The Lives of the Twelve Caesars/ On Julius Caesar by Suetonius, ( @ 121 A.D.)

Content Question: What are the good and bad qualities described?

Analysis Question: How do the criticisms show reasons for his assassination?

Evaluative Questions: How does Caesar compare and contrast with other leaders you’re familiar with?

XL. Turning afterwards his attention to the regulation of the commonwealth, [Julius Caesar] corrected the calendar 68, which had for (28) some time become extremely confused….

XLI. He filled up the vacancies in the Senate, by advancing several plebeians to the rank of patricians ….

XLII. … He likewise made all those who practiced medicine in Rome, and all teachers of the liberal arts, free of the city, in order to fix them in it, and induce others to settle there. With respect to debts, he disappointed the expectation which was generally entertained, that they would be totally cancelled; and ordered that the debtors should satisfy their creditors, according to the valuation of their estates, at the rate at which they were purchased before the commencement of the civil war; deducting from the debt what had been paid for interest either in money or by bonds; by virtue of which provision about a fourth part of the debt was lost. … Crimes were punished with greater severity; and the rich being more easily induced to commit them because they were only liable to banishment, without the forfeiture of their property, he stripped murderers, as Cicero observes, of their whole estates, and other offenders of one half.

XLIII. He was extremely assiduous and strict in the administration of justice. He expelled from the Senate such members as were convicted of bribery; and he dissolved the marriage of a man of pretorian rank, who had married a lady two days after her divorce from a former husband, although there was no suspicion that they had been guilty of any illicit connection. He imposed duties on the importation of foreign goods. The use of litters for traveling, purple robes, and jewels, he permitted only to persons of a certain age and station, and on particular days. He enforced a rigid execution of the sumptuary laws; placing officers about the markets, to seize upon all meats exposed to sale contrary to the rules, and bring them to him; sometimes sending his lictors and soldiers to carry away such victuals as had escaped the notice of the officers, even when they were upon the table.

XLIV. His thoughts were now fully employed from day to day on a variety of great projects for the embellishment and improvement of the city, as well as for guarding and extending the bounds of the empire. … But in the midst of all his undertakings and projects, he was carried off by death; before I speak of which, it may not be improper to give an account of his person, dress, and manners; together with what relates to his pursuits, both civil and military.

XLV. It is said that he was tall, of a fair complexion, round limbed, rather full faced, with eyes black and piercing; and that he enjoyed excellent health, except towards the close of his life, when he was subject to sudden fainting-fits, and disturbance in his sleep. He was likewise twice seized with the falling sickness while engaged in active service. He was so nice in the care of his person, that he not only kept the hair of his head closely cut and had his face smoothly shaved, but even caused the hair on other parts of the body to be plucked out by the roots, a practice for which some persons criticized him. His baldness gave him much uneasiness, having often found himself upon that account exposed to the insults of his enemies. He therefore used to comb forward the hair from the crown of his head; thus of all the honors conferred upon him by the Senate and people, there was none which he either accepted or used with greater pleasure, than the right of wearing constantly a laurel crown. …

LVII. was perfect in the use of arms, an accomplished rider, and able to endure fatigue beyond all belief. On a march, he used to go at the head of his troops, sometimes on horseback, but oftener on foot, with his head bare in all kinds of weather. He would travel post in a light carriage without baggage, at the rate of a hundred miles a day; and if he was stopped by floods in the rivers, he swam across, or floated on skins inflated with wind, so that he often anticipated intelligence of his movements. …

LXXVI. His other words and actions, however, so far outweigh all his good qualities, that it is thought he abused his power, and was justly cut off. For he not only obtained excessive honors, such as the consulship every year, the dictatorship for life, and the censorship, but also the title of emperor and the surname of Pater Patriæ or “Father of his Country,” besides having his statue amongst the kings, and a lofty couch in the theatre. He even suffered some honors to be decreed to him, which were unbefitting the most exalted of mankind; such as a gilded chair of state in the Senate-house and on his tribunal, a consecrated chariot, … temples, altars, statues among the gods, a bed of state in the temples, a priest, and a college of priests dedicated to himself, like those of Pan; and that one of the months should be called by his name. There were, indeed, no honors which he did not either assume himself, or grant to others, at his will and pleasure. … He admitted into the Senate some men who had been made free of the city, and even natives of Gaul, who were semi-barbarians. He likewise appointed to the management of the mint, and the public revenue of the state, some servants of his own household; and entrusted the command of three legions, which he left at Alexandria, to an old catamite of his, the son of his freed-man Rufinus.

Adapted from the translation by Alexander Thompson, 1889.