" in Slavic languages), although Caesar himself was not an Emperor. Not bad for what seems to have originally been the Roman equivalent of the Aussie tradition of calling the bald guy "Curly".note
He was a man driven mainly by personal ambition (It was basically the Roman way, at least if you were an aristocrat, but it was a handy putdown by enemies who wanted to prove they weren't), and was perfectly capable of ruthlessness to get what he wanted. His campaigns were extremely brutal, possibly claiming as many as a million lives in total, with much rampant looting and slave trading. He is usually regarded by his critics as the man principally responsible for the death of the Roman Republic, though his admirers feel that by that point Rome was a republic in name only, and that Caesar did more for the common man of Rome than anyone else who could plausibly have taken power would have. He was also known to be very vain about his personal appearance, and could and would go to extreme lengths to get revenge. The debate, then, is largely if his many accomplishments can justify or condone his misdeeds and personal failings. Whether he was merely an above-average adventurer who came ahead of rivals and opponents who were no better than him, or the last true Roman who could have truly reformed the Republic's obsolete institutions and brutally murderous political culture. Likewise, debate rages over whether there is continuity between him and his nephew Augustus. There is no evidence of him planning to become a dictator prior to the civil war or of attempting to institutionalize despotism (that was more Augustus's thing). He named Octavian (later known as Augustus) as his heir, but he didn't specifically entitle him to inherit the dictatorship and it was probably a consequence of his brief break with Antony and perhaps a temporary stopgap. He clearly did not expect to be assassinated, and Cleopatra and Caesarion were in Rome, so it might have been a temporary thing until he could work legal status for the latter. Augustus in time defeated Antony and murdered Caesarion ("Two caesars is one too many!") so the former clearly saw the latter as a threat.
Recommended reading: Caesar: The Life of a Colossus by Adrian Goldsworthy and The Roman Revolution by Sir Ronald Syme.
Works by Gaius Julius Caesar with their own pages:
Caesar in fiction
- Alternative Character Interpretation: As seen below, the portrayal of Caesar in various media varies greatly - all the way from a 100 BC Hitler to a Roman Messiah figure. In real life he was a highly complex man, making it very easy to find things from his life and actions that can support whichever "version" of Caesar one wishes to portray. For instance, he did indeed seek out and crucify the pirates who took him captive - but he found himself unable to stomach the horror of crucifixion, and had his men cut the throats of the pirates before they crucified them.
- His relationship with Cleopatra lends itself to this, although more so in recent years. Cleopatra's association with the two Roman generals, Caesar and Marc Antony, has most commonly been portrayed as being a political union with Caesar and genuine love with Antony. Not that anyone today can know the true nature of relationships that happened 2000 years ago, but in the past decade or so the suggestion that it was a genuine love affair between Caesar and Cleopatra has become more and more common (not that it couldn't have been love for one of them and a political match for the other). The reason behind the shift in interpretation lies in the argument that being involved with Cleopatra, and setting aside his Roman, aristocrat wife for her, was a very bad PR move for a Roman general. Something Caesar realized but Antony didn't...
- Badass Family: Caesar's uncle Gaius Mariusnote was not so far from his nephew in this regard, given that he was considered the "Third Founder of Rome" due to his time as a Four-Star Badass in the Cimbric and Jugarthine Wars. When he became consul, Marius enacted what would be known as the Marian Reforms which pretty much enabled plebians to join the legions instead of just rich landowners, offered property and the spoils of war as incentives for joining the legions, and allowed for standardized training and equipment so that Rome had a standing army year-round.
- Baldness Angst: Suetonius relates that Caesar's baldness gave him much uneasiness and exposed him to the jibes of his enemies, and even his soldiers called him "the bald adulterer". Therefore he used to comb forward his scanty locks, and he gladly concealed it with the privilege of wearing a laurel wreath at all times.
- Beam Me Up, Scotty!: One of the sayings attributed to Caesar is Alea iacta est or "The die is cast". This phrase is from Suetonius' Twelve Caesars, but Suetonius was in fact translating from Greek to Latin. According to Plutarch (who wrote in Greek), Caesar was in fact quoting a play by the Hellenistic Greek Menander, a very popular playwright in Rome, who was known for putting the catchphrase in his plays. Plutarch specifically notes that Caesar spoke in Greek and said «Ἀνερρίφθω κύβος» [anerriphtho kybos], literally "Let the die be cast". In modern English, it may be rendered as "Let's roll the dice", since modern dice games typically use more than one die. The Latin phrase itself is commonly quoted wrongly as well, since Suetonius wrote Iacta alea est, which just means the same ("Cast the die is").
