Julius Caesar Sr., Gaius

Gaius Julius Caesar (c.135-85): Roman politician in the first quarter of the first century BCE, father of the dictator with the same name.

Coin of Caesar (the dictator), stressing his family's claim to be descendants of Aeneas

The end of the second century BCE witnessed the rise of new families in Roman politics. The reforms proposed by Tiberius and Gaius Sempronius Gracchus, and the supremacy of general Gaius Marius, had deeply shaken the political world. One of the new families was that of the Julii Caesares. They were not completely new, but their power rapidly increased, which is also indicated by their claim that they descended from the goddess Venus.

The leading Julians were Lucius Julius Caesar (praetor in 94, consul in 90, censor in 89) and his younger brother Gaius Julius Caesar Strabo (aedile in 90). Two other members of the family were Sextus Julius Caesar (consul in 91) and Gaius Julius Caesar. We do not know how the two branches of this family were related.

Gaius Julius Caesar's career was never very impressive. In 99 or 98, shortly after his wife Aurelia had given birth to his famous son, he was quaestor, and in 92 he was praetor. During the subsequent year, when his brother Sextus was consul, he served as a governor in Asia. This must have made him a rich man, because Asia was one of the wealthiest provinces in the Roman empire, and no governor returned empty-handed.

When he arrived in Italy, it had changed considerably. His relatives served the state as consul and aedile, but war had broken out with the allies. Not much later, a second war broke out with king Mithridates of Pontus, who occupied the province of Asia from which Gaius Julius Caesar had just returned. To make matters worse, two generals, Marius and Sulla, started a civil war: both wanted to be supreme commander in the Mithridatic War. Sulla marched on Rome, supported by Lucius Julius Caesar and Gaius Julius Caesar Strabo, and expelled the Marians. This also marked the end of the career of the former governor of Asia, because his sister Julia had been married to Marius. Gaius Julius Caesar died in 85, from natural causes, in Pisae.

His son survived. His father had seen to his education by one of the best orators of Rome, Marcus Antonius Gnipho. When the younger Gaius Julius Caesar was assassinated in 44, he was the first man in Rome.

This page was created in 2004; last modified on 25 July 2015.