15 Jaw-Dropping Julius Caesar Facts
There's no doubt you've heard of him - he's one of the most famous Romans of all time! These fun facts will let you know all about Julius Caesar - and clear up a few fake rumours, too!
Born in 100 BC, Julius Caesar is one of the most famous historical figures of all time! You definitely know that he was assassinated (sorry, spoiler alert!), that he maybe had a thing with Cleopatra, and that he was a good military strategist. As always though, there's more to him than you might think! Read on to learn all about his name, his adventures, and whether or not he was really an emperor...
Crazy about the Romans? We have more facts for you right this way! Here are some general Roman facts, or click here for more facts about gladiators, and here for more about the eruption of Mount Vesuvius!
1. His first name was Gaius
You know him as Julius Caesar, but his full name was Gaius Julius Caesar! Upper-class Romans traditionally had three names. Their family would call them by their first name, the second name was a family name, and the third was a kind of nickname that functioned as a second family name. It's not known exactly where the name "Caesar" came from. Some historians think it might have come about because one of Caesar's ancestors was born by caesarean section (more on that in a minute). Another is that it comes from a Moorish word for "elephant", meaning that maybe one of Caesar's ancestors killed an elephant in battle. Caesar did later use pictures of elephants on some of his coins!
2. A popular fact about his name is actually not true!
It is widely believed that the Caesarean section (which is when a baby is born by cutting into the mother's stomach, rather than by natural delivery) is named after Julius Caesar, because this is how he was born. This isn't true! He definitely wasn't born this way - unlike today, Roman women wouldn't have been able to survive the surgery, and Caesar's mum lived for a long time after he was born. The name "caesarean section" probably comes from the Latin verb caedere, which means "to cut."
3. ...and he never ate caesar salad
Caesar salad, a tasty salad made up of lettuce, croutons and all kinds of yummy dressing, was also not named after the Roman emperor! It was named after its inventor, restaurateur Caesar Cardini. He was an Italian immigrant to the United States who opened up restaurants in Mexico and the USA. According to his daughter the salad was invented in his Tijuana restaurant. It became really popular with Hollywood celebs in the thirties and forties, so if Caesar was still alive then he might have enjoyed it!
4. He was kidnapped by pirates
In 75 BC Caesar went on a trip to Rhodes (in modern-day Greece), to study with Apollonius, a famous Greek rhetorican (a professional speaker). On the way from Rome to Rhodes his ship was boarded by pirates! They demanded a ransom for his release, but Caesar was insulted that they didn't name a higher price! The higher price was agreed to and after it was received, the pirates let him go. Later on, Caesar took revenge on the pirates by assumbling a fleet of ships to hunt them down, and he had them executed.
5. He was never actually an emperor...
...sort of. Language is complicated! Though we remember him as an emperor of Rome, Caesar never actually had that title. His title was dictator perpetuo, which means "dictator in perpetuity". But, the English word "emperor" comes from the Latin word imperator, which was a title Caesar held. An imperator was a title that Roman soldiers could give to a general after a particularly awesome victory in battle. He later forced the Roman Senate to make it his official forename, which worried them - they thought he might later demand to be called a king. He didn't establish rule, but spent most of his time fighting battles and was assassinated before he could do anything else (sorry for the spoiler).
6. He was a ladies' man
Caesar had quite the love life, and he was married three times. His first wife was named Cornelia, and they got married in 84 BC when he was about 17 and she was about 14. Later when her father became an enemy of the then-dictator of the Roman Republic, Sulla, Caesar was ordered to divorce her. He refused, went on the run as a fugitive, and was eventually reunited with his wife after Sulla agreed to let him back in. They had a daughter, but Cornelia died in 69 BC when she was only 28. Caesar then married Pompeia, Sulla's granddaughter, but they divorced after six years. Caesar's third wife was called Calpurnia, and she was about 17 while he was in his forties. They were still married when Caesar died in 44 BC. Caesar also had a LOT of girlfriends too - he was engaged to another woman named Cossutia before he married Cornelia, and another girlfriend was a woman named Servilia whose son went on to participate in Caesar's murder!
7. He totally had a thing with Cleopatra
Caesar's most famous girlfriend of all was Cleopatra, who was the Queen of the Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt (so she was actually Greek, not Egyptian as is often believed). They met in Egypt after Caesar tracked down one of his enemies there. Cleopatra and her brother Ptolemy XIII co-ruled the kingdom but were arguing about their father's will. Caesar helped them to settle their dispute, and he and Cleopatra became friends. Allegedly she hid in a laundry bag to meet him for the first time, so she could get past her brother's army! Cleopatra later had a son named Ptolemy Caesar, who was nicknamed Caesarion ("Little Caesar") - because he was probably Caesar's son!
