How Julius Caesar's actions of intelligence and leadership make him one of the greatest historical figures ever

Essay by lordballsx13xJunior High, 9th gradeA+, February 2004

download word file, 11 pages 3.0

Downloaded 82 times

A hero is defined as a person noted for feats of courage or nobility of purpose. Some people say that this means that a hero is someone who must risk his life to save millions of people. Others say that this means a hero is one who dies for what he believes in. And still others say that this means that a hero is somebody who fights against overwhelming odds. All of those qualities are certain qualities of a hero, but, going back to mythological times, a hero is one who fought in great battles against overwhelming odds, in order to restore an empire or disable an enemy. In doing so, this hero killed many adversaries, and was called a hero by just how many he had slain. Julius Caesar, one of the greatest historical figures of all-time, possessed many great qualities and performed those actions stated above. Even though some scholars say it was he who caused the downfall of the Roman Empire, Julius Caesar's immense amount of intelligence and leadership qualifies him as a hero.

A hero can be considered by his brilliance, and in Caesar's case, his brilliance on the battlefield. In Gaul (present-day France), Caesar was given an army to lead, and was considered a high-ranking and an extremely strong military figure. The Aedui, a tribe of Roman allies, needed assistance in Gaul and asked for Caesar's help. Caesar was most likely not outnumbered, but he was fighting against a tough tribe, named the Helvetii. Not only did Caesar destroy them and send them back to their homes, but he then crushed Germanic forces under Ariovistus, a strong tribal general. Vercingetorix, another even stronger tribal general, led a revolt against Caesar, but he was suppressed (Encarta Encyclopedia, 2003).

Not only did he help the Aedui, a Roman ally, he made their relations stronger. This is an example of his intelligence. If he did not help the Aedui, there was a good chance he would be outnumbered. He would have been because the Aedui would turn against him, and also the Helvetii and other Germanic forces would attack, taking into consideration that he is supposed to be an ally to the Aedui. Also, with the defeat of Ariovistus, Caesar gained land in northern Gaul for the Roman Empire. His intelligence on the battlefield helped his position in Gaul and helped build Rome's strength. These were very intelligent decisions.

Caesar was not always a vicious fighter who led his troops into battle, no matter what the odds against him were. He knew that after crossing the Rubicon, there would be an extremely tough battle ahead of him. Eventually, these actions led to a civil war. But before Caesar crossed, he paused and thought about the situation. Knowing that if he went any further, he would not be the hero-general of Gaul anymore, but enemy of the state. As he paused, he is quoted as saying to his troops, "We may still draw back but once across that little bridge, we shall have to fight it out."

Caesar was smart enough to know that he must pause and gather his thoughts, because what he was about to do would change his life, the lives of the Roman people, and the history of the Roman Empire forever. A hero may not be a hero after making quick decisions without carefully thinking about them. Caesar took into consideration what may lie ahead of him before he made a rational decision. Obviously, after his thought process, he found his decision to be a moral and intelligent one.

Eventually, a civil war broke out. Caesar showed more intelligence during the civil war than in any other military situation. Knowing Pompey, his enemy, was in Spain building up an army, he knew that he must attack him and his troops at once, because if he did not, Pompey would return stronger than ever before, and take control of Rome once again. If that were to happen, it would most likely make Caesar hated by all, and would probably lead to his death. Therefore, he knew he must head to Spain at once.

"On the morning of August 9, Caesar (who had vainly sought battle for several days) saw the massing of [Pompey's] opposing armies [heading to Pharsalus] and realized that Pompey's reluctance to fight had finally been overcome. By all accounts he was also able, with the prescience of genius, to deduce what Pompey's battle-plan would be and to prepare his own counterstrokes accordingly. When Pompey massed his cavalry on his left wing to destroy Caesar's forces, Caesar placed cohorts of infantry to meet them and held hidden units in reserve. With orders to strike at the faces of the young Pompeians, Caesar's legions panicked Pompey's cavalry, which broke and fled. Caesar then threw in reinforcements and outflanked Pompey's entire army." (Suzanne Cross).

This was an excellent show of intelligence. Caesar took what he knew about the enemy, and applied it in his plans. His intelligence is what panicked the cavalry, and his intelligence is what gave him the victory. This proves that making logical decisions is much more intelligent than going into battle, hoping for a miraculous victory.