- "Blind Idiot" Translation: Broadly the difference between "The die is cast" and "Let's roll the dice", i.e. the Latin translations "alea iacta est" or "iacta alea est" from "anerriphtho kybos". The more proverbial and famous "The die is cast" presents Caesar as decisive, commanding, authoritative, and fully aware that Nothing Is the Same Anymore. The latter phrase, "Let's roll the dice" presents Caesar as cautious, hopeful, uncertain as to what might happen, and see it as an acknowledgment that he's acting as and when the situation advances and develops. More recent historians favour "Let's roll the dice" because they see it as more consistent and typical of Caesar's moderate bridging factions approach, emphasizes the contingent element, and removes the idea of inevitability that was more appealing to Suetonius (whose 12 Caesars is obviously favorable to a direct continuity from Caesar onwards) but which modern historians don't agree with. Historians have also noted that simply changing the tense in Latin from est to esto makes it mean the same as the Greek.
- Four-Star Badass: Caesar has become synonymous with military genius, which fiction does not skimp out on portraying. He fought the Germans, Britons, Gauls, Egyptians, Pontics, Hispanians, and other Romans/Italics, and came out on top against all of them.
- Historical Domain Character: Caesar is so over-represented in fiction (Shakespeare, Asterix and you name it) and so often invoked that many people are amazed that he was an actual person, with some, especially in non-Western countries, reared to believe that he was a mythical figure like Zeus or Jupiter.
- Historical Hero Upgrade: In works like Colleen McCullough's Masters of Rome where Caesar is shown as a Crusading Lawyer populare turned military adventurer and conqueror. He's also shown as a likable, if somewhat arrogant but generous man in the first acts of Shakespeare's play, showing some amount of fatherly concern for Brutus. Rex Harrison's Julius in Cleopatra is likewise a nice old man delighted to father a son with Cleopatra in his older years.
- Historical Villain Upgrade: It changes across the years depending on the political and social development of society, which obviously looks back at Rome through prism of later political developments and changes:
- Works which show him as a conqueror and focus on his atrocities in Gaul, as well as those which focus on his enemies like Cato or Cicero, will cast Caesar in this role. He appears as a kind of Affably Evil Noble Demon Greater-Scope Villain in Asterix where he's kind of a Doctor Doom-like love-to-hate respectable antagonist who sometimes plots against the good guys but sometimes teams up with them.
- During The Enlightenment, the likes of Voltaire and others glorified Brutus as a true Republican and painted Caesar as a tyrant. In the 19th Century, John Wilkes Booth compared Caesar to Lincoln, albeit seeing the latter as "a greater tyrant". He, like other Southerners, identified with the optimate cause of Cato and Brutus and saw Caesar/Lincoln as a dangerous reformer. In the 20th Century, the likes of Orson Welles and Bertolt Brecht painted him as a proto-fascist Dictator in their theatrical productions. Depending on time and place, Caesar can be a radical/revolutionary and a power-mad tyrant.
- Even pro-Caesar works tend to ignore (or demonize) his edict providing rights and protection for Jews who lived in Rome, or him granting citizenship to various Gallic "barbarians" who had shown loyalty (including the entire eligible population of Cisalpine Gaul a.k.a. modern Northern Italy).
- Luke, I Am Your Father: Roman historians themselves argued that Caesar might have been Brutus' biological father. Brutus' mother Servilia was one of his mistresses. And his last lines "You too, son" has been interpreted as a Deathbed Confession. Likewise, some point out that Caesar gave specific orders in the Battle of Pharsalus to spare Brutus, which is an unusual level of personal concern for a senator who was otherwise indistinguishable (and considered a rather cruel Loan Shark even by a snob like Cicero).
- There's a similar debate among historians about the paternity of Brutus' younger sister, Junia Tertianote . Modern writers tend to consider her a more plausible candidate as Caesar's child.
- No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: In contrast to the likes of Sulla and Marius before him, Caesar usually pardoned his (Roman) enemies. He was ultimately murdered in a conspiracy led by the very men he spared. His heirs Octavian and Mark Antony took note and did not make the same mistake.
