The Ides of March – Was Caesar a Man of the People?

by Al Bloomfield

Thursday March 15, 2018

POLITICS – On the Ides of March, the 2,062nd anniversary of the assassination of Roman leader Gaius Julius Caesar on the Senate floor by over 60 homicidal senators led by his best friend Marcus Junius Brutus, one may reflect upon Caesar as a Man of the People.

Gaius Julius Caesar did a lot of things that still have practical application today. Caesar became dangerous because he was from a famous family like the Kennedys and Clintons, had lots of money like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, great speech making abilities like the infamous Hitler, and was a successful military commander like Napoleon and Shaka, who was openly generous to the poor, starving and unemployed like a one-man welfare state. Such men are dangerous to the liberties extolled by republics, especially republics governed by greedy and selfish men.

During the final years of the Republic, slaves had taken most of the jobs held by poor people leaving many citizens jobless. Caesar decreed that in every Roman province of Italy 1/3rd of those working with cattle or in agriculture must be citizens and freedmen. He created more jobs by establishing a large public works program that included repairing old aqueducts and building new ones. The need for clean water was an issue that he resolved that way. Much of Caesar’s support among the People depended upon his ability to provide them with free grain welfare which came to the Roman Republic as tribute from Egypt.

These reforms excited the anger and envy of those who sat in the Senate who were all wealthy landowners who worked there vast estates with the free labor that comes from so many slaves. To counteract their opposition, Caesar flooded the Senate with his personal appointees. Caesar created 100 new senators to make sure that these people would be his creatures and not his secret enemies.

Caesar also forgave his enemies in order to restore peace and stability to the Republic. Unfortunately, many of his enemies did not forgive him (for destroying their grip on the Republic). For example, Marcus Junius Brutus was made by Caesar praetor (like a judge) and governor of Cisalpine Gaul – a very lucrative assignment, before he murdered his best friend Caesar.

Source of information for this report included the works of Plutarch.

Was Julius Caesar a Man of the People? After your comment please leave your name, city, state or province and country. Personal attacks against other commentators are not allowed, shall not be tolerated, and shall lead to all such offending comments being summarily deleted. Thank you.

3 Comments

  1. I never really thought of Gaius Julius Caesar as a Man of the People until March of this year. I guess this year was different.

    Every year – on the Ides of March – I reflect upon the death of Caesar as it has real meaning. It reminds us all that there are no friends in politics, only enemies and allies who are allies today and enemies tomorrow, that it is always a friend who hates you the most, that power – even absolute power – cannot bring security, and that the man raised above the crowd shall be the first to be picked off.

    But after the Ides of March, my brother’s comments led me one weekend to watch the cable miniseries “Rome” (which I have) which he was watching again on cable TV. And I became fixated on Caesar the “Man of the People”, which I had never given that much thought to – certainly not in many years, if at all.

    I admired Caesar for his victories at Alesia, Pharsalia and in Egypt. But I was appalled by his destruction of the Alexandrian Library in which countless works of classical literature were destroyed – lost forever never again to be appreciated with no hope of us understanding their fullness and beauty. But I was even more appalled by Caesar’s destruction of Gaul (France & Belgium) during the Gallic War. There, while campaigning in Gaul against the united forces of Vercingetorix, Julius Caesar destroyed the 3 million strong Gallic people by slaughtering 1 million out right, deported 1 million back to Rome as slaves, and leaving the remaining 1 million scattered and displaced within their own country.

    We know about this because Caesar boasted about it as a positive achievement. That genocide – and the destruction of irreplaceable works of literature at the Alexandrian Library in Egypt – dominated my thoughts and assessment of Caesar thus making his vicious and treacherous murder seem like a just judgment upon a genocideur from God.

    However, Julius Caesar was far more than these acts of barbarism. He provided jobs for the poor through public works – not unlike what politicians in America have done since the 19th century. Since poor workers could not compete with slave labor, he enacted a law that made it mandatory that a certain percentage of jobs (that had become monopolized by slave labor) had to go to paid workers. That sounds like something that could be done in contemporary times to help American workers compete against foreign labor which seems so cheap by comparison.

    In fact, the worst thing I can say about Julius Caesar the politician is that he concentrated too much power in himself for too long a period of time. But this was not a problem for the People because extreme poverty strips away personal freedoms. It does not matter how democratic society is. Those were very poor are certainly not free. And the only people being adversely affected by Caesar’s concentration of power were the rich and the super rich. His fellow senators in the Senate were also the very large landowners were benefiting from slave labor and were now going to have to pay large sums of money to employ people they did not want to employ who were otherwise starving to death without anyone giving a damn! So the tyranny that the murderers of Caesar were complaining about was a tyranny against the rich. Given that revelation, I find it hard to sympathize with the so-called “Liberators”, say rather BUTCHERS!

    On balance, Gaius Julius Caesar was a great man worthy of our study and respect. For his injustices in Gaul he was well punished. Any comments?

    Al Bloomfield
    Belleview, Florida USA

  2. As I told my brother I thought that Gaius Julius Caesar was a man of the people for the very reasons he lays out in the article. He may have committed atrocities abroad but when it came to the plight of his people in Rome he looked out for their greater good. By making it mandatory for free people to be part of the labor force instead of making it all slave labor help out the poor that could not get work because of everything being done by slaves. Of course this makes Julius Caesar a man of the people whereas the rich senators that owned slaves and had them doing all the work for free would hate that. I’m pretty certain that paying some people to do work instead of making it all free labor would not kill the pockets of these wealthy senators but greed is a beast that refuses to be fed less, it only wants more!!! I’m thinking these senators were trying to work some kind of propaganda against Julius Caesar to justify killing him when all they wanted was to vilify him for getting into their profits. Well I guess to their surprise it didn’t work because no one treated them like Heroes or liberators after the horrible deed was done.

    Trevor
    Coral Springs, Fl
    USA

  3. I agree with both of the Bloomfield men, so I will not repeat both great commentaries. I will add only this about the present government. What would Julius say about Trump as president? Would he respect how this president fires anyone that didn’t agree with him. Julius kept his enemies close to him to his own dimise. Would he agreed with how Trump has divide the country with racism and the class of wealth. Julius love the citizens of Rome, he made decrees for employment for Romans that’s a great leader (create jobs not laws) Julius would look at our government system with fear in his eyes and warning on his lips saying “you to son” as America stabs him in the heart.

    Terry
    Belleview, Fl USa

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