The Rise of Caesar to Supreme Power

  • M. Cary
  • H. H. Scullard


When ‘the die was cast’, at the crossing of the Rubicon, it might seem on first view as if Caesar had thrown two aces against Pompey’s double-six. The total field force at his command fell short of 50,000 men, and not more than one legion was stationed with him at Ravenna. On the other hand Pompey had at his disposal the entire resources of the Roman Empire outside Gaul. But while Caesar’s soldiers were seasoned veterans and ready for a rapid concentration on the war front, his rival’s army was hardly yet in being. In Italy Pompey had hardly any trained troops save the two legions recently handed over by Caesar (p. 168); the rest were recruits who for the moment lay scattered over the whole of the peninsula. In view of their unreadiness the precipitancy of Caesar’s enemies in forcing a crisis at the beginning of 49 is hard to explain, except on the ground that they lent too willing an ear to the stories of discontent in the Caesarian ranks, which Caesar’s former lieutenant Labienus, now a renegade in Pompey’s camp, had been spreading, or that they did not foresee Caesar’s midwinter march.


Administrative Reform Supreme Power Republican Tradition Roman Citizenship Petty Tyranny 
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Notes and References

  1. 2.
    On the campaign at Corfinium see A. Barns, Historia 1966, 74 ff. Domitius had been appointed governor of Transalpine Gaul in succession to Caesar; he was thus independent of Pompey, who in vain urged him not to try to hold out at Corfinium. Letters which passed between the two men are preserved in Cicero, Ad Attic. viii. 11.Google Scholar
  2. 6.
    The exact site of the battle of Pharsalus remains uncertain. For a recent discussion of earlier views see C. B. R. Pelling, Historia 1973, 249 ff.Google Scholar
  3. 8.
    For this view, according to which Caesar would have been merely consul-designate for the last months of 47, see V. Ehrenberg, Al Phil. 1953, 129 ff;Google Scholar
  4. A. E. Raubitschek, IRS 1954, 70 f.Google Scholar
  5. 11.
    On Cato see L. R. Taylor, Party Politics in the Age of Caesar (1949), viii. For a portrait-bust, found at Volubilis in Africa, see Acta Archaeologica 1947, 117 ff.Google Scholar
  6. 18.
    On emigration see A. J. N. Wilson, Emigration from Italy in the Republican Age of Rome (1966); Brunt, Manpower chs xiv, xv, and see below, Chap. 29, n. 2. Roman residents abroad were often organised into conventus civium Romanorum but these usually had no corporate political privileges.Google Scholar
  7. 21.
    On the kingdom of Burebistas see V. Parvan, Dacia (1928), ch. v.Google Scholar
  8. 24.
    The interminable list of honours voted to Caesar is preserved in Suetonius (ch. 76) and Dio Cassius (xliii. 14, 44–5; xliv. 3–6). Some of these are probably fictitious (cf. F. E. Adcock, CAH, ix. 718 ff.) or only planned; yet on the lowest estimate his privileges far exceeded those accorded to any other Roman of the Republican era. He did not, however, use Imperator as a permanent title: see D. McFayden, Hist. of the title Imperator under the Roman Empire (1920).Google Scholar
  9. Cf. R. Syme, Historia 1958, 172 ff., on the nomenclature ‘Imperator Caesar’.Google Scholar
  10. 25.
    Some far-reaching conclusions have been based on the portrait coinage of 44, but more sober views are expressed by R. A. G. Carson, Gnomon 1956, 181 ff., and Greece and Rome 1957, 46 ff.;Google Scholar
  11. and by C. M. Kraay, Numismatic Chronicle 1954, 18 ff.Google Scholar
  12. 26.
    On the working of the lex Annalis under Caesar (49–44) see G. V. Sumner, Phoenix 1971, 246 ff. and 357 ff.Google Scholar
  13. 28.
    On Caesar’s increasing autocracy during the last months of his life see J. H. Collins, Historia 1955, 445 ff.;Google Scholar
  14. J. P. V. D. Balsdon, Historia 1958, 80 ff. Though Caesar twice suffered from epileptic fits during his campaigns and from fainting fits near the end of his life (Suetonius, Divus Julius 45), his mental vigour seems to have been maintained to the end.Google Scholar
  15. On the increasing offence which his conduct gave even to some of his partisans see H. Strasburger, Caesar im Urteil seiner Zeitgenossen (1968).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The representatives of the estate of the late M. Cary and H. H. Scullard 1975

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. Cary
    • 1
  • H. H. Scullard
    • 1
  1. 1.University of LondonUK

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