10 Facts About the Early Life of Julius Caesar

Charismatic leader, despot, tactical genius and military historian. Most of the facts we know about Julius Caesar, Ancient Rome’s most famous figure, revolve around his later life — his battles, rise to power, brief dictatorship and death.

Armed with a ruthless ambition and born into the elite Julian clan, it may seem that Caesar was destined for leadership, and it is obvious that the circumstances which shaped the man had more than a little to do with his path to greatness and ultimate demise.

Here are 10 facts about the early life of Julius Caesar.

1. Julius Caesar was born in July 100 BC and named Gaius Julius Caesar

Bust of Julius Caesar

His name may have come from an ancestor being born by caesarean section.

2. Caesar’s family claimed to be descended from the gods

Roman depiction of Venus goddess of love

The Julia clan believed they were offspring of Iulus, son of Aeneas Prince of Troy whose mother was supposed to be Venus herself.

3. The name Caesar may have had many meanings

Ancient war elephant

It could be that an ancestor had been born by caesarean section, but might have reflected a good head of hair, grey eyes or celebrated Caesar killing an elephant. Caesar’s own use of elephant imagery suggests he favoured the last interpretation.

4. Aeneas was legendarily a forefather of Romulus and Remus

Aeneas flees from Troy

His journey from his native Troy to Italy is told in the Aeneid by Virgil, one of the great works of Roman literature.

5. Caesar’s father (also Gaius Julius Caesar) became a powerful man

Roman province of Asia

He was governor of the province of Asia and his sister was married to Gaius Marius, a giant of Roman politics.

6. His mother’s family was even more important

A Roman in consular dress

Aurelia Cotta’s father, Lucius Aurelius Cotta, was Consul (the top job in the Roman Republic) like his father before him.

7. Julius Caesar had two sisters, both called Julia

Bust of Ancient Roman Emperor Agustus as Octavian

Bust of Augustus. Photo by Rosemania via Wikimedia Commons.

Julia Caesaris Major married Pinarius. Their grandson Lucius Pinarius was a successful soldier and provincial governor. Julia Caesaris Minor married Marcus Atius Balbus, giving birth to three daughters, one of whom, Atia Balba Caesonia was the mother of Octavian, who became Augustus, Rome’s first emperor.

8. Caesar’s uncle by marriage, Gaius Marius, is one of the most important figures in Roman history

Gaius Marius

He was consul seven times and opened up the army to ordinary citizens, defeating invading Germanic tribes to earn the title, ‘Third Founder of Rome.’

9. When his father died suddenly in 85 BC. the 16-year-old Caesar was forced to go into hiding

Bust of Sulla, Ancient Roman dictator

Marius was involved in a bloody power struggle, which he lost. In order to stay away from the new ruler Sulla and his possible revenge, Caesar joined the army.

10. Caesar’s family was to remain powerful for generations after his death

Bust of the Ancient Roman emperor Caligula

Photo by Louis le Grand via Wikimedia Commons

The Emperors Tiberius, Claudius, Nero and Caligula were all related to him.

 

Colin Ricketts studied history at the University of Birmingham, graduating in 1992. He's a qualified librarian, a former journalist and currently a freelance writer and editor.