As written in The Three Kingdoms, by Luo Guanzhong, Zhuge Liang, a legendary Chinese strategist of the Shu kingdom, is quoted as saying, "Those who are skilled in combat do not become angered, those who are skilled at winning do not become afraid. Thus the wise win before they fight, while the ignorant fight to win." This also proves that making logical decisions before battle is much more intelligent than going into battle without thinking. This statement means that, in order to win in battle, one must plan ahead. Applying this statement to Julius Caesar, he had already won his battles before they had begun, because he had applied knowledge and intelligence to his situations, planned them out, and went into battle knowing exactly what to do. This, obviously, shows that he did in fact have great military intelligence.

Not only did Julius Caesar use his immense amount of knowledge on the battlefield, but also in the Roman political world. Gelzer, author of Caesar: Politician and Statesman, is quoted as writing that, "A lesser man than Caesar might well have been dismayed by the number of problems...Italy and all the provinces had been the theaters of civil war. Many men were dead. The survivors had suffered grievously. Taxes and contributions in kind had been extorted from them; their property had been looted and destroyed. The years 48 and 47 had seen the forcible suppression in Rome...of agitation aiming at social revolution. The victorious soldiery was clamoring for its reward...For the prevailing disintegration was not a new phenomenon, to be attributed to the war alone; the war was itself a result of the failure of the Republic and its ruling oligarchy for decades past to cope with the social and political problems of the empire which they had conquered." Cicero, Caesar's adversary, wanted Caesar to change Rome's government--change it into something that most likely would cause it to crumble. Applying his knowledge of the Roman economy, he knew that going back to the style of government in which one city state ruled would be the most intelligent decision.

Here Caesar applied past knowledge to make the correct, and more logical, decision as to which type of government should run the Roman Empire. Cicero, Caesar's adversary, wanted him to change Rome's government into one that most likely was not in the best interest of the Empire. Romans, on the other hand, wanted Rome to return to its former type of government--the Roman Empire being ruled by one city-state. Knowing that Cicero's idea would not work, he did not use it for the good of the empire. Knowing Roman politics, and also from living in Rome, he knew that Rome needed to revert back to the old type of government, because it was vital in the growth of the Roman Empire.

He took control for himself, and showed that he knew what was best for the empire. Intelligence is just as important in politics as it is in war.

Caesar also displayed intelligence with the types of reforms and adjustments he made and created. Some adjustments and reforms he made were: he knew he had to do something about the poor and landless citizens of the Empire. He pardoned all those who took up arms against him and his armies during the Civil War. He took an exact census of the city. With this, he could take control of the free grain distribution. He reorganized and reduced it. Knowing people did not need so much of it, he reduced the free grain handed out by one-half. He set up colonies overseas for citizens and military troops. He sent about 80,000 of Rome's poor population to these colonies. He also sent veterans, to keep them out of city slums. He made laws that limited the terms of the governors of Roman provinces, and he limited the terms of propraetors to one year and of proconsuls to two (consecutive) years (Suzanne Cross, This was to prevent others from gaining the same type of power that he gained while in Gaul, which was enough to overthrow the Roman Emperor.

The most important reform he made was the abolishment of the existing Roman tax system. This system allowed Roman tax-collectors to collect for profit. This also increased the number of poor Roman citizens. He returned to an earlier way of collecting taxes, in which he permitted the provinces themselves to collect local taxes, instead of using middlemen.

All of these reforms and adjustments display just how much Caesar knew was wrong with Roman society. By pardoning his enemies, he protected his position as dictator. He also weakened the political figures by limiting their terms. Caesar did something about the extremely horrible condition of Roman citizens. He fixed their problems with poverty, which made him much more popular among the lower-class citizens of the Roman Empire. Caesar knew that corruption and poverty were hurting Roman economy and society, and he fixed those problems as quickly as he could. These reforms are what created one of the most powerful empires ever known in the history of the world.

Overall, the most important aspect of any military or political hero is his leadership abilities. While Caesar was in Gaul, his agents attempted to dominate politics in Rome. Two years later, Crassus, eager for military glory, provoked war with the Parthian Empire and was killed. Therefore, Pompey became sole consul. Pompey wanted to take away Caesar's power by taking away his position in Gaul. The Senate forced Caesar to resign. If he refused, he would be considered a public enemy. Pompey's forces greatly outnumbered Caesar's, but Caesar took his troops across the Rubicon and defeated Pompey and put him into exile (Suzanne Cross,

The Crossing of the Rubicon is one of the most well known events in the history of mankind. Without any type of leadership, Caesar would never have been able to convince his small army to cross the Rubicon and enter Rome and attempt to overthrow the corrupt political system of the empire. Not only did he lead his troops across the Rubicon, he led them to victory, and was considered a hero by many people for ending the corruption of the Roman government.

As a ruler Caesar instituted various reforms, as stated above. In the provinces he eliminated the highly corrupt tax system, founded colonies of veterans and poor citizens, and extended Roman citizenship (Encarta Encyclopedia, 2003). His leadership as a dictator was displayed in these reforms. He knew what was required to lead a vast empire, and he enforced what he thought was necessary. He applied what he knew about the wrong-doings of former rulers, and used that to his advantage to restore a massive empire back to its former power.

Some scholars regard him as a tyrant with a hunger for power, which was the reason why the Roman Empire fell. Other scholars say that it was already falling by the time he took power and that in order to save the Roman world from chaos a new type of government had to be created. Other scholars feel his power-hungry attitude caused people to turn against him, and that those same people were the ones in the senate that murdered him (Encarta Encyclopedia, 2003).

The Roman Empire was in great trouble in the reign of Pompey. The tax system was corrupt, which caused an outbreak of poverty. Political figures were corrupt and were stealing money from the empire's citizens. Pompey, although he was only supposed to be a consul, claimed title as dictator and controlled every aspect of Rome's government without the consent of the senate and other political parties.

Once Caesar defeated Pompey and put him into exile, he was able to expand the greatness of the Roman Empire for an extra one-hundred to two-hundred years, other scholars say. These scholars say that if it were not for him and his reforms, the Roman Empire may have crumbled in a matter of years. They say that his reforms, policies, intelligence, and leadership helped stall the downfall of the Roman Empire (Encarta Encyclopedia, 2003).

Caesar came into power, knowing what must be done in order to keep Rome from experiencing debilitating hardships, and maybe even its downfall. He put into place various reforms, such as eliminating the highly corrupt tax system, sponsoring colonies of veterans and poor Roman citizens, and extending Roman citizenship. These reforms, as well as many more (that have been stated above), helped strengthen Roman economy and society. He attacked Rome's eminent problems as quickly as he could before those situations had a chance to get any worse.

By eliminating the corrupt tax system, he lowered the number of poor Roman citizens, which halted the crowding of cities and the expansion of slums in those cities. By sponsoring colonies of veterans and poor citizens, he created space in which other poor and jobless citizens could work on or live in (Suzanne Cross, Extending Roman citizenship stopped many of Rome's domestic issues. It also helped raise his popularity among the common citizens.

If one was to say that his hunger for power was the reason why the Roman Empire fell, he would be absolutely incorrect. The Roman Empire was corrupt many years before Caesar's rule, and most likely it was still corrupt even during his rule, although he may not have been part of its corruption. Corrupt senators killed Caesar because they felt he was gaining too much power, even though it was helping the empire. Greed drove them to desire more power for themselves, and therefore they murdered him. After Caesar, there were few able rulers in Rome and the downfall had occurred. If not for Caesar's efforts, the downfall of Rome would have come upon the empire much faster than it actually did.

Even though some scholars say it was he who caused the downfall of the Roman Empire, Julius Caesar's immense amount of intelligence and leadership qualifies him as a hero. It is obvious that Julius Caesar possessed the qualities required in order to qualify him as a hero. If not for his great efforts, the Roman Empire would surely have collapsed much sooner than it actually did. His reforms reshaped the Roman society for the better. It helped handle obvious problems that former rulers neglected. His military intelligence was obvious in all of the major battles of the civil war and in his campaigns in Gaul. He planned carefully, taking into consideration the size of the opposing armies, the intelligence of the opposing generals, and the consequences of his future actions in battle. Using this, he created many counterattacks, and caused many tribes and armies to panic in battle and to scatter. His display of intelligence was obvious in all situations, on the battlefield and in the political system of the Roman Empire. Few other heroic figures in history displayed as much leadership and brilliance in different situations as Caesar had done. If Caesar should ever be considered as the second greatest leader of the ancient world, he would only be second to Alexander the Great.