Roman Republic

Caesar’s 3rd Dictatorship (? April 46 - March 45 BC)

As Robert Broughton (referenced below, at pp. 294-5) observed:

  1. “After [Caesar’s] success in the African campaign, [which culminated in his victory at Thapsus on 6th April 46 BC], [he] was named dictator, probably late in April, for a period of ten years in succession,  presumably [initially] for one year and [then] designated for each of the next nine, ...”

The fasti Capitolini recorded this dictatorship under 45 BC: the relevant entry can be completed:

Dictator: C. Julius C.f. C.n. Caesar III , [Master of Horse]: M. Aemilius M.f. Q.n. Lepidus - [in order to manage public affairs].

Caesar’s Fourth Consulship (45 BC)

Appointment of the Magistrates of 45 BC

Aureus issued by L. Munatius Plancus: 45 BC (RRC 475/1)

Obverse: C. CAES DIC TER: Bust of Victory


Minted in Rome

Geoffrey Sumner (referenced below, at p. 357) observed that:

  1. “The situation this year was markedly irregular.  The only election [that had taken] place in 46 BC, apart from those for the plebeian magistracies, [had been] that of Caesar to his 4th consulship].  The remaining magistrates were not elected until after Caesar's return from Spain and held office for not quite three months”

As late as October 46 BC, Cicero expected that Caesar would arrange for the elections of the magistrates for the following year to be held before leaving for Spain: thus, he asked Atticus to find out from the Caesarian Q. Pilius Celer (who was  Atticus’ brother-in-law):

  1. “... what Caesar’s arrangements with the candidates [were], and whether he [probably Celer, possibly Caesar] means to appear himself on the Field of Fennel [i.e. Spain] or the Field of Mars [i.e. the Campus Marius].  I should be very glad to know whether I shall have to be in Rome for the elections”, (‘Letter to Atticus’, 245, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, 1999, at p. 273). 

In fact, Caesar no longer felt the need to go through the motions of elections: according to Suetonius:

  1. “He held his 3rd and 4th consulships in name only, content with the power of the dictatorship, [which was] conferred on him at the same time  ... Moreover, in both years, he substituted two consuls for himself for the last 3 months, in the meantime holding no elections except for tribunes and plebeian aediles, and appointing praefecti instead of the praetors, to manage the affairs of Rome during his absence”, (‘Life of Caesar’, 76: 2).

Cassius Dio gave details of the way that Caesar’s appointment was made:

  1. “Caesar was at that time dictator, and at length, near the close of the year, he was appointed consul, after Lepidus, who was master of the horse, had convoked the people for this purpose; for Lepidus had become master of the horse at that time also, having given himself, while still in the consulship, that additional title, contrary to precedent”, (‘Roman History’, 43: 33: 1).

In other words, towards the end of 46 BC, Lepidus, who was both consul and  master of horse, arranged for Caesar (who was still in his 3rd dictatorship) to be re-elected as consul (without a colleague): Lepidus continued to manage affairs in Rome as master of horse (a post that he retained in in Caesar’s 4th dictatorship, as discussed below).  Cassius Dio also recorded that:

  1. “... the remaining magistrates were nominally elected by the plebs and by the whole people, in accordance with ancestral custom, since Caesar would not [arrange the elections of curule magistrates before leaving Rome]; yet they were really  appointed by him and were sent out to the provinces without casting lots.  As for their number, all were the same as before, except that 14 praetors and 40 quaestors were appointed”, (‘Roman History’, 43: 47: 1).

The fasti Capitolini record  for 45 BC can be completed as:

  1. Consul: C. Julius C.f. C.n. Caesar IV (without a colleague) - [resigned]

  2. Consuls in the same year:

  3. Q. Fabius Q.f. Q.n. Maximus - died in office , C. Caninius C.f. C.n. Rebilus - elected in his place

  4. C. Trebonius [C.f. . .]

Since (as we shall see) Fabius fought with Caesar in Spain in the early part of this year, it is likely that he returned to Rome with Caesar in October 45 BC.  It was probably at this point that Caesar resigned his consulship and Fabius and Trebonius took office.   L. Munatius Plancus, the issuer of the coin illustrated above, served as Urban Prefect in this year and also probably as praetor (see Robert Broughton, referenced below, at p. 307 and p. 313).

