Julius Caesar

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Veni, vidi, vici.

Gaius Julius Caesar (Classical Latin: GAIVS IVLIVS CAESAR) (12 July 100 BC15 March 44 BC) was a Roman religious, military, and political leader. He played an important part in the transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire. His conquest of Gaul extended the Roman world all the way to the Atlantic Ocean, with the first Roman invasion of Britain in 55 BC. He is widely considered to be one of the greatest military geniuses of all time, as well as a brilliant politician and one of the ancient world's strongest leaders.

For the famous play by William Shakespeare, see Julius Caesar (play).


Men willingly believe what they wish.
The die is cast.
Fortune, which has a great deal of power in other matters but especially in war, can bring about great changes in a situation through very slight forces.
  • Veni, vidi, vici.
    • "I came, I saw, I conquered". Written in a report to Rome 47 B.C., after conquering Pharnaces at Zela in Asia Minor in just five days, as quoted by Plutarch in Life of Caesar, a work written in Greek (ἦλθον, εἶδον, ἐνίκησα). This is also reported to have been inscribed on one of the decorated wagons in the Pontic triumph in Lives of the Twelve Caesars, Julius, by Suetonius in Latin (veni, vidi, vici).
    • Variant translation: Came, Saw, Conquered
      • Inscription on the triumphal wagon reported in The Twelve Caesars by Suetonius, as translated by Robert Graves (1957).
  • Alea iacta est.
    • The die is cast.
      • As quoted in Vita Divi Iuli [The Life of the deified Julius] (121 CE) by Suetonius, paragraph 33 (Caesar: ... "Iacta alea est", inquit.Caesar said ... "the die is cast".)
    • Said when crossing the river Rubicon with his legions on 10 January, 49 BC, thus beginning the civil war with the forces of Pompey. The Rubicon river was the boundary of Gaul, the province Caesar had the authority to keep his army in. By crossing the river, he had committed an invasion of Italy.
    • A contrasting account from Plutarch, Life of Pompey, 60.2.9:
Ἑλληνιστὶ πρὸς τοὺς παρόντας ἐκβοήσας, «Ἀνερρίφθω κύβος», [anerrhíphtho kúbos] διεβίβαζε τὸν στρατόν.
He [Caesar] declared in Greek with loud voice to those who were present 'Let the die be cast' and led the army across.
He was reportedly quoting the playwright Menander, specifically "Ἀρρηφόρῳ" (Arrephoria, or "The Flute-Girl"), according to Deipnosophistae, Book 13, paragraph 8, saying «Ἀνερρίφθω κύβος» (anerrhíphtho kúbos). The Greek translates rather as "let the die be cast!", or "Let the game be ventured!", which would instead translate in Latin as iacta ālea estō. According to Lewis and Short (Online Dictionary: alea, Lewis and Short at the Perseus Project. See bottom of section I.).
  • Gallia omni pacata est.
    • All Gaul was subdued.
      • Written in a letter with which Caesar informed the Roman Senate of his victory over Vercingetorix in 52 BC
  • Sed fortuna, quae plurimum potest cum in reliquis rebus tum praecipue in bello, parvis momentis magnas rerum commutationes efficit; ut tum accidit.
    • Fortune, which has a great deal of power in other matters but especially in war, can bring about great changes in a situation through very slight forces.
      • The Civil War, Book III, 68; variant translation: "In war, events of importance are the result of trivial causes."
  • I assure you I had rather be the first man here than the second man in Rome.
    • On passing through a village in the Alps, as attributed in Parallel Lives , by Plutarch, as translated by John Langhorne and William Langhorne (1836), p. 499
    • Variant: First in a village rather than second in Rome.
  • I will not ... that my wife be so much as suspected.
    • His declaration as to why he had divorced his wife Pompeia, when questioned in the trial against Publius Clodius Pulcher for sacrilege against Bona Dea festivities (from which men were excluded), in entering Caesar's home disguised as a lute-girl apparently with intentions of a seducing Caesar's wife; as reported in Plutarch's Lives of Coriolanus, Caesar, Brutus, and Antonius by Plutarch, as translated by Thomas North, p. 53
    • Variant translations:
    • Caesar's wife must be above suspicion.
