His Family Background and Position
Gaius Julius Caesar was born on the 13th of July 100 BC. His father was also called Gaius Julius Caesar and in about 100 BC he would have completed a term as quaestor, the lowest rank in the hierarchy of Roman officials. His mother was Aurelia, the daughter of Lucius Aurelius Cotta, who had been consul in 119 BC. This relationship provided Caesar with opportunities that were not normally available.
Their family belonged to the patricate, Rome’s original nobility, however, by 100BC a family’s rank no longer solely depended on its age and patrician descent. Julius Caesar’s family was not successful in maintaining the high rank that they had acquired.
They were privileged in that they were patricians but they had only managed to produce two consuls in the previous two centuries. This means that they could not have had a great fortune. However, they still retained some of their pride. This was shown in Caesar’s speech when he was 30 saying that his father’s family is descended from the kings, that his grandfather was related to the immortals and that the Julian family is related to Venus. However, modern historians are skeptical about Caesar’s claims. Caesar probably felt that he had to compensate for the fact that he could not boast of any illustrious republican ancestors. Caesar may have made this up due to his pride and his belief that he was “special and exceptionally favoured” (Christian Meier).
His mother’s family was of plebian origin and moved into the higher nobility a century and a half before Julius Caesar’s birth. His mother’s family had produced 4 consuls and his mother’s relatives were to be of great service to Caesar in his political career.
Caesar’s father’s sister had married Gaius Marius, a Homo Novus, who succeeded in being elected consul, was a brave soldier and was widely esteemed. Gaius Marius managed to get elected for a second term even though this was against the law, and was eventually elected consul 5 times in succession. Caesar’s family benefited from this connection and became quite closely connected with him – a connection which had a great influence on Caesar’s youth and his career.
Education, Early Life and Ambitions
Almost nothing is recorded of Caesar’s childhood and youth. The education of a young nobleman lay with the family. Caesar’s mother took a leading part in providing and supervising his education but his father would have also taught him a number of things.
Much of a boy’s education – reading, writing, grammar and Greek – was entrusted to a tutor. The tutor was often a slave, Caesar’s private tutor was a former slave, and lessons often took place at home or in the houses of relatives or friends.
The sons of illustrious families, like Julius Caesar, hardly ever attended one of the schools, which were private institutions.
A boy would learn riding and swimming from his father or other teachers. Physical training, in the form of competitive sports, was considered essential. Popular exercises were fencing and leaping on and off horses. Caesar was a good rider as a boy.
All of these physical activities were watched by spectators and although they practiced these for sport it was directly related to the requirements of war. All Roman education had a practical application. The Romans believed that they had little time for the Greek athletics because they made the young soft and was a useless pastime. Caesar received a “rigorous intellectual education and trained his memory” (Christian Meier). Suetonius said “He handled weapons with great skill, was an excellent rider, and had amazing endurance…he covered great distances with incredible speed”. There were certain principles which governed the education of young men in Rome. The young would learn by observation and imitation, and would gradually grow into one’s role.
It was important that a boy should begin to be involved in his father’s life at an early…