Battle of Munda (March 45 BC)

Silver denarius issued by Caesar: 46 BC (RRC 468/1)

Obverse: Head of Venus, wearing a diadem

Reverse: CAESAR: Trophy with oval shield and carnyx in each hand, seated captives below

Probably produced at a military mint travelling with Caesar’s army

Caesar reached Spain in early December 46 BC and, after a number of preliminary skirmishes, engaged with the Pompeians at Munda.  Caesar secured an almost complete victory, which was celebrated in the early empire on 17th March (fasti Caeretani, fasti Farnesiani).  At least two prominent Pompeians, T. Attius Varus and T. Labienus, died in the battle, which Kathryn Welch (referenced below, at p. 105) characterised as:

  1. “... a bloody climax to a bloody campaign.”

Cnaeus Pompeius was killed in the aftermath of the battle in which and his forces had been destroyed.  However, as Appian noted:

  1. “A younger brother of [Cnaeus], also named Pompeius but called by his first name, Sextus, collected those who escaped from this fight.  Sextus, for the present, kept [a low profile] and lived by piracy”, (‘Civil Wars’, 2: 105-6).

Sextus Pompeius survived to challenge Caesar:  as Appian recorded:

  1. “ Being the younger son of Pompey the Great, [Sextus] was at first disregarded by Gaius Caesar in Spain as not likely to accomplish anything of importance on account of his youth and inexperience.  He roamed about the ocean with a few followers, committing piracy and concealing the fact that he was Pompeius.  When larger numbers joined him for the purpose of pillage, and his force became powerful, he revealed his name.  Presently, those who had served with his father and his brother ... drifted to him as their natural leader, and Arabio, who had been deprived of his ancestral kingdom ... , came to him from Africa.  His forces being thus augmented, his doings were now more important than robbery, and  as he flew from place to place, the name of Pompeius spread through the whole of Spain, which was the most extensive of the provinces.  He nevertheless avoided coming to an engagement with the Caesar’s governors.  When Caesar learned of his doings, he sent Carinas with a stronger army to fight him. [Sextus], however, being the more nimble of the two, would show himself and then disappear, and so he wore out his enemy and got possession of a number of towns, large and small.  Then Caesar sent Asinius Pollio as successor to Carinas to prosecute the war against Pompeius.  While they were carrying on warfare on equal terms, Caesar was assassinated [a year later - see below], and the Senate recalled Pompeius”, (‘Civil Wars’, 4: 84).

However, in March 45 BC, the potential problem of Sextus Pompeius was ignored, and:

  1. ... Caesar, having ended the civil wars, hastened to Rome, honoured and feared as no one had ever been before”, (‘Civil Wars’, 2: 106).

In fact, Appian was incorrect when he referred to Caesar as ‘hastening’ to Rome: as we shall see, he did not arrive back in the city until late September. 

Events at Rome (March - October 45 BC)

Caesar’s 4th  Dictatorship (formally ? April 45 - March 44 BC)

As noted above, Robert Broughton (referenced below, at pp. 294-5) observed that:

  1. “After [Caesar’s] success in the African campaign, [which culminated in his victory at Thapsus on 6th April 46 BC], [he] was named dictator, probably late in April, for a period of ten years in succession,  presumably [initially] for one year and [then] designated for each of the next nine ...”

On this basis, he would have entered his fourth dictatorship at some time in April 45 BC.

New Divine Honour Offered to Caesar

The news of Caesar’s victory reached Rome of 20th April and, according to Cassius Dio:

  1. “The Parilia [of the following day] was honoured by permanent annual games in the Circus, not  because the city had been founded [by Romulus] on that very day, but because the news of Caesar's victory had arrived the day before, towards evening”, (‘Roman History’, (43: 42: 3).

In other words, from this point, annual games were to be at the Parilia in commemoration of Caesar’s victory at Munda.  The Senate also decreed at this time that:

  1. “... an ivory statue of Caesar (and later that a whole chariot) should appear in the procession at the games in the Circus, together with the statues of the gods”, (‘Roman History’, 43: 45: 2).  