- Signature Line: Probably the most famous Latin lines of all, so proverbial that people use them without translation.
- Veni vidi vici
- Alea iacta est
- Et Tu, Brute? , he probably never said it, on account of being busy dying silently.
- Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres, (All of Gaul is divided into three parts). Caesar's opening description of the geography and peoples of Gaul in Commentaries on the Gallic War might be the most famous infodump in Western civilization, knwon by every student of Latin Language.
- Tall, Dark, and Snarky: Suetonius describes him as "tall of stature," with dark hair and "keen black eyes", and his Commentaries have a lot of deadpan comments in them.
- Third-Person Person: He's often portrayed speaking like this, probably because he wrote Commentaries in the third person.
- Unreliable Narrator: His first-hand account on the Gaul war, De Bello Gallico, understandably glosses over his least brilliant moments such as the unreliable Gaul allied cavalry, the first Briton campaign, his punitive expedition to Germany, Gergovia etc, sometimes applying the Leeroy Jenkins, strategic victory / Tactical Withdrawal perspective. The trend is continued in the follow-up books about the civil war but it's believed those weren't actually written by Caesar.
- Caesar is present in Code Geass' alternate history. Like in our timeline, he does venture to the the British Isles twice. Unlike in our timeline, Caesar is unable to keep Roman influence and authority there and thus is the start of the Series' Britannia.
- One of the characters in Code Geass: Akito the Exiled, Julius Kingsley, is named after Caesar himself.
- In Girls und Panzer, Takako Suzuki cosplays as, and answers to, "Caesar," making references to Caesar's life and Roman history, like her three teammates on Hippo Team do with their respective historical figures.
- SD Gundam World Heroes has a character based on Julius, Caesar Legend Gundam.
- In Asterix, Caesar is the main antagonist. He's always portrayed as an Anti-Villain, due to being based on his image in the school-taught Commentaries.
- Appears very often in Alix, as the main character works for him.
- One of the main antagonists of Amber / Boudica, in the Vae Victis! comic series.
- Wonder Woman won Caesar's favor in a Golden Age time travel story.
- Due to his prominent historical role in it, Caesar shows up in all of the depictions of the end of Ptolemaic Egypt during Cleopatra VII's rule (since it also leads to his death), which pretty much all borrow things to Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra.
- Played by Fritz Leiber in Cleopatra (1917). The oldest known film depiction, the film itself has been lost.
- Played by Warren William in the 1934 Cleopatra.
- Played by Claude Rains in Caesar and Cleopatra (1945), which is an adaptation of the eponymous George Bernard Shaw play.
- Played by Rex Harrison in Cleopatra (1963).
- Played by Kenneth Williams in Carry On Cleo (1964).
- Adaptations of the Shakespeare play:
- A young Julius Caesar (and a highly fictionalized one) is played by John Gavin in Spartacus.
- Michel Serrault played a gay Caesar in the French parody film Deux heures moins le quart avant Jésus-Christ (1982).
- Klaus Maria Brandauer portrayed him in Druids (2001) about the conquest of Gaul, opposite Christopher Lambert as Vercingetorix.
- A big case of The Other Darrin in the Asterix live-action films, which all are a comedic take on the character based on the comic books:
- Played by Gottfried John in Asterix & Obelix Take on Caesar (1999).
- Played by Alain Chabat (the director) in Asterix & Obelix: Mission Cleopatra (2002).
- Played by Alain Delon in Asterix at the Olympic Games (2008).
- Played by Fabrice Luchini in Asterix & Obelix: God Save Britannia (2012).
- Played by Vincent Cassel in Asterix & Obelix: The Middle Kingdom (2023).
- Ramzy Bedia (in a case of Race Lift) played him in the 2020 French comedy Brutus vs Caesar.
- He's a central character in Colleen McCullough's Masters of Rome series.
- Conn Iggulden's Emperor series details a Very Loosely Based on a True Story version of Julius' life and conquests, from childhood all the way to death. Despite the obvious implications of Adaptation Decay, he actually averts this with some very detailed research notes in the appendices of each book and explaining his decisions to eliminate, change, or combine certain figures for the sake of a good story.
- He appears in Steven Saylor's Roma Sub Rosa series.
- He appears in John Maddox Roberts' SPQR series.
