Caesar was born in 100 BC to a minor but well respected aristocratic family of moderate wealth, one with a long and venerable history dating to the founding of Rome. Caesar was well educated, and well trained in athletic and equestrian arts. He was determined, confident, and ambitious; trained to established aristocratic leadership traits of “Dignatas, Pietas, Viritus”. He was an accomplished public orator, well-groomed, modest in dress, and even-tempered in presentation.
At sixteen, Caesar married Consul Cinna’s daughter, and, after Sulla’s second assault on Rome, was ordered to divorce her, which he refused. Witnessing the savagery of Sulla’s proscriptions, Caesar fled Rome and became a fugitive in the northern provinces, moving continually to avoid Sulla’s patrols; he was caught, bribed his captors, and was released. Caesar’s mother negotiated his pardon with Sulla, including his right to run for public office in the future. Wary of Sulla’s recriminations, Caesar went to Asia to serve as an aide to its provincial commander, beginning his early military training, and did not return to Rome until 78 BC, after Sulla’s death.
Caesar began his public career as an advocate in the Roman courts, losing his first two cases, prosecutions of corrupt provincial governors, but gaining a reputation for his impressive oratory and advocacy. Based on intimidation by supporters of a Senator he prosecuted, Caesar again went abroad, this time to study Greek philosophy, common advanced education for young aristocrats. Along the way, he was kidnapped by pirates, who held him for ransom; Caesar offered to double the sum; sent aides to raise the money; and was released. Caesar then raised a small force, returned, attacked the pirates’ camp, and crucified them. Caesar then continued to Greece to undertake his advanced philosophical studies, having, by age of twenty one, initiated both his civil and military careers.
Returning to Rome with a burnished education and strong early public reputation, in 73 BC Caesar was appointed, through family connections, to the College of Pontiffs. He then won election as a military Tribune in 71 BC, where he advocated restoration of the power of the Tribunate to initiate legislation, which had been suspended by Sulla. Caesar was elected Magistrate in 70 BC and was appointed to the Senate, then was assigned to Spain as a senior aide to the provincial governor. Returning to Rome in 69 BC, Caesar supported a controversial proposal to provide Pompey, then sitting Consul, extraordinary powers of command throughout the Mediterranean, to deal with pirates disrupting merchant trade. Caesar was then appointed to manage the Forum’s public facilities and festivals, which enhanced his fame and popularity, important to his political ambitions. In 64 BC, Caesar was appointed judge overseeing a trial of those accused of killings during Sulla’s proscriptions; many were convicted and required to return their reward money to the Treasury; however, Catiline was exonerated. In 63 BC, another, more massive land redistribution bill was proposed unanimously by all ten Tribunes, for the benefit of the rural poor and military veterans; Cicero, sitting Consul, campaigned aggressively against the bill, and one Tribune was convinced to reverse his position and veto it.
At the end of 63 BC, Caesar ran an upstart campaign for Pontifex Maximus, head of the college of fifteen pontiffs, and won, representing an enormous boost to his prestige and influence. In 61 BC, Caesar was appointed governor of Spain, where he implemented a debt restructure program for poor farmers, and put down a rebellion in the central coastal mountain region. Caesar returned from Spain in 60 BC, and ran and was elected Consul in 59 BC, forming an informal, and secret, alliance (“The First Triumvirate”) with Crassus and Pompey. Caesar and Pompey supported another massive land re-distribution bill, and reform of tax administration contracts in the provinces. This time the distributed land was ether unclaimed, or sold voluntarily at market value, rather than confiscated. The bill was opposed by Cato in the Senate with an unending speech, a successful filibuster tactic; Caesar had him arrested, but, facing protest, released him immediately. Failing in the Senate, Caesar took the matter to the public in the Forum the next day, where his co-Consul, opposing the bill, was pushed off the rostrum, and had a bucket of manure dumped on his head. The proposal received strong public support, and passed easily when it went to the Tribal Assembly shortly thereafter. Caesar had become a moderate social reformer, putting him at odds with more rigid aristocratic interests represented in the Senate.
At the time of Caesar’s birth in 100 BC, Rome was powerful and wealthy, ruling Italy, Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica, Greece, southern Gaul, most of Spain, Asia Minor, and modern Algeria and Tunisia. As Caesar climbed the ranks of military and political power over the next half century, Rome’s political system, designed to balance class interests, continued to violate the intent and standards of its design, gradually descending in a downward cycle, through major convulsions of violence, to civil war as a means of political decision making.