Cicero, in a letter that he wrote to Atticus on 26th May, he referred to Caesar as:

  1. “... this figure in the procession, Quirini contubernalem (this room-mate of Quirinus)”, (‘Letters to Atticus’, 299: 3, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, 1999, at Vo. IV, p. 33).

Ittai Gradel (referenced below, at pp. 68-9) argued that this ivory statue was carried:

  1. “In a procession [that was] apparently decreed for the occasion, ... [and Cicero’s letter to Atticus of 26th May] suggests that it was carried next to that of Quirinus.”

Cassius Dio then recorded the Senate also decreed that:

  1. “Two likenesses of [Caesar] should be set up:

  2. one in the temple of Quirinus, with the inscription Θεῷ ἀνικήτῳ (Deo Invicto, unconquered god); and 

  3. another on the Capitol, beside the former kings of Rome”, (‘Roman History’, 43: 45: 3). 

In another letter that Cicero had wrote to Atticus on 17th May, he acknowledged that Atticus (whose home was close to the Temple of Quirinus) had mentioned that Caesar was now his neighbour, and observed that:

  1. “I prefer to have him sharing a temple with Quirinus than with Salus”, (‘Letters to Atticus’, 299: 3, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, 1999, at Vo. IV, p. 17). 

Ittai Gradel (referenced below, at p. 54) argued that the inscription on the statue in this temple (which Dio rendered as ‘deus invictus’) represented the second 0f three phases in the Senate’s award of divine honours to Caesar.  (I discuss the putative third phase in this process below).

Ludi Florales (3rd May 45 BC) and the Statue of Caesar

Ittai Gradel (referenced below, at p. 68) drew attention to a letter that Cicero wrote to Atticus of 26th May 45 BC, in which he referred to Caesar as:

  1. “... this god of the procession, this messmate of Quirinus, ...”, (‘Letters to Atticus’, 299: 3, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, 1999, at Vol. IV, p. 33).

He suggested that this indicated that Caesar’s statue was carried next to that of Quirinus (the deified Romulus) on 21st April 45 C and observed (at p. 69) that this:

  1. “... would have carried divine associations, but they did not deify Caesar: ...the main point was, not to declare [him]  ... as a god in any absolute sense ... , [but rather] to express a superhuman status of absolute power (divinity in a relative sense).


  1. Caesar might have been characterised as the messmate of Quirinus because a new statue of him had been installed in Quirinus’ temple; and

  2. his statue seems to have been pared with Victory at the subsequent ludi Apollinares (see below).

Furthermore, as John Ramsey and Arthur Lewis Licht (referenced below, at p. 34, note 8) pointed out, this scenario assumes only a few days at most for the new arrangements to be made, even if some Caesarians at Rome had had prior notice of Caesar’s victory.  They therefore suggested that a better occasion for the debut of  Caesar’s statue at games in the Circus might have been 3rd May, the last day of the ludi Florales

Ludi Apollinares (13th July 45 BC)

In a letter that Cicero wrote to Atticus from Tusculum in July 45 BC, he referred to a procession that Atticus must have previously described to him:

  1. “What a delightful letter!  Though the procession was odious, it is nevertheless not odious [in every respect] ... . The people were splendid not to clap even the figure of Victory owing to its impious neighbour [by which he meant an image of Caesar]”, (‘Letters to Atticus’, 336: 1, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, 1999, at Vol. IV, p. 105).

David Shackleton Bailey dated this to 14th July 45 BC.  Although other scholars have suggested a date later in July, John Ramsey and Arthur Lewis Licht (referenced below, at pp. 25-40) set out the arguments  for 14th, which would indicate that the incident reported to Cicero had actually occurred at the ludi Apollinares of the previous day.  On this hypothesis (which they set out at p. 35):

  1. “... Cicero and Atticus may have identified the crowd’s reaction at the ludi Apollinares as having [demonstrated opposition to Caesar] ... because [he] was being honoured in the procession, which included his ivory statue [above] for only the second time.”

