Julius Caesar remains one of the most popular figures of the late Roman Republic. Many people today credit him with being the major factor which led to change from the Republic to the Empire. However, Caesar was only able to accomplish this because the citizens of Rome liked Caesar above all others.
There are 3 reasons why the Citizens of Rome liked Julius Caesar. First, the uncle of Julius Caesar was Gaius Marius who made military reforms to allow citizens to serve in the military. Second, Julius Caesar would propose laws that sought to give the Roman citizens access to more public land. Third, after becoming dictator Caesar would give out Latin rights and reform taxes across the Roman Republic.
Because of these 3 reasons Julius Caesar would become loved by the average Roman citizen. This was because Julius Caesar began to shift power away from the Roman senate towards the people and his own personal faction. The people of Rome saw several new laws passed which significantly helped them. This article goes into detail on why the average citizen of Rome loved Julius Caesar.
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Without further ado, here are the 3 reasons why the citizens of Rome liked Julius Caesar.
The Uncle Of Julius Caesar Was Gaius Marius
One of the main reasons why the poor and middle class citizens of Rome liked Julius Caesar was because his father was the famous ‘popularis’ politician and general Gaius Marius.
Gaius Marius lived from 157-86 BC. He was a war hero of the middle/late Roman Republic periods. When Gaius Marius started his military career only the elite of Roman society could serve in the military. During the early and middle Republic this was not a problem.
However, as Rome began to expand after the Punic wars there was a need to get more soldiers in the army. The problem however is that the Roman Senate would have to provide the payment for the military while the individual soldiers often provided the gear.
Because of this only the most wealthy of Roman society could afford to buy the necessary gear to serve in the military. This was because there was no standing army during the middle republic. As Rome began to expand, a need for a full time army grew. The question came up on who was going to pay for this army and provide the necessary equipment.
Julius Caesar’s uncle Gaius Marius saw that Rome’s urban population had grown to a massive scale. These were poor Roman citizens who could not find a job. As such Gaius Marius helped push reforms sometimes around 107 BC that allowed the general to personally hire, train, pay, and equip professional soldiers from the urban population of Rome (with approval from the Roman senate).
Because of this the citizens of Rome loved Gaius Marius. Now they could get a job and work themselves up in Roman society to eventually hold their own land. This would allow previously unknown families in Rome to become wealthy.
When Julius Caesar came of age many people of Rome saw him as carrying on his uncle’s name. Julius Caesar was known to take good care of his troops that obeyed him. Because of this the people of Rome would like Julius Caesar who was seen as their ticket out of poverty.
As such one of the main reasons why Julius Caesar was liked by the citizens of Rome was because his uncle was the legendary Gaius Marius who reformed the Roman military. This allowed poor Romans to get a job and eventually make a living in the Roman military.
Julius Caesar Would Push Laws That Gave Poor Roman Citizens Access To More Public Land
Another reason why the citizens of Rome liked Julius Caesar was because he proposed laws which sought to redistribute land away from large private families back to the people of Rome.
This would give the urban poor places to build homes or farm. From here they could work their way up within Roman society to eventually buying their own land and hiring laborers/slaves.
This was the dream of most of the citizens of Rome. Land redistribution was a major recurring theme for the people of Rome. Over the course of the late Roman Republic we know of at least 3 solid attempts to take land away from the elite families and give it to the poor of Rome.
Naturally the elite of Roman society always shot down these laws. This would prevent them from continuing to earn substantial amounts of money which solidified their political place within Roman society.
In 59 BC Caesar ran for the political office of Roman consul. This was a year long position and was the highest in the Republic. Caesar won this election and immediately began to push for several laws which would seek to redistribute land.
The people of Rome loved this. We have reports from Plutarch and Cicero that state that the citizens of Rome filled the Roman forum to prevent anybody else from voting against the laws. Naturally, this many people in a tightly confined place with different political opinions would lead to violence.
Because of this the citizens of Rome loved Julius Caesar. Across the city Caesar was liked by the poor and middle class Romans who wanted their own place to stay in the rapidly overcrowding city. In their eyes Caesar’s proposed land redistribution laws would give them this.
As a result one of the main reasons why Julius Caesar was liked by the citizens of Rome was because of his proposed land redistribution laws. These laws would firmly cement Caesar as an ‘enemy’ of the established Senate while positioning him as a champion of the people of Rome.
After Becoming Dictator In 45 BC Julius Caesar Would Give Latin Rights And Reform Taxes Across The Roman Republic
The final reason why Julius Caesar was liked by the citizens of Rome was because upon becoming dictator for life he would begin to implement several reforms that aided the people of the Republic.
As historians we don’t have much information regarding all of the changes made during Caesar’s dictatorship. This is because Caesar only ruled for 1 year before being assassinated. Below are his most popular laws that he passed within his 1 year reign.
Right before Caesar’s assassination in 44 BC there would be several laws passed by the dictator. The first was that land would be given to all of his 15,000 veterans which he promised them decades before. This made Caesar incredibly popular among the army for keeping his word.
Next Julius Caesar would implement a Roman law which restructured all Roman outstanding debt. The problem here was that it was very easy for the average Roman citizen to fall into debt. Once that happened the Roman citizens would essentially be unable to ever borrow money again, which significantly limited their ability to grow within a society. Here Julius Caesar would essentially remove about 25% of all outstanding Roman debt owed by the lower and middle classes.
After this Julius Caesar would then order the cities of Corinth in Greece and Carthage in northern Africa to be rebuilt. These cities were ravaged in wars caused by Rome in the preceding centuries. Here the Roman citizens were seeing Caesar putting resources into building the Roman provinces.
However, his most important changes which caused the citizens of Rome to love him was that he gave out Latin rights and restructured the tax system of the Roman provinces.
Shortly before his death Julius Caesar gave out Latin rights to a majority of people under Roman governance across the provinces. This made the Roman middle class swell and being a process of Romanization of the provinces. Now everybody was given a place within Roman society.
More importantly Caesar changed the way that the Republic gathered taxes from the provinces. During the Republic the senate would elect a tax collector who would take a percentage of the total tax he could squeeze out of a province. This often caused an over taxation which depressed the local economy. Instead of this Caesar reverted the Republic back to the old tax laws where each city could tax its inhabitants in whatever way they wanted. This effectively cut out the middle man which streamlined the whole taxation process.
Because of these reforms Julius Caesar was seen as a man of the people even though he was a dictator. The citizens of Rome liked Caesar and went into a rampage once they learned of his assassination on the 15th of March, 44 BC. This caught the conspirators of guard as the entire city of Rome erupted into riots.
As such the final reason why the citizens of Rome loved Julius Caesar was because during his 1 year long dictatorship he implemented several laws and reforms which sought to ‘aid’ the people of Rome.
There you have it; an entire article on the 3 reasons why the citizens of Rome liked Julius Caesar.
This article in many ways distills down the history surrounding the now mythical figure of Julius Caesar’s use of the populus Romanus. Academics have spent their entire career researching and publishing entire books on the 40 years of Julius Caesar which existed from 85-44 BC. However, that being said this article covers the basics of the argument.
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