Julius Caesar is a fascinating historical figure. On one hand, he is one the ancient world’s most talented military leaders, and on the other, one of the most impressive politicians of his time. This is a man who, by the force of his will and talent, brought down the Roman Republic and birthed the Roman Empire. This sample essay explores Caesar’s impact on the world and his great leadership style.
Background on Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar is arguably one of the ancient Roman Empire’s greatest military leaders. Born in July 100BC into a patrician family, he became the head of his family at 16 after his father’s demise. His coming of age was coincidental with a civil war between Sulla his rival, and Marius his uncle. After Sulla won, Caesar soon became the target of the new regime for having connections with an old one. He was stripped of all his wealth and rights, including his wife’s dowry, who he refused to divorce and the two had to go into hiding.
After his mother’s family intervention, he was allowed back home, but he left Rome to join the military, and soon won a civic crown for his role in a significant siege against the empire. This was the launch of his military career. In his military career, he rose rapidly and had a successful campaign to the consulship in 60 BC. Deals with two roman leaders made him one of the men that controlled Rome through the 50 BC until they went to war against one another in the early 49BC.
Caesar as a leader
Caesar is considered one of the most disciplined military men. Though he was considered sneaky, like all ancient roman leaders, and won some votes through threats and bribes, historians argue that he won most of his votes genuinely and honestly.
For example in 63 BC, “when he ran for election for the post of Pontifex Maximus – the chief priest of the Roman state religion – he ran against tow powerful senators and won comfortably, despite his opponent’s greater experience and standing and bribery” (Yenne 10).
To further prove his discipline as a soldier, when the troops he maintained showed cowardice in battle, he agreed to the killing of every tenth man. Caesar was also a good orator, a trait that is critical for every world leader even to this day. His first oration was at his Aunt Julius funeral in the 69BC. He had the ability to articulate his ideas flawlessly and was able to convince the people of his ideas by using wise words and attractive language.
Ability to rally the troops
Caesar’s troops admired his leadership style. It is recorded that he knew most if his men by name – just like his uncle Marius – a trait that earned him loyalty and great admiration from the troops. Caesar was no doubt a courageous leader. He was also daring and adventurous as evident from some of his battles. When he was kidnapped by pirates on his way across the Aegean Sea, his response and attitude through the ordeal is recorded as bold and intimidating.
When the pirates put a demand of twenty talents of silver, Caesar suggested they ask for fifty, and insisted on the receiving that. He threatened to capture and kill each of the pirates, a threat they considered a joke and laughed it off. After his release, he raised a fleet and captured each of the men. The pirates were imprisoned and later Caesar had their throats cut.
Caesar’s fight for human rights
As a leader, Caesar also fought for the rights of common people. As a young man in 78BC, after Sullah’s death, he returned home and turned to legal advocacy. It is at this time that he established himself as an exceptional orator, speaking with a high-pitched voice and commanding tone. He was also known for ruthlessly attacking and prosecuting former governors that had been involved in corruption and extortion.
Though highly disputed, some historians consider Caesar a humble leader. As an imperator, he had earned his triumph and had every right to celebrate. However, at the same time, he wanted to stand for consul. The consul position was considered the most powerful magistrate in the republic. He had to decide between celebrating his victory and standing for consul because he could not do the same at the same time.
Caesar’s road to civil leadership
To celebrate his triumph, he had to retain his position as a soldier and was not allowed to come into the city until after the celebration. For his to stand for the consul position, he would have to resign as a soldier and go to Rome as a private citizen. Faced with a tough choice between the two, and after being denied permission to be part of the celebration in absentia, Caesar chose to forego a celebration he rightfully deserved to stand for the consulship.
His patience and desire to learn are also remarkable for a leader in is rank. He learned to be a good soldier by being on the front line in battles, working shoulder to shoulder with the legions and spent many years doing the “dirty” work of a soldier. By eating, living, bleeding and marching with the legions for many years, he learned the art of war. His success as a military leader is attributed to being in the trenches for years and doing the work himself.
His vision and desire to conquer new territories are also recorded in the many battles he engaged in.
According to Fields, “until Caesar marched into Gaul and made it a Roman territory, it was a wild and savage land Rome feared would never be tamed….. He was extraordinarily bold, had a vision of what could be, and he made that vision a reality” (40).
Caesar is hailed for being more a pioneer than a student. He was bold enough to go where no one had gone before.
Loyal and prosperous allies
It is also notable that he people who served Caesar all retired wealthy, a good lesson in psychology and motivation. He also was able to function well as was hardly deterred by challenges that faced him. For example, it is recorded that he suffered from epilepsy, although modern scholars argue that a more accurate diagnosis would be an infection in the brain or a migraine.
Other historians also record that he suffered malaria many times, and a line by Shakespeare is translated to mean that he was deaf in one ear. It is, however, recorded that, these difficulties did not influence how he implemented his ideas and carried out his duties as a leader. This, perhaps, can be attributed that he had built a strong team of men who worked with him, and who ensured that things were run well even when was unable to do them personally.
His tactics in war and the kind of weaponry the Roman legions used has been a subject of discussion and debate. They used short swords, known as gladius, compared to the long swords used by their enemies (the barbarian hordes). Historians attribute the victory of Rome legions to proper training and attitude, under the leadership of Julius Caesar. What he taught the world leaders is that having the most sophisticated weapons doss not necessarily win a battle for a nation. The difference between winning and losing lies in the effectiveness of a nations’ tactics, and their fluency in using whichever tools they have.
As described by Yenne, “Caesar was a general, a historian, a statesman, an orator and a lawgiver” (83). He is credited for fixing the calendar, did not lose in any war he participated in, and he fought against extortion after his return to Rome. As a commander of his legions, he was hailed as a hero by his men. Everyone wishes to be a winner, and Julius Caesar had a combination of the traits that make a winner.
He was courageous, intelligent and was a visionary. He proved again and again that he was skilled in fighting and managed to pull off more victories than any leader that came before him. He was also brave and portrayed clarity in his thinking and decision-making. Nevertheless, he had his share of weaknesses. The word can learn a lesion on the need to lead and not control people from his downfall. Julius Caesar’s men loved him because he led them to glory through numerous victories.
However, on returning to Rome after beating his rival Pompey, he tried to impose a dictatorship on Rome. In this strategy, however, he failed miserably and the people of Rome, including his closest allies, would not cross the line with him. He stepped a line that would eventually lead to his assassination. A group of senators that were bent on teaching dictatorial leaders all over the world a lesson assassinated him by stabbing him all over the body, which brought an end to his long rule.
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Fields, Nic. Julius Caesar: Leadership: Strategy: Conflict. Oxford: Osprey, 2010. Print.
Yenne, Bill. Julius Caesar: Lessons in Leadership from the Great Conqueror. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. Print.