John Ramsey and Arthur Lewis Licht (referenced below, at p. 35) suggested two other reasons why the crowd in the Circus might have felt aggrieved by the absent Caesar:

  1. Caesar’s birthday was on 13th July, and we might note in this context that, according to Cassius Dio, shortly before Caesar’s death in 44 BC, the Senate, inter alia:

  2. “... voted to celebrate his birthday by public sacrifice”, (‘Roman History’, 44: 4: 4-5); and

  3. in 43 BC, the triumvirs:

  4. “... compelled everybody to celebrate [the] birthday [of divus Julius] by wearing laurel and by merry-making, passing a law that those who neglected these observances [would be severely punished] ...  Now, it happened that the ludi Apollinares fell on the same day [as Caesar’s birthday], and they therefore voted that the feast of  [Caesar’s] birthday should be celebrated on the previous day, on the ground that there was an oracle of the Sibyl that forbade the holding of a festival  ... to any god other than Apollo [on 13th April]”, (‘Roman History’, 47: 18: 5-6). 

It is  possible that, on 13th April 45 BC, the crowd in the Circus were annoyed because honours were being paid to Caesar at public altars elsewhere, and thereby encroaching on honours due to Apollo.

The games would normally have been have been sponsored by the urban prefect, but (as we have seen) none of the curule offices had yet been filled.  Thus, according to Cassius Dio:

  1. “Two of the city prefects, [who had been appointed by Caesar] managed the public treasuries, and one of them celebrated the ludi Apollinares at Caesar’s cost”, (‘Roman History’, 43: 48: 3).

In other words, by showing displeasure at the games, the crowd was criticising Caesar, their sponsor. 

Caesar’s Return from Spain  (Jul. - Sept. 45 BC)

According to John Ramsay and Kurt Raaflaub (referenced below, at p. 215), Caesar was still in Spain in June 45 BC and, according to Lawrence Keppie (referenced below, at p. 50), in August, he was in Narbo (modern Narbonne), where the process of settling some of his veterans was underway.  According to Plutarch:

  1. “When Caesar returned from Spain [in September], all the principal men went many days’ journey [from Rome] to meet him, but it was Mark Antony who was conspicuously honoured by him: for, as he journeyed through Italy, he had:

  2. Mark Antony in his carriage; and

  3. behind him, [Decimus Iunius] Brutus Albinus, and Octavian, his niece’s son [sic] ... ”, (‘Life of Antony’, 11: 1).

For Octavian, see my page on Octavian (44 - 43 BC)).

According to Suetonius (‘Life of Caesar’, 83: 1), Caesar made his will at his estate at Lavicum on 13th September, and he presumably arrived in Rome shortly thereafter. 

Caesar in Rome (Sept./Oct. - Dec. 45 BC)

Ludi Veneris Genetricis (probably September/ October 45 BC)

None of our surviving sources record the celebration of the ludi Veneris Genetricis in 45 BC.  However, since:

  1. Caesar had founded a college to oversee the ludi Veneris Genetricis in 46 BC; and

  2. Octavian, who was a member of this college, certainly held them in July 44 BC;

we can reasonably assume that they were also held, either in July of in September/October 45 BC.  John Ramsey and Arthur Lewis Licht (referenced below, at pp. 41-2) argued that the later date was more likely, since:

  1. Caesar had not yet returned to Rome in July; and

  2. in any case, there was no obvious reason at that time for moving the games away from the dies natalis of  the Temple of Venus Genetrix, when he would be in the city.

Furthermore, John Ramsey and Arthur Lewis Licht (referenced below, at pp. 42-3) pointed out the anniversary of the original games (26th September into early October 46 BC) might well have provided a backdrop to Caesar’s 5th triumph (which, as we shall see, he celebrated on or shortly before 13th October. As they also pointed out (at p. 42) that the ludi Veneris Genitricis of 46 BC had:

  1. “... capped the celebration of Caesar’s four triumphs;

They further argued that:

  1. “ ... this double connection with triumphal returns of Caesar (in 46 and again in 45 BC) ... most probably explains why the festival was transformed into [the ludi Victoria Caesaris, which were celebrated on 20-30 July under the empire.”

