Julius Caesar was undoubtedly a man who changed history. His life and its story have inspired generations of awe and scrupulous study. Many would argue he is the most influential man in recorded history. However, can the great Caesar truly be declared a 'event-making man', according to the criteria of the Great Man Theory? Did he truly influence the course of history through his own extraordinary acts of will and leadership? Or was he simply a fortunate man who appeared in the right place at the right time, being only the pawn of a greater scheme? By following and exploring the political ideals and abilities of Caesar, as well as his military ability and prowess, this essay hopes to clearly demonstrate that he was indeed a great 'event-making man', possessed of exceptional ambition, incredible intelligence, remarkable cunning, and inordinate bravery. In order to properly evaluate Caesar as a 'Great Man', we must first establish the criteria by which he is to be judged, the criteria of the 'Great Man' Theory. According to Russell Hooks, author of an essay on the Great Man Theory, a 'Great Man' is an event-making man.
A person who, through conscious will and extraordinary shows of leadership skills and intelligence, influences the flow of history. An event-making man does not cause events to happen by chance, such as through inheritance. He purposely alters the flow of history immensely from that which it would have been without his existence 1. On the contrary, an eventful man is one who also alters the flow of history, yet did so through no incredible shows of his own talent. He is not unique in any way, and any other man would have done the same in his stead 2. This is the difference between an event-making man, and a merely eventful man.
So was Julius Caesar a truly great 'event-making man'? Did he possess intelligence, cunning, and ambition beyond that of normal men? Did he, throughout his life, make conscious decisions to further his own greatness and change history? Yes, Caesar was indeed a great man, and was unique in many aspects. In the political world of Rome, Caesar was a veritable giant, yet not only did he have power, but an artful intelligence. No matter what his position, he exhibited signs of true leadership. He was patient, knowing that he would one day be the ruler of Rome.
He was ruthless, doing whatever it would take to further his own success. He was corrupt when necessary, bribing and climbing rapidly in the political sphere of Rome. From his birth in 99 BCE, on the 11 th day of the month Quinctilus, which would later be renamed after him to July, he was an ambitious and outgoing man. It should be noted also, that he was not born into a family of incredible prestige, nor was he heir to any particular position of great importance.
He was a member of the nobility, yet no more. All that he gained, he did so through his own acts of will and ambition. At an early age, he attempted to gain political power by speaking in the public Forum. This action resulted in failure for the time being, yet this defeat inspired him to study under the great Apollonius, in order to increase his eloquence of speech. Caesar immediately recognized the importance of speech, and what role it would play in his destiny. In the future, Caesar would give many speeches to the people, and gain their affection by expending great amounts of wealth in large feasts and parties.
As his popularity grew, he rose in rank and eminence as well. Through these conscious decisions, Caesar was slowly plotting the overthrow of the Republic, and saw these small victories as the foundation of his future greatness 3. As his career advanced, Caesar passed through many increasingly important positions of power in the government, such as second orator, and Praetor of Rome (the chief civil magistrate). In Cadiz, a city in Spain, Caesar encountered a statue of Alexander at the Great in the temple of Hercules.
He reportedly sighed heavily, disappointed in his lack of power at the same age at which Alexander had nearly conquered the known world. However, Caesar knew that patience and caution were necessary. Slowly but surely, he gained increasing favour with the people, and increasing fame for his quick wit and ambitious actions. He took every opportunity to speak in public, and to impress the populace with his eloquence. He bribed his way to positions where even his intelligence and reputation would not get him. It should be evident that Julius Caesar was no ordinary man, and his political prowess was unmatched.
The events revolving around the political sphere of Rome during this time were unmistakably directed by Caesar's cunning practices. Soon after, Caesar reached the height of his popularity. After gaining multiple military victories against the Gauls, Caesar ceased power from the opposing Senate, accepting the title of Dictator for Life from the Roman people, who welcomed him as their leader. Caesar introduced many brilliant economic and social reforms 4, improving the general living conditions of Rome. He reduced the number of people on welfare by half.