- He's mentioned in I, Claudius, although he has been dead for about 20 years when the story begins.
- In the Susan Howatch novel The Rich Are Different, the story of Julius Caesar is retold in a 1920s Wall Street setting.
- Caesar is a very important character in Ben Kane's series The Forgotten Legion.
- He plays a major role in The Salvation War, as the leader of "New Rome" in human-liberated Hell.
- He appears in Robert Harris's Imperium trilogy of novels focusing on the life of Cicero. His depiction here is of a sinister and power-hungry man (though still unfailingly charming, courteous and charismatic) serving as the de-facto Big Bad for most of the story, although this may be because the trilogy is told exclusively from the perspective of Tiro, the slave and close personal friend of Cicero, who would be more inclined than most to view Caesar in a negative light. His relationship with Cicero is complex, with Caesar regarding him as something between a Worthy Opponent and a genuine friend whom he admires greatly, but his desire to be an absolute ruler and dominate all those around him make it increasingly difficult to coexist with people like Cicero who favor the Republic and senatorial rule.
- The Ides of March, a novel by dramatist Thornton Wilder, depicts Caesar as an object of gossip and politicking, and culminates with his assassination.
- Played by Timothy Dalton in the Cleopatra (1999) mini-series.
- The first season of the HBO series Rome is about Caesar's rise and fall. He's portrayed by Ciarán Hinds.
- Caesar, played by Todd Lasance, is a regular character in Spartacus: War of the Damned, where he fights in the army of Marcus Crassus against Spartacus' slave uprising. He's introduced as a low-ranking politician with a famous name, as well as a cunning soldier, a lothario, and a rival both of Crassus' son, Tiberius, and the rebel Gannicus. Which was unfortunate for them.
- He's played by Jeremy Sisto in the 2003 miniseries Julius Caesar. Starts with Sulla's march on Rome, ends with Caesar's assassination.
- Karl Urban played Caesar in a recurring role on Xena: Warrior Princess and a one-off episode of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. Having been Xena's one time ally, and lover, his betrayal (and crucifixion) of her led to Xena's warlord days, the time of her life which she spent the series atoning for. Notably, Xena was the leader of the pirates who ransomed him. Yes, Julius Caesar exists in the same series that depicts the Trojan War, which occurred over 1000 years before his birth.
- The aftermath of his assassination is the backdrop for the History Bites episode "Who Killed JFC?"
- John Partridge portrays Caesar in Netflix's highly controversial Queen Cleopatra season of African Queens (2023).
- His brief invasion of Britannia is used as the narrative in the song Eric the Gardener by The Divine Comedy. Caesar is described to have arrived on the islands and left shortly afterwards as a result of his distaste for the climate, but not before leaving behind some knickknacks for posterity. These would eventually be found over two thousand years later by the eponymous gardener (Eric Lawes, who was also an amateur metal detectorist) as the Hoxne Hoard.
- Is a frequent topic of interest of Dan Carlin in his Hardcore History series. He covers Caesar extensively in his Death Throes of the Republic and Celtic Holocaust episodes, as well often bringing him up in non-Caesar/non-Roman related episodes.
- Mike Duncan covers Caesar's life in his The History of Rome series. It's actually the episode where he spent the entire duration of it just covering the one year of Caesar's first consulship (59 B.C.E) that he realized he underestimated how many episodes it would take him cover entire history of the Roman state.
- The Republic of Rome: Caesar is a playable Statesman, albeit only in the Late Republic deck (his Julii gens is playable as a generic Family card from the start, however). He has by far the best individual stats of all the Statesmen in the game, matched only by Scipio Africanus and Pompey, is one of the few Statesmen who start out with any Popularity among common folk (the others being the Gracchi, Cicero, and again Pompey), and his special ability allows him to promote two legions to Veteran Unit status in every battle (as opposed to the usual one).
- SHASN: The "Fall of the Republic" campaign is set in 40 BCE, in the wake of Caesar's assassination and its political issues comprise mostly of issues that Julius himself had tackled or with his complicated legacy. In particular, the card "Et tu?" questions the meaning of Caesar's death: the Populares (Showstopper) response is a claim that Caesar's death means the impending fall of Rome herself, while the Optimates (Supremo) reply is that his assassination prevented him from becoming a king and thus from destroying Roman society.