(They demonstrated in their Appendix I that this change of name was already underway in 44 BC, when the games were certainly held in July:  some sources, including those derived from the testimony of Octavian himself, used the old name at that point while others used the new one.)

Interestingly, Octavian might well have played a part in organising these games: according to Nicolaus of Damascus, after his return from Spain with Caesar in September 45 BC:

  1. “Octavian spent three months in Rome and then came and sojourned here [in Apollonia - see below]”, (Life of Augustus’, 16).

For Octavian, see my page on Octavian (44 - 43 BC)).

Caesar’s Fifth Triumph (October 45 BC)

Plutarch recorded that Caesar’s war in Spain was:

  1. “... the last war that Caesar waged; and the triumph that was celebrated for it infuriated  the Romans as nothing else had done.  For it commemorated, not a victory over foreign commanders or barbarian kings, but the utter annihilation of the sons [sic] and the family of the mightiest of the Romans [Pompey the Great], who had fallen upon misfortune; and it was not acceptable for Caesar to celebrate a triumph for the calamities of his country, priding himself upon actions that had no defence before gods or men ...”, (‘Life of Caesar’, 56: 7-9).

Cassius Dio observed that, since Caesar:

  1. “... showed no moderation, but was filled with arrogance, as if immortal.  [Thus, for example], although he had conquered no foreign nation but had rather destroyed a vast number of [Roman] citizens, he not only celebrated the triumph himself ... , but also allowed Q. Fabius and Q. Pedius, to [triumph], although they had merely been his legates and had achieved no individual success.  Naturally this occasioned ridicule ... Nevertheless, the most brilliant triple triumphs and triple processions of the Romans were held in honour of [this victory], and a thanksgiving of [an unprecedented] 50 days was observed”, (‘Roman History, 43: 41:2 - 42:2). 

Unfortunately, the line in the Augustan fasti Triumphales that recorded Caesar’s 5th triumph no longer survives: however, the surviving record resumes with:

  1. Q. Fabius Q.f. Q.n. Maximus, cos., ex Hispania, 3 id.Oct. [13th October]

  2. Q. Pedius M.f., pro cos., ex Hispania, id.Dec. [13th December]

The likelihood is therefore that Caesar’s 5th triumph  was held shortly before 13th  October.  (Since Cassius referred to ‘triple triumphs and triple processions’, I wonder whether all three triumphs were celebrated on 13th October, and that the wrong month was carved in error on the third entry).

Honours for Caesar

According to Cassius Dio, the Senate unleashed an an avalanche of honours on Caesar in the last few months of his life, which he listed:

  1. “...  all together, even if they were not all proposed or passed at one time”, (‘Roman History’, 44: 4: 1).

I will now attempt an edited version of his long and random list in an attempt to highlight its most significant items:

  1. “The Senate gave [Caesar] the right:

  2. ... to offer spolia opima the temple of Jupiter Feretrius, as if he had slain some hostile general with his own hand; and

  3. ... to ride on horseback into the City from the Alban Mount after the Feriae Latinae.

  4. In addition to these remarkable privileges, they:

  5. named him father of his country and stamped this title on the coinage;

  6. voted to celebrate his birthday by public sacrifice; and

  7. ordered that he should have:

  8. a statue in the cities and in all the temples of Rome; and

  9. two on the rostra (one representing him as the saviour of the citizens, and the other as the deliverer of the city from siege ...)

  10. When he had accepted these, they assigned to him the charge of ...  constructing a new senate-house (since that of Hostilius ... had been demolished) ... [which would be] named the Julian, even as they had called the month in which he was born July ....  They decreed that he should:

  11. be sole censor for life; and

  12. enjoy the immunities granted to the tribunes, so that anyone who insulted him  ... would be an outlaw and accursed ...

  13. As he seemed to like all this, they also:

  14. ... granted him a third priestly college, which they called the Julian, as overseers of the Lupercalia ... ; and

  15. voted that his golden chair and his crown set with precious gems and overlaid with gold should be carried into the theatres in the same manner as those of the gods ...”, (‘Roman History’, 44: 4:2 -6:3).  

Divine Honours

Dio’s list culminated in the following three honours:

  1. “[The Senate]:

  2. addressed [Caