History for the Rest of Us

Cleopatra VII, Pharaoh – Summary

Cleopatra VII, Pharaoh – Summary

May 5, 2014

Cleopatra (at age 18) began to assert herself as sole ruler of Egypt at the expense of her co-ruling brother Ptolemy XIII (10), but within three years her enemies placed Ptolemy on the throne as the sole ruler. Thinking he would please Caesar, Ptolemy instead angered him by murdering the great Roman military and political leader Pompey. Cleopatra saw an opportunity and had herself smuggled into Ptolemy’s palace in a carpet to meet with Caesar. She became his mistress and with the defeat of Ptolemy’s army at the Battle of the Nile, Caesar backed her claim to the throne naming Ptolemy XIV as co-ruler. After allegedly poisoning her new co-ruler, Cleopatra made her son (by Caesar) Caesarion her co-regent and successor. After Caesar’s death, she would align herself with Mark Antony with whom she had three children. After Antony’s defeat at Actium and his subsequent suicide, Cleopatra would follow – committing suicide with an asp bite on the...

Marc Antony

Marc Antony

Mar 6, 2013

(83-30 B.C.) Marcus Antonius, or Marc Antony, grandson of Antonius the orator, and son of Antonius Creticus, seems to have been born about 83 B.C. While still a child he lost his father, whose example however, had he been spared, would have done little for the improvement of his character. Brought up under the influence of the disreputable Cornelius Lentulus Sura, whom his mother had married, Antony spent his youth in profligacy and extravagance. For a time he co-operated with the reprobate Clodius in his political plans, chiefly, it is supposed, through hostility to Cicero, who had caused Lentulus, his stepfather, to be put to death as one of the Catiline conspirators; but he soon withdrew from the connection, on account of a disagreement which, appropriately enough, arose in regard to his relations to his associate’s wife, Flavia. Not long after, in 58 B.C., he fled to Greece, to escape the importunity of his creditors; and at length, after a short time spent in attendance on the philosophers at Athens, found an occasion for displaying some of the better features of his character, in the wars that were being carried on by Gabinius against Aristobulus in Palestine, and in support of Ptolemy Auletes in Egypt. A new chapter in his life was opened by the visit which he made to Julius Cæsar in Gaul. Welcomed by the victorious general as a valuable assistant in his ambitious designs, and raised by his influence to the offices of quæstor, augur, and tribune of the plebes, he displayed admirable boldness and activity in the maintenance of his patron’s cause, in opposition to the violence and intrigues of the oligarchical party. At length his antagonists prevailed, and expelled him from the curia; and the political contest became a civil war. The Rubicon was crossed; Cæsar was victorious, and Antony shared in his triumph. Deputy-governor of Italy during Cæsar’s absence in Spain (49), second in command in the decisive battle of Pharsalia (48), and again deputy-governor of Italy while Cæsar was in Africa (47), Antony was now inferior in power only to the dictator himself, and eagerly seized the opportunity of indulging in the most extravagant excesses of luxurious...

The Forum of Julius Caesar

The Forum of Julius Caesar

Oct 27, 2012

The Forum Iulium was the first of the so‑called imperial fora, begun by Julius Caesar and designed, not for a market, but to provide a centre for business of other kinds. The plan of this forum had been conceived as early as 54 B.C., for in that year Cicero and Oppius engaged in purchasing land for Caesar from private owners, and had already paid sixty million sesterces. More land was acquired afterwards, and the final cost is said to have been one hundred million sesterces, a sum perhaps exaggerated. Work was probably begun in 51, during Caesar’s absence in Gaul. At the battle of Pharsalus Caesar vowed a temple to Venus Genetrix, the mythical ancestress of the Julian gens, and proceeded to build it in the centre of his forum, which thus became in effect a porticus surrounding the temple, a type followed in all the later fora. Temple and forum were dedicated on the last day of Caesar’s great triumph, 26th September, 46 B.C., although the forum was not finished by Caesar, but by Octavianus after the dictator’s death. In the forum Caesar allowed the erection of a statue of himself wearing a cuirass, and he himself dedicated a statue of his horse with ‘humanis similes pedes priores’, on which the dictator was mounted. In front of the temple stood a fountain surrounded by nymphs, called Appiades. The forum was burned in 283 A.D. and restored by Diocletian. While the official designation was forum Iulium it appears regularly in our sources as forum Caesaris. The temple of Venus was pycnostyle and built of solid marble. The statue of Venus Genetrix by Arcesilas, which Caesar set up, in foro Caesaris, was probably in the cella of the temple. Caesar also placed in the temple two paintings by Timomachus, Ajax and Medea; a gilded statue of Cleopatra; six dactyliothecae or collections of engraved gems; and a thorax adorned with British pearl. Later, Augustus is stated to have set up in the temple a statue of the deified Julius with a star above his head, although some scholars believe that this is a mistake for the temple of divus Iulius in the forum. A colossal statue...