  • It is not the well-fed long-haired man I fear, but the pale and the hungry looking.
    • As reported in Plutarch's Anthony'; William Shakespeare adapted this in having Caesar declare Cassius as having "a lean and hungry look."
He seated himself at the head of the lines in front of the camp, the Gallic chieftains are brought before him. They surrender Vercingetorix, and lay down their arms.
Commentarii de Bello Gallico [Commentaries on the Gallic War]
  • Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres.
    • All Gaul is divided into three parts
      • Book I, Ch. 1; these are the first words of De Bello Gallico, the whole sentence is "All Gaul is divided into three parts, one of which the Belgae inhabit, the Aquitani another, those who in their own language are called Celts, in ours Gauls, the third." [1]
  • Horum omnium fortissimi sunt Belgae.
    • Of all these, the Belgae are the bravest/strongest .
      • Book I, Ch. 1
  • Consuesse enim deos immortales, quo gravius homines ex commutatione rerum doleant, quos pro scelere eorum ulcisci velint, his secundiores interdum res et diuturniorem impunitatem concedere.
    • The immortal gods are wont to allow those persons whom they wish to punish for their guilt sometimes a greater prosperity and longer impunity, in order that they may suffer the more severely from a reverse of circumstances.
      • Book I, Ch. 14, translated by W. A. McDevitte and W. S. Bohn
  • Fere libenter homines id quod volunt credunt.
    • In most cases men willingly believe what they wish.
      • Book III, Chapter 18
    • Variant translation: Men willingly believe what they wish to be true.
      • As quoted in The Adventurer No. 69 (3 July 1753) in The Works of Samuel Johnson (1837) edited by Arthur Murphy, p. 32
    • Compare: "What each man wishes, that he also believes to be true" Demosthenes, Olynthiac 3.19
  • Sunt item, quae appellantur alces. Harum est consimilis capris figura et varietas pellium, sed magnitudine paulo antecedunt mutilaeque sunt cornibus et crura sine nodis articulisque habent neque quietis causa procumbunt neque, si quo adflictae casu conciderunt, erigere sese aut sublevare possunt. His sunt arbores pro cubilibus: ad eas se applicant atque ita paulum modo reclinatae quietem capiunt. Quarum ex vestigiis cum est animadversum a venatoribus, quo se recipere consuerint, omnes eo loco aut ab radicibus subruunt aut accidunt arbores, tantum ut summa species earum stantium relinquatur. Huc cum se consuetudine reclinaverunt, infirmas arbores pondere adfligunt atque una ipsae concidunt.
    • There are also animals which are called elks [alces "moose" in Am. Engl.; elk "wapiti"]. The shape of these, and the varied colour of their skins, is much like roes, but in size they surpass them a little and are destitute of horns, and have legs without joints and ligatures; nor do they lie down for the purpose of rest, nor, if they have been thrown down by any accident, can they raise or lift themselves up. Trees serve as beds to them; they lean themselves against them, and thus reclining only slightly, they take their rest; when the huntsmen have discovered from the footsteps of these animals whither they are accustomed to betake themselves, they either undermine all the trees at the roots, or cut into them so far that the upper part of the trees may appear to be left standing. When they have leant upon them, according to their habit, they knock down by their weight the unsupported trees, and fall down themselves along with them.
      • Book VI
  • It is, after all, well known that impulsive and inexperienced people are often terrified by false gossip and impelled to take inconsiderate action, making their own decisions about what should actually be matters of state.
    • Book V
  • Vercingetorix, having convened a council the following day, declares, "That he had undertaken that war, not on account of his own exigencies, but on account of the general freedom; and since he must yield to fortune, he offered himself to them for either purpose, whether they should wish to atone to the Romans by his death, or surrender him alive." Ambassadors are sent to Caesar on this subject. He orders their arms to be surrendered, and their chieftains delivered up. He seated himself at the head of the lines in front of the camp, the Gallic chieftains are brought before him. They surrender Vercingetorix, and lay down their arms.
