The answer to the question, Who was Julius Caesar? seems pretty obvious. He was an accomplished Roman general who seized control of the Republic, but who was he as a person? In this lesson, you will learn about Caesar’s personality traits and characteristics.
Julius Caesar: Intelligent
First and foremost, Julius Caesar, the Roman general and statesman who upended the Republic and its laws, was a smarty pants. He was exceptionally bright, well-educated, and well-read. His intelligence is one of the reasons why he was such a successful ruler. Caesar was both an articulate writer and a compelling speaker. When he was addressing the Senate or the public, Romans hung on his every word. His critical mind was immensely beneficial during his military career. He planned and strategized to outmaneuver his opponents.
One of the best examples of Caesar’s intelligence comes from the Battle of Alesia. While working to conquer Gaul (which is modern-day France), Caesar pursued his enemy to a small fortified town called Alesia. Instead of exhausting his resources and sacking the city, he created a siege instead.
Caesar was well aware his foe would be sending reinforcements so he did two things. First, he had his troops construct a series of walls and ditches around the city called circumvallation. This way, he could monitor the Gauls trapped inside the city. Around the circumvallation, he had his troops build another series of perimeters called contravallation. From the contravallation, he could watch for reinforcements and defend the position of the Roman army. It was this attention to detail and cleverness that endeared him to his troops.
Julius Caesar: Energetic
In addition to being clever, Caesar was incredibly energetic. As the governor of Gaul, Caesar was able to fight wars for seven years, while also writing a series of seven books recounting his escapades. During his life, Caesar traveled non-stop. Whether he was fighting a war or simply visiting a Roman province, he was constantly on the move.Caesar’s energy was also evidenced in his romantic exploits.
Over the course of his life, he had three wives and multiple mistresses. Imagine taking over a country, fighting multiple wars, AND juggling several girlfriends at the same time. The man never tired!
Julius Caesar: Cunning and Generous
Immense intelligence and energy were not the only qualities that made Caesar a formidable leader. He was also exceptionally driven, power-hungry, and cunning. Caesar came from a noble but poor family.
What Caesar lacked in funds he made up for with an insatiable thirst for power. Every action was calculated; nothing he did was without purpose.For example, when one of his greatest political opponents died, Caesar went out of his way to memorialize the man. Not because he liked him or thought he was a good guy, but because Caesar knew that speaking about his fallen adversary would help neutralize his posthumous influence.Aside from being cunning, Caesar was also generous, bestowing lavish gifts on the people closest to him.
He gave his mistress, Cleopatra, her own palace in Rome. Additionally, he showed mercy to the people he conquered and spared many of the political opponents he defeated.
Caesar had many positive qualities, but some of his more negative attributes worked against him. Caesar is described by Roman historian Suetonius as a good-looking guy and, given his love life, it’s pretty evident that the ladies found him attractive.
Despite this, Caesar was rather self-conscious, especially when it came to his hairline. He took to combing his hair a certain way or wearing a crown of laurels in an attempt to hide the fact that he was balding.Caesar’s ultimate downfall was the result of his ‘devil may care’ attitude.
Caesar viewed himself to be above the law. Early in his career, Caesar was stripped of his title as governor of Gaul. Later, the Senate planned to prosecute him for illegal acts he committed while a consul of Rome. Instead of coming back to Rome peacefully, Caesar brought his army with him to avoid prosecution.When Caesar assumed control of Rome, he accepted the title of ‘dictator for life.
‘ Traditionally, the position of dictator was meant to be short-term: this individual was responsible for getting Rome through a rough time like war or unrest. Becoming dictator for life meant that the people had no say in who their leader was. Unfortunately, Caesar’s lack of regard for the court of public opinion made him unpopular with the Senate.
In 44 B.C.E., his political adversaries assassinated him in the Senate, stabbing him repeatedly.
Julius Caesar was not just the Roman general and statesman who upended the Republic and its laws; he was a man of many qualities. He was very intelligent and used his sharp mind to win multiple wars and seize the Roman Republic, including victories over Gaul, or modern-day France.The most infamous victory was at the battle of Alesia, in which Caesar had his Army construct a series of walls and ditches around the city, called circumvallation, so he could watch the Gauls trapped in their city, and a number of other perimeters, called contravallation, perimeters he used to watch his own Army and the roads for reinforcements. It’s also worth mentioning that during all this, he also managed to write seven volumes describing the Gallic wars.Always full of energy, as evidenced by his lengthy travels, his romances, and his ability to fight several wars at once, Caesar also rewarded those he loved, including wives, friends, and mistresses, with extreme generosity in the form of gifts and spared his conquered foes.
As a statesman, he was cunning and calculating. There was a specific purpose to everything he did. Caesar’s persistent energy helped him to succeed as a scholar, general, and dictator.As described by Roman historian Suetonius, Caesar was a good-looking man, despite his self-consciousness about physical imperfections like male-pattern baldness. Ultimately, his lack of regard for the rules led to his downfall as the dictator of Rome.
Julius Caesar’s Characteristics
|Positive Traits||Negative Traits|
|Intelligent, energetic, motivated, extremely generous, cunning||Power-hungry, self-conscious, arrogant, calculating|
After progressing through this lesson on the personality traits of Julius Caesar, find out how prepared you are to:
- Summarize the positive and negative qualities of Julius Caesar
- Discuss the qualities that endeared him to the people and those that led to his assassination