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I found it interesting, while watching Historia Civilis, that Julius Caesar was not the first powerful general of his time to float the idea of becoming the King. Pompey, seemed to be Caesar's role model, and had a very similar trajectory as a great general amassing power and love of the people, and trying to assume a role of king. Apparently Caesar was more successful in the endeavor.

I'd never heard this before, and someone please correct me if I misinterpreted anything. I don't have any references to point to. But I got the impression that there were several others before Caesar, but he was just a beast when it came to strategy.

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This was a worry in regards to the republic. It's why armies were not allowed inside the city walls; Pompey, Crassus, Julius et al were supposed to enter the city without their armies.

The difference for Octavian was that at the time he seized power the republic had fallen into disarray -- the Tribunes were now typically patricians, so the counterbalancing power of the plebs was pretty effectively eroded. In addition the years of accumulation of war booty had removed the citizens from the need to support the power structure -- most of the work was done by foreigners and slaves.

In addition the structure of imperial (that is generals') power throughout the empire created large power structures outside the republic's structure. So a large army like Pompey's or Julius's outside the walls (as described above) could become, instead of a guarantee of neutrality, a threat.

Remember in those days one became wealthy through power as opposed to powerful through wealth. Julius became wealthy by being appointed governor of Hispania (IIRC) then then using that as a power base to accumulate more power and treasure. This imbalance I talked about became so large that when Octavian took power (having inherited both wealth and position from his fellow consul and adoptive father, Julius Caesar) he was wealthy enough to pay Rome's entire budget out of his personal funds with plenty left over.

So in essence it was a "gilded age" similar to todays, the wealth<->power inversion notwithstanding.


Don't forget Sulla, who basically was king for a time, before abdicating to retire on his estate. He reigned while Julius Caesar was a youth, and spared his life while many of his family was sentenced to death.


Probably start with Gaius Marius. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaius_Marius


Consul for 7 terms (though not in a row). He alternated between savior and terror of the republic.


Pompey seemed to be more interested in the glory and adoration that came with military conquest than the actual power that could come from it. Pompey disbanded his army after returning from his Eastern conquests, he could have easily taken Rome for himself.


> Pompey seemed to be more interested in the glory and adoration that came with military conquest than the actual power that could come from it.

No. Pompey wanted political power just as much he wanted military power. He was able to wield the second, but never really the first. That was mainly due to his rivalry with Crassus first and Caesar second.

He just wasn't at the right time in the right place. Crassus, despite being an inferior general, was richer than him and had more influence in the Senate. Caesar initially had less political influence than him, but he was superior on the battlefield.


This is why I hesitate to even speak up about this era, as I'm definitely not knowledgeable enough. But I find it all so fascinating. It's easy to see these people as fictional characters, but the realization that they were real and all these things happened so long ago it mind blowing.


If that was the case, then why did he not just run the Senate out of town when he returned from the East after clearing the Mediterranean of Pirates and finishing off Mithridates? He was extremely popular with the people and the Army. Right before the civil wars with Caesar started, he was preparing for a virtual retirement with his appointment as governor of Spain. The governorship was to give him a steady source of income.


> He was extremely popular with the people and the Army.

Yes, he was extremely popular because he was a skilled general. He had a very good understanding of Roman military strategy and tactics. Not on the top-5 but surely on the top-10 of the best Roman generals of all time.

> If that was the case, then why did he not just run the Senate out of town

That wasn't possible. The Roman Senate and the whole Roman political scene was in complete stagnation. Plus, you couldn't really "run the Senate" remotely – many tried (including Caesar) doing so, none succeeded. You had to have a physical presence or to delegate (e.g. Caesar with Mark Anthony).

At the time, Pompey had strong political power and run for Console, but on his way to power, he found Crassus with the very same goal in mind. The problem is that Crassus was the richest man in Rome (a billionaire compared to today) and he had much more political influence.

Pompey (mainly because of Crassus's obstructionism) wasn't able to fully capitalize on his military success.

Caesar well understood that the stagnation was mainly due to the Crassus/Pompey (personal) rivalry and offered them to run himself for Console, (1) stop the Senate stagnation and (2) approve their reforms.

The rest is history.


Caesar was "opportunism" at its finest level. Both in the battled field and in the Roman political scene. It worked in both worlds.


If you see what he did at Alesia, Axona, etc, you can tell he was a patient and genius general. He did many things we find horrible, but also enacted many reforms at the expense of wealthy aristocrats, and put Gauls in the Roman senate. I find the dichotomy of him as a person to be very fascinating.


Alesia is the finest example of Caesar military strategy.

I wrote about it here: https://leonardofed.io/blog/caesar.html


> I found it interesting, while watching Historia Civilis, that Julius Caesar was not the first powerful general of his time to float the idea of becoming the King.

Nearly all kings and leaders throughout history have been generals or commanders. And when they inherit the title, if they are ineffectual commanders, they would often get overthrown.

Force trumps all, a leader who isn't the strongest will always risk being overthrown. Even in the US, the President is Commander in Chief. Historically, Democracy and civilian rule is rare. Most famous leaders throughout all of history were conquerors and those who weren't became famous for letting a dynasty get conquered.


For Romans, military success was an absolute prerequisite for a political career.

Without military success, one could become Questor or (if lucky) Praetor, but no way he could become Console. He had to demonstrate somehow his military value on the battlefield before.

Some exceptions were made from times to times (e.g. Cicero) but they were usually followed up by the mob.


Check out the touchstone The History Of Rome podcast by Mike Duncan. It’s great and covers the origins and rise of the empire accessibly and in detail.


His "The Storm Before the Storm" (https://www.amazon.com/Storm-Before-Beginning-Roman-Republic...) is a great read as well. I was genuinely saddened when I finished it.


Don't forget Cincinnatus who easily could have, but didn't.




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