Julius Caesar was born in 100 BC into an old patrician family, the Julians, which met all the criteria for success in Roman politics. He was also related by marriage to Gaius Marius who married his aunt Julia. Gaius Marius had been consul seven times and had been the most important man in Rome for about 20 years during Caesar's early years. In addition to his already pedigreed lineage he also entered advantageous marriages to enhance his political career. One notable marriage is his one with Pompeia formed in 68BC. This union was purely political and about gaining support from Pompeia’s grandfather, Sulla. Sulla had been consul in 88BC and 81BC and had been made dictator and possessed the support of the Optimates whose support Julius Caesar wished to also gain. Although before his union with Pompeia he was married to his second wife, Cornelia whose father, Cinna had been consul four times. Marius and Sulla were the great leaders at Caesar’s time and no doubt Julius Caesar wanted to emulate the power achieved by the two men.
Before pursuing a career in politics Julius Caesar made some name for himself in the Roman army. He gained praise and was awarded the civic crown after he saved the life of one of his comrades. He distinguished himself further on an occasion where he was captured in 75 and held for ransom by Cilicion pirates for about forty days. Caesar is said to have joked with the pirates about crucifying them after his release and Plutarch writes about how Caesar regarded his captors, “as if the men were not his watchers, but his royal body-guard.” After his military ventures Caesar returned to Rome to make a name for himself in politics.
Caesar entered the cursus honorum (3) in 69BC when he was elected quaestor. He continued to climb the political ladder as follows; aedile in 65BC, preator in 62BC and in 61-60 he served as governor of Spain. Caesar sought the consulship but could not obtain it without help and so he persuaded Pompey and Crassus to support him and thus the First Triumvirate was formed. From this alliance Caesar gained the consulship for 59BC but Plutarch states that, “Neither Pompey nor Crassus was made greater.” As Caesar progressed through the political system he won the popularity of the people but the resent and suspicion of the Senate.
While still in his early years as a politician Caesar is said to have come upon a statue of Alexander the Great that influenced him greatly. Suetonius writes about this occasion in his The Twelve Caesars,
“During his quaestorship in Spain, he is said to have come across a statue of Alexander the Great in a temple to Hercules. He sighed heavily and seemed annoyed that he had achieved so little compared to Alexander at the same age. He immediately requested a discharge so that he could make a name for himself in Rome.”
Furthermore, Plutarch has written about an occasion where Caesar makes further comments on his desire to be ruler of Rome,
“As he was crossing the Alps, he came to a village which he had only a few wretched inhabitants. Caesar’s friends began to make jokes about them, and one said, “Do you think that these fellows aim for office, argue over position, and are jealous of one another’s rank? Caesar answered seriously, “I would prefer to be the first man of this village than the second man in Rome.”
Caesar’s ambition is evident from these two passages and gives insight into his and thoughts about how he saw the republic.
The Senate began to…