- Yu-Gi-Oh! features the Monarchs, a series of powerful cards based on the Emperors of Rome. The most powerful, Caius, appears to be derived from Gaius himself.
- The last missions of the Roman campaign in Empire Earth: Art of Conquest were about his rise to power.
- Edward "Caesar" Sallow from Fallout: New Vegas modeled his band of tribes after the Roman Legions after reading the Commentarii and fancied himself as great a man as Gaius Julius Caesar was.
- Assassin's Creed:
- In Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, the Scrolls of Romulus chronicle Brutus' plan to assassinate Caesar, with the equipment and knowledge provided to carry out the assassination provided by a Piece of Eden hidden in a First Civilization bunker underneath Rome.
- He appears in Assassin's Creed Origins, which is set in Ancient Egypt during the reign of Cleopatra VII. The game ends with his assassination at the hands of Aya and the Hidden Ones.
- In the first case of Criminal Case: Travel in Time, Caesar is stabbed in the back-three years before his actual assassination in history. Brutus and Cleopatra are suspects in his murder. Funnily enough, Bruno’s motive was that he was Caesar’s illegitimate son, but Caesar refused to acknowledge him as his own. In the end, the killer turned out to be a time traveler posing as a guard of Cleopatra’s in order to seduce and sleep with her. When Caesar realized his motives, the traveller stabbed in the back to prevent him from jeopardizing his plan.
- Caesar is the Ultimate Persona of Akihiko Sanada in Persona 3 and serves as his used Persona in Persona 4: Arena
- He is the leader of the Roman civilization in the Civilization series of games, though he's notably absent in the fifth one (where he is replaced by Augustus, and in the sixth by Trajan).
- The aftermath of Caesar's assassination is dramatized in the game Shadow of Rome, where the father of one of the player character's is framed for the deed.
- Appears as a summonable Servant in Fate/Grand Order and a member of the Saber class, and is depicted as, for some reason a lazy, sarcastic fat guy. That being said, his stout build hides a deceptively high strength and speed; and under his lazy attitude and weird speech patterns, he's actually a brilliant thinker and highly charismatic leader, complete with C-rank Charisma and EX-rank Incitement (effectively meaning he's impossibly good at speeches) skills. He's also a demigod because he claimed to be a descendant of Venus and was deified after his original death. He's also still in love with Cleopatra (who loves him as well, though she's surprised and confused about his current fatty appearance; Julius himself also doesn't know why he has that form), and his wish on the Holy Grail is for both them and their son Caesarion to finally be together as a real family, without the political intrigue of the past coming between them. His Noble Phantasm is his legendary sword Crocea Mors, which allows him to get an automatic hit in, then gives him consecutive luck checks until he fails one, allowing him multiple attacks. It is the embodiment of his drive for victory. However, he doesn't like using it because he regrets the incident where the sword got stuck in his opponent Nennius of Britain's shield and he lost it.
- Where in Time Is Carmen Sandiego? features him on the Ancient Rome level. The game has some fun alluding to his eventual fate:
Julius Caesar: Believe me, a gladiator's life in the Colosseum, and a politician's life in the Senate have much in common!
Ivan Idea: Well, just watch your back, Julius.
- The second game of the Hegemony Series covers his campaigns in Gaul. Said campaigns also feature his lieutenant, Titus Labienus.
- His campaigns in Gaul are also covered in the Caesar in Gaul expansion for Total War: Rome II.
- Expeditions: Rome: The Legate meets a young Julius on a ship bound for Asia Minor, where the two of them fight in the Third Mithridatic War under Consul Lucullus — at least until Julius is killed in an ambush by Archelaus' troops. The game is thus revealed to be an Alternate History centered on the question of "What if Caesar died before entering politics, and his role in history was taken up by a different young officer?"
- The first episode of the French edutainment Confession Cam parody web-series Confessions d'Histoire covers the Gallic Wars and features him. He also naturally appears in the episode about Cleopatra VII and the end of Ptolemaic Egypt.
- Goes head-to-head with fellow military genius Shaka Zulu in Epic Rap Battles of History.
- Is depicted as a caricature of Frank Sinatra in Histeria!
- The seventh episode of Il était une fois... l'homme focuses on his rise to power, his rule, and his assassination.
- In the cartoon Time Squad Julius Caesar is a fat and lazy ruler who almost left Rome in complete shambles. Oh and he also sounded like Louie Anderson.