8. He invaded Britain twice
The Romans invaded Britain more than once, and Caesar was along for the ride on two occasions. Rome wanted to expand its empire, and Britain was one of the places they wanted to take over. In 55 BC Caesar arrived in Kent with only two legions (about 12,000 soldiers). They didn't do much except make the landing and get into a couple of skirmishes with the Britons. Caesar returned in 54 BC, this time with 800 ships, five legions and 2,000 cavalry. This time they were more successful, and made it as far as Middlesex. Caesar wasn't involved in the building for any permanent Roman forts, though.
9. He co-invented the leap year
Before Caesar's time a different calendar was used by the Romans. It was based on the lunar cycle, and said that there were 355 days in the year. In a solar year (one full rotation of the sun) there are ten-and-a-quarter days more than this. Roman officials were supposed to add extra days to the calendar each year so it didn't get out of sync with the seasons, but they didn't always do so. To stop the seasons from becoming confusing, Caesar introduced a new calendar after consulting with the astronomer Sosigenes. In this calendar, called the Julian calendar, each year would have 365 days, with every fourth year having 366 days. Today we use a modified version of the Julian calendar called the Gregorian calendar. The extra day is called Leap Day and it happens on February 29th. The next will be in 2024!
10. He was the first person to appear on a Roman coin
Until 44 BC no person had ever appeared on the Roman denarii (a silver coin). Caesar had the bright idea of putting his own image on the coin, to promote himself as a politician. This was shocking to the Senate, who thought it was arrogant of Caesar. You can recognise a coin with Caesar's profile by his crooked nose, and by the fact that his portraits include his wrinkles. He was probably trying to depict himself as a wise and learned man of middle age!
11. July is named after him
The anme "July" comes from "Julius", and it was the month he was born. Before then the month was called Quintillus, which means "fifth month." The last few months of the year (September, October, November and December) are still named by number from the Latin (7, 8, 9, 10) - but you will notice that the numbers are wrong! This is because the original Roman calendar only had ten months, and January and February were added later.
12. He may have had medical issues
Caesar possibly suffered from epilepsy, a condition that affects the brain and causes seizures. The Greek historian Plutarch was the first to claim this in 2 AD after Caesar died, but Roman records indicate he did have at least four seizures in his lifetime. Modern historians also think he might have had these seizures from low blood sugar or a nervous disorder. He may have also had cardiovascular problems as he grew older, though that wouldn't have been unusual. William Shakespeare who wrote a play about Caesar's life, had a theory that Caesar may have been deaf in one ear. He thought this because Caesar was said to cover his left ear with one hand and ask people to speak to his right ear. It's thought that Caesar did this as a theatrical act, though - he was probably mimicking Alexander the Great, who did this symbolically to show that he was done hearing accusations and was ready to hear the defence.
13. Over 60 people were involved in his assassination
One thing everyone knows about Caesar is that he was stabbed, very dramatically, by a lot of people. As you've already seen, he made quite a lot of Senators angry because he was very ambitious and he loved power and glory. They were worried that he would seize total control and declare himself a king. Caesar was assassinated in 44 BC in the Theatre of Pompey, stabbed 23 times (though only one wound was fatal). Around 60 people conspired in the attack. This meant that no one individual was responsible for Caesar's death. However, the general public thought that the assassination was a tragedy and that the conpirators were traitors. This is because...
14. He was beloved by the people
Despite ruffling a lot of feathers in the Senate, Caesar was very well liked by the general Roman populace. In his dictatorship he worked to reduce debt and unemployment, redistributed lands to the poor, offered citizenship to foreigners living in the Roman Republic, and constructed harbours, canals and public forums for the benefit of the people. Even after he died he was popular - in his will he left his villa, gardens and art gallery to the public, and distributed his money among the Roman citizens. He really understood that making people like you is a good way to climb up the ladder, so his journey to the top was fast!
15. He probably never said his most famous line
You might have heard that Caesar's last words were "Et tu, Brute?" ("You too, Brutus?") to Marcus Junius Brutus, one of his assassins. Brutus was an old friend of Caesar, so the betrayal must have been devastating. But this was made up for dramatic effect by Shakespeare in his play Julius Caesar. No one knows what Caesar's real last words were - though we bet they might have been "Aargh!"