    • Book VII
  • Qui se ultro morti offerant facilius reperiuntur quam qui dolorem patienter ferant.
    • It is easier to find men who will volunteer to die than to find those who are willing to endure pain with patience.
      • Book VII, Ch. 77
  • It was an enormous struggle to destroy the Belgian nation.
    • A cursory overview of the history of Belgium, applied to the present events, until January 1830, (Issued for the benefit of the fund for the needy relatives of the extended Volunteers from Northern Brabant) 's HERTOGENBOSCH, Ter Boek en Provinciale Courant - Drukkerij Van DE. LION en ZONEN. (Januari 1831) Quoted from Julius Caesar, Commentarii de Bello Gallico.


  • Nihil enim malo quam et me mei similem esse et illos sui.
    • I prefer nothing but that they act like themselves, and I like myself.
    • Reported by Marcus Tullius Cicero in a letter to Atticus.
    • Variant translations:
    • There is nothing I like better than that I should be true to myself and they to themselves.


  • Beware the leader who bangs the drums of war in order to whip the citizenry into a patriotic fervor, for patriotism is indeed a double-edged sword. It both emboldens the blood, just as it narrows the mind. And when the drums of war have reached a fever pitch and the blood boils with hate and the mind has closed, the leader will have no need in seizing the rights of the citizenry. Rather, the citizenry, infused with fear and blinded by patriotism, will offer up all of their rights unto the leader and gladly so. How do I know? For this is what I have done. And I am Caesar.
    • This statement by an unknown author has also been wrongly attributed to William Shakespeare, but there are no records of it prior to late 2001. It has been debunked at Snopes.com
  • I'd rather ten guilty persons should escape, than one innocent should suffer.
    • Attributed by Edward Seymour in 1696 during the parliamentary proceedings against John Fenwick ("I am of the same opinion with the Roman, who, in the case of Catiline, declared, he had rather ten guilty persons should escape, than one innocent should suffer"), to which Lieutenant General Harry Mordaunt replied "The worthy member who spoke last seems to have forgot, that the Roman who made that declaration was suspected of being a conspirator himself" (Caesar was the only one who spoke in the Senate against executing Catiline's co-conspirators and was indeed suspected by some to be involved in the plot). However, the Caesar's corresponding speech as transmitted by Sallust contains no such phrase, even though it appears to be somewhat similar in spirit ("Whatever befalls these prisoners will be well deserved; but you, Fathers of the Senate, are called upon to consider how your action will affect other criminals. All bad precedents have originated in cases which were good; but when the control of the government falls into the hands of men who are incompetent or bad, your new precedent is transferred from those who well deserve and merit such punishment to the undeserving and blameless.") The first person to undoubtedly utter such a dictum was in fact John Fortescue ("It is better to allow twenty criminals to mercifully avoid death than to unjustly condemn one innocent person"). It should also be noted that whether the exchange between Seymour and Mordaunt even happened is itself not clearly established.

Quotes about Caesar

  • Caesar was the only man who undertook to overthrow the state when sober.
  • In that man were combined genius, method, memory, literature, prudence, deliberation, and industry. He had performed exploits in war which, though calamitous for the republic, were nevertheless mighty deeds. Having for many years aimed at being a king, he had with great labor, and much personal danger, accomplished what he intended. He had conciliated the ignorant multitude by presents, by monuments, by largesses of food, and by banquets; he had bound his own party to him by rewards, his adversaries by the appearances of clemency. Why need I say much on such a subject? He had already brought a free city, partly by fear, partly by patience, into a habit of slavery. With him I can, indeed, compare you [Mark Antony] as to your desire to reign; but in all other respects you are in no degree to be compared to him.
  • Wherever you are, remember that you are equally within the power of the conqueror."
    • Cicero in a letter to Marcus Marcellus on his Exile from Rome by Julius Caesar
    • Bent (1887) 
  • Julius Caesar, a radical aristocrat of unbounded ambition, and a successful commander and politician, gained wealth and glory by conquering Gaul, then won supreme power in a civil war. He destroyed the Roman Republic and seemed to be moving toward monarchy, but was assassinated before he could complete his plans.
