Rome was crazy. Senators would fight, sometimes literally, for prestige and any chance to prove themselves worthy of being a senator. Some of the top ranks in Roman politics were Consul which would lead to Proconsul – the rank Caesar was when he invaded Gaul and when he first explored Britannia.
In Caesar’s day, family lineages were very important in terms of prestige in politics. An average legate or praetor could emphasize his family’s past achievements as if they were his own. And they would be his own, because women were not of the same caste as men in Caesar’s Rome. Slavery, too, was commonplace. In fact, one of the ways of an up-and-coming politician to gain fame would be to take his army (imagine that, you’re own army!) and loot and enslave other peoples; hence Caesar’s invasion of Gaul. Other proconsuls at the time were invading other nations. This was normal for Rome. Yet, within Rome, using force to gain political ascendancy was considered bad politics.
Assassinations, however, did happen. So did civil wars. Caesar grew up in the midst of a terrible civil war. Politicians were murdered, property was stolen and factions sought each other out for supreme control. Through war, Caesar eventually became Dictator Perpetuo – lifelong dictator – a position given to him by the Senate when he had conquered Gaul and defeated other proconsul’s and armies vying for top spot. He was the de facto Emperor in an empire that had long ago chosen the model of the republic over monarchy. This power is eventually what got him assassinated by a handful of senators in the senate. Live by the sword….
Oh, and that phrase “Et tu Brute”? It didn’t happen. Goldsworthy states that that statement was a literal device created in later writings, perhaps Shakespearean.
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