Caesar Augustus

Caesar Augustus

Sep 21, 2012

63 B.C.-14 A.D. Caius Julius Cæsar Octavianus Augustus, son of Caius Octavius and Atia (Julius Cæsar’s niece), was born in 63 B.C. He was the first and greatest of the Roman emperors, in his way perhaps fully as great as his adoptive father, Julius Cæsar. The Octavian family came originally from Velitræ, in the country of the Volsci; and the branch to which Augustus belonged was rich and honorable. His father had risen to the rank of senator and prætor, but died in the prime of life, when Augustus was only four years old. Augustus was carefully educated in Rome under the guardianship of his mother and his step-father; and his talents recommended him to his great-uncle, Julius Cæsar, who adopted him as his son and heir. At the time of Cæsar’s assassination (44 B.C.), Augustus was a student under the celebrated orator Apollodorus, at Apollonia in Illyricum, whither, however, he had been sent chiefly to gain practical instruction in military affairs. He returned to Italy, and now first learning that he was his uncle’s heir, assumed the name of Julius Cæsar Octavianus. The soldiers at Brundusium saluted him as Cæsar, but he declined their offers, and entered Rome almost alone. The city was at this time divided between the republicans and the friends of Mark Antony, but the latter, by adroit manœuvres, had gained the ascendency, and enjoyed almost absolute power. At first, Augustus was haughtily treated by Antony, who refused to surrender Cæsar’s property; but after some fighting, in which Antony was worsted and forced to flee across the Alps, Augustus, who had made himself a favorite with the people and the army, obtained the consulship and carried out Cæsar’s will. He found an able advocate in Cicero, who at first had regarded him with contempt. To himself the great orator seemed to be laboring in behalf of the republic, whereas he really was only an instrument for raising Augustus to supreme power. When Antony returned from Gaul with Lepidus, Augustus threw off the republican mask, and joined them in establishing a triumvirate. He obtained Africa, Sardinia, and Sicily; Antony, Gaul; and Lepidus, Spain. Their power was soon made absolute by the...

Julius Caesar

Julius Caesar

Aug 17, 2012

THE LIVES OF THE TWELVE CAESARS by C. Suetonius Tranquillus CAIUS JULIUS CAESAR. I. Julius Caesar, the Divine, lost his father when he was in the sixteenth year of his age; and the year following, being nominated to the office of high-priest of Jupiter, he repudiated Cossutia, who was very wealthy, although her family belonged only to the equestrian order, and to whom he had been contracted when he was a mere boy. He then married Cornelia, the daughter of Cinna, who was four times consul; and had by her, shortly afterwards, a daughter named Julia. Resisting all the efforts of the dictator Sylla to induce him to divorce Cornelia, he suffered the penalty of being stripped of his sacerdotal office, his wife’s dowry, and his own patrimonial estates; and, being identified with the adverse faction, was compelled to withdraw from Rome. After changing his place of concealment nearly every night, although he was suffering from a quartan ague, and having effected his release by bribing the officers who had tracked his footsteps, he at length obtained a pardon through the intercession of the vestal virgins, and of Mamercus Aemilius and Aurelius Cotta, his near relatives. We are assured that when Sylla, having withstood for a while the entreaties of his own best friends, persons of distinguished rank, at last yielded to their importunity, he exclaimed—either by a divine impulse, or from a shrewd conjecture: “Your suit is granted, and you may take him among you; but know,” he added, “that this man, for whose safety you are so extremely anxious, will, some day or other, be the ruin of the party of the nobles, in defence of which you are leagued with me; for in this one Caesar, you will find many a Marius.” II. His first campaign was served in Asia, on the staff of the praetor, M. Thermus; and being dispatched into Bithynia, to bring thence a fleet, he loitered so long at the court of Nicomedes, as to give occasion to reports of a criminal intercourse between him and that prince; which received additional credit from his hasty return to Bithynia, under the pretext of recovering a debt due to...