Roman Domestic Politics in the Late Republic - 100-44 B.C.

The Dictatorship and Death of Caesar

Page 2

In 45, Caesar was back in Spain to face the two sons of Pompeius Magnus, Gnaeus and Sextus. These two had been joined by Caesar's former legate, T. Labienus, and had raised a major revolt. At the Battle of Munda, Caesar was again victorious and Labienus was killed. Gn. Pompeius escaped but was killed three weeks later, while his brother Sextus lived to fight another day.

The dictator then began serious reforms at Rome. His administrative reforms began with the senate, which he increased in number from six to nine hundred, using his own friends, rich equites and even some provincials to fill it. The number of yearly quaestors went up from twenty to forty, and the praetors were doubled to sixteen. This gave Caesar a large number of senatorial clients who owed their position to him (a lesson that men like Joseph Stalin knew and used when consolidating their own power.) The lex Julia Municipalis reduced the number of free grain recipients from three hundred and twenty to one hundred and fifty thousand, provided for the upkeep of the streets and roads of Rome, and also set up the taking of censuses in the towns of Italy to provide the basis of local self-government, thus relieving Roman praetors of the burden of enforcing the law throughout the peninsula.

At the same time as reducing the grain dole, Caesar provided employment by a massive programme of public building work: The Basilica Julia, temple of Venus Genetrix, a new senate house and theatre, etc, provided much needed employment. A colonisation programme was also in effect, providing living space for veterans and the urban poor of Rome: among the new colonia were the towns of Seville, Tarragone, Nimes, Carthage, Corinth and Geneva. Furthermore, loyal provincial auxiliary soldiers from Gaul were awarded with Roman citizenship, and some towns were given citizenship or Latin Rights (a grade down from full citizenship.) In the east, Caesar gave tax collecting powers to the local municipalities, removing the notorious publicani. In this way, Caesar laid the foundations for the multi-racial empire that was to follow his death.

In February 44 B.C. a decree of the senate made Caesar "dictator perpetuus" or dictator for life. This was totally unprecedented in Roman politics, and alarmed many senators. While Caesar was planning campaigns against the kingdom of Dacia (roughly modern Romania) and against the Parthian empire in the east, a plot involving around sixty senators - mostly old allies of Caesar, but with some ex-Pompeians like Marcus Junius Brutus and Gaius Cassius - planned to murder the dictator on the senate meeting on 15 March (the Ides). Claiming that they were restoring the libertas of the Republic from the dominatio of one man, Caesar was stabbed to death, ironically at the foot of the statue of his old enemy, Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus. The conspirators had succeeded in removing the dictator, but failed to fill the political vacuum after the deed was done, unwittingly paving the way for the death of the Republic they wanted to preserve.

«Introduction - Page 1» «Introduction - Page 2» «Introduction - Page 3» «Consulship of Caesar - Page 1» «Consulship of Caesar - Page 2» «The Civil War» «Death of Caesar - Page 1» «Death of Caesar - Page 2»


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McKeown, J., "Roman Domestic Politics in the Late Republic - 100-44 B.C.," http://
, 21 October 2004.

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