    • Clive Foss, The Tyrants: 2500 Years of Absolute Power and Corruption, London: Quercus Publishing, 2006, ISBN 1905204965, p. 148
  • The greatest man that ever lived was Julius Caesar.
  • Rome officially became an Empire on 16 January 27 BC, when the Senate awarded Octavian – an adopted son of Julius Caesar – the title of Augustus. Prior to this the Republic had been tortured by two decades of bloody civil wars; in the course of these, in 49 BC, Caesar had seized power and ruled as a military dictator. Yet Caesar was an autocrat both of his time and ahead of it, and on 15 March 44 BC – the Ides of March – he was murdered – direct reward, said the scholar and bureaucrat Suetonius (c. AD 70-130), for his vaunting ambition, in which many Romans perceived a desire to revive the monarchy. ‘Constant exercise of power gave Caesar a love for it,’ wrote Suetonius, who also repeated a rumour that as a young man Caesar dreamed of raping his own mother, a vision soothsayers interpreted as a clear sign ‘he was destined to conquer the earth.’
    • Dan Jones, Powers and Thrones: A New History of the Middle Ages (2021), pp. 12-13
  • Acer, et indomitus: quo spes, quoque ira vocasset,
    Ferre manum, et nunquam temerando parcere ferro:
    Successus urgere suos: instare favori
    Numinis: impellens quicquid sibi summa petenti
    Obstaret: gaudensque viam fecisse ruina.
    • Undaunted, keen: where Hope or Passion called
      He'd fight, nor ever sheathe the murderous sword.
      Pressing advantage, following up his star,
      And sweeping all between him and his prize,
      He hailed the ruin that bestrew’d his way.
  • In his campaigns I find more restraint and reflection than in those of Alexander, who seems to go looking for dangers and charging at them like a rushing torrent which indiscriminately batters and unselectively attacks anything it meets.
  • Whilst this great man was preparing himself to fulfil these lofty destinies, the remains of the aristocratic party, which owed their life to his generosity, conspired against his life. Brutus and Cassius were the leaders: Brutus was a stoic, the disciple of Cato. Cæsar loved him and had twice saved his life, but the sect to which he belonged admitted no mitigation of its austere principles. He was full of the ideas taught in the schools of Greece against tyranny; the assassination of every man who actually stood above the laws was regarded as a legitimate action. Cæsar, the perpetual dictator, governed the whole Roman world; he had only the semblance of a senate; it could not be otherwise, after the proscriptions of Marius and Sylla, the violation of the laws by Pompey, five years of civil war, so many veterans established in Italy, attached to their generals, awaiting every thing from the greatness of certain men, and nothing from the republic. In such a state of things, these deliberative assemblies could no longer govern: the person of Cæsar was then the guarantee of the supremacy of Rome over the world, and constituted the security of all parties of citizens: his authority was therefore legitimate.
    • Napoleon, Précis des Guerres de Jules César (1836), p. 219, quoted in The British and Foreign Review; Or, European Quarterly Journal. Vol. IV. January–April. 1837 (1837), p. 456
  • [T]he rule of Caesar, although during its establishment it gave no little trouble to its opponents, still, after they had been overpowered and had accepted it, they saw that it was a tyranny only in name and appearance, and no cruel or tyrannical act was authorized by it; nay, it was plain that the ills of the state required a monarchy, and that Caesar, like a most gentle physician, had been assigned to them by Heaven itself. Therefore the Roman people felt at once a yearning for Caesar, and in consequence became harsh and implacable towards his murders...
  • Caesar overtook his advanced guard at the river Rubicon, which formed the frontier between Gaul and Italy. Well aware how critical a decision confronted him, he turned to his staff, remarking:
"We may still draw back but, once across that little bridge, we shall have to fight it out"
As he stood, in two minds, an apparition of superhuman size and beauty was seen sitting on the river bank playing a reed pipe. A party of shepherds gathered around to listen and, when some of Caesar's men broke ranks to do the same, the apparition snatched a trumpet from one of them, ran down to the river, blew a thunderous blast, and crossed over. Caesar exclaimed:
"Let us accept this as a sign from the Gods, and follow where they beckon, in vengeance on our double-dealing enemies. The die is cast."
