Gaius Julius Caesar: Writings

Gaius Julius Caesar (13 July 100 - 15 March 44 BCE), Roman statesman, general, author, famous for the conquest of Gaul (modern France and Belgium) and his subsequent coup d'├ętat. He changed the Roman republic into a monarchy and laid the foundations of a truly Mediterranean empire.


Writing in the first quarter of the second century CE, the Roman author Suetonius still knew many of Caesar's publications, such as a book On analogy and a collection of speeches In reply to Cato. A poem The voyage described Caesar's journey from Rome to Hispania, when he was governor of Andalusia. These works are unknown to us, because the medieval monks who copied all the ancient manuscripts considered them unimportant. In Suetonius' days, other publications were already lost: a tragedy Oedipus, a collection of apophtegms and a poem or speech In praise of Hercules.

It is interesting to note that both Oedipus and Hercules were legendary heroes who suffered seriously for crimes they committed unwillingly. If one were to criticize the gods, these were well chosen subjects. It is possible that Caesar was very skeptical about religion; although he was the high priest of the Roman state cult, he does nowhere betray religious sentiments.

The only publications that have come down to us and can still be read, are his fascinating commentaries on his wars (e.g., De bello Gallico on the wars in Gaul and De bello civili on the civil war). The first text was written in Gaul, and contains seven books, each covering a single year from 58 to 52. An eighth book carries the story to the outbreak of the Civil War (i.e., it deals with the years 51 and 50) but is written by his lieutenant Hirtius. Caesar's literary aims are discussed here.

The three books on the civil war are comparable; they describe the events of the years 49 and 48 but are unfinished. In these books, Caesar is his own herald: in a simple and compressed style, he shows himself involuntarily fighting necessary wars.

Hirtius wrote a Bellum Alexandrinum about the events in the year 47. There are two other books which are said to be written by Julius Caesar, but were in fact written by others: the Bellum Africanum and the Bellum Hispaniense deal with the events in 46 and 45.