Caesar built new market places, planned new colonies, and improved the general beauty and wealth of Rome on the whole. Though Caesar was eventually assassinated on the morning of March 15, 44 BCE by jealous political enemies, he left behind a remarkable trail of leadership, bravery, intelligence, and political genius. His ability to sway men to his side in debates, and to confound many great speakers with his quick wit, indicates his intelligence and daring. Politically, Caesar succeeded in his quest for power. He did so with virtually no luck or chance, and through only his own successes. In this, he demonstrated that in politics, Julius Caesar was indeed a great 'event-making' man.
During Caesar's famous military career, Caesar showed incredible determination and ingenuity when facing any opponent. He won battles under impossible odds, and shocked and delighted Romans with his victories wherever he went. When others doubted him, he proved them wrong. Doubt would oftentimes even encourage him, and he scoffed at those who fought against him. He was by no means an ordinary military leader. Of particular note was the combination of his bravery, his ingenuity, and perhaps most important, his determination.
Some may call it stupidity or ignorance, yet Caesar's unwillingness to lose would win him many famous and prestigious battles. His battles in Gaul and in Britain brought substantial glory to his name, and gained considerable land for the Roman Empire which he would soon rule. For nine years he fought campaigns in all of Britain, and after nine long years he had brought all of Britain into the Roman province. There were more frequent and longer celebrations in Rome for his victories than for any former general. Caesar was not only ingenious in his victories of these campaigns, but he also saw their significance elsewhere. They added immense sums to his already substantial wealth, in the form of annual revenues from annexed lands.
They also increased his fame and popularity, and he was revered almost as a god. As aforementioned, Caesar was unique because of his bravery, ingenuity, and of utmost importance, his determination 5. When faced with a difficult situation, Caesar would laugh and scorn. For example, a battle at Alexandria fought between Caesar and Achillas was described by the ancient historian Suetonius as one of great difficulty for Caesar, with every disadvantage of time, place, and smallness of his force. The battle was almost lost when Achillas cut off the Roman's water supply. His army ready to retreat, Caesar quickly ordered the digging of deep wells which more than compensated for the previous lack of water.
Caesar narrowly escaped with his life, but because of his persistence, reinforcements soon arrived, winning the battle. He also won many great battles against his famous rival Pompey, and in most cases Pompey had the advantage of numbers. Only through his own ingenuity, through his inspiration of his troops, and through his effective use of all resources available to him, was Caesar eventually able to overcome Pompey, time and time again. Over the course of his life, Caesar took eight hundred cities, conquered three hundred nations, commanded over three million men, took more than a million prisoners, and killed yet another million on the field. Such feats could by no means have come out of pure chance! Caesar had outdone all previous great Roman generals before him. Compared with Scipios, Sulla, Pompey, and others, he excelled them all, by overcoming greater difficulties, by conquering more land with less soldiers, and by defeating more savage enemies 6.
Julius Caesar was a determined quick thinker. He was able to adapt to any situation at once upon encountering it. He was also an intelligent speaker, and inspired his troops, not only with his eloquence of speech, but by rewarding them in excess of what normal generals would pay. He was cruel yet clever, showing his enemies mercy when it would benefit him, and slaughtering them when it would not. As a military leader, Caesar was virtually flawless.
He understood well the fundamentals of battle, and also possessed many traits which made him unique. He was absolutely determined and would not accept defeat. He drove his soldiers not with weapons, but with his own will and guidance. He subdued his enemies, and accepted their help where he saw fit. His ingenuity lead him to use his soldiers and other resources in ways never previously thought of. Certainly no other man would have done the same in Caesar's stead.
Truly, he, in the respect of military ability, displayed extraordinary expertise and capability. Leaving behind him a legacy of military victories and trampled enemies, Julius Caesar once again demonstrated he was a true 'event-making' man. Today, Julius Caesar is painstakingly studied and discussed in many historical texts. Many of these works hail his triumphs, and declare him one of the most prominent men to ever walk this earth.
Throughout this essay, it has been shown that Caesar became a turning-point in history, not through chance or luck, but through his own conscious actions, and his own ambitious determination. By possession of extraordinary talent in many fields, Caesar rose to become a true great 'event-maker'. Here was a man who indeed entered history but with one purpose in mind, to leave a lasting legacy of his own triumphs.