He led his army to the farther bank, where he welcomed the tribunes of the people who had fled to him from Rome. Then he tearfully addressed the troops and, ripping open his tunic to expose his breast, begged them to stand faithfully by him.
  • Suetonius, in The Twelve Caesars, as translated by Robert Graves (1957), ¶ 31-33
  • Variant translations:
  • He caught up with his cohorts at the River Rubicon, which was the boundary of his province, where he paused for a while, thinking over the magnitude of what he was planning, then, turning to his closest companions, he said: "Even now we can still turn back. But once we have crossed that little bridge, everything must be decided by arms." As he paused, the following portent occurred. A being of splendid size and beauty suddenly appeared, sitting close by, and playing music on a reed. A large number of shepherds hurried to listen to him and even some of the soldiers left their posts to come, trumpeters among them. From one of these, the apparition seized a trumpet, leapt down to the river, and with a huge blast sounded the call to arms and crossed over to the other bank. Then said Caesar: "Let us go where the gods have shown us the way and the injustice of our enemies calls us. The die is cast." And so the army crossed over and welcomed the tribunes of the plebs who had come over to them, having been expelled from Rome. Caesar addressed the sol- diers, appealing to their loyalty, with tears, and ripping the garments from his breast.
    • As translated by Catherine Edwards (2000)
  • Brutus, quia reges eiecit, consul primus factus est; Hic, quia consules eiecit, rex postremo factus est.
    • Brutus was elected consul, when he sent the kings away; Caesar sent the consuls packing, Caesar is our king today.
      • Note left on a statue of Caesar in Rome, prior to the Ides of March, as reported in Suetonius, in The Twelve Caesars, as translated by Robert Graves (1957), Divus Iulius ¶ 80
  • Caesar was a logical man; and the heir of Caesar displayed coherence in thought and act when he inaugurated the proscriptions and when he sanctioned clemency, when he seized power by force, and when he based authority upon law and consent.
  • Caesar was and is not lovable. His generosity to defeated opponents, magnanimous though it was, did not win their affection. He won his soldiers' devotion by the victories that his intellectual ability, applied to warfare, brought them. Yet, though not lovable, Caesar was and is attractive, indeed fascinating. His political achievement required ability, in effect amounting to genius, in several different fields, including administration and generalship, besides the minor arts of wire pulling and propaganda. In all these, Caesar was a supreme virtuoso.
    • Arnold Toynbee, as quoted in the preface of American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur 1880-1964 (1978)
  • Even following in Caesar's footsteps with the benefits of modern travel's been a pretty exhausting business. But at the end of my 2,000 mile quest, I can certainly say I hail Caesar, even if given his ruthless ambition, I can't actually say that I like him very much. Nevertheless, he was one of history's truly epic figures. He lived life with an energy and a ferocity that it's hard to imagine in anyone today. And his achievements were really colossal. His conquests ensured that European culture would be classical and not Celtic. And perhaps most important of all, he persuaded the Roman people that one-person rule could work, and this new model of the Roman Caesar would change Roman history forever.
  • He had inaugurated a new era. Before him Rome had been a city with a few scattered colonies. He was the one who founded the Empire. He had codified the law, reformed the currency and even modified the calendar on the basis of scientific knowledge. His Gallic campaigns, which had taken the Roman flag as far as distant Britain, had opened up a new continent to trade and civilization. His statue had its place with those of the Gods, he had given his name to cities as well as a month in the calendar, and the monarchs added his illustrious name to their own. The history of Rome had found its Alexander. It was already apparent that he would become the unattainable model for every dictator.
    • Bertolt Brecht, The Business Affairs of Mr Julius Caesar (2016), p. 23; quoted in Long Live Latin: The Pleasures of a Useless Language (2019) by Nicola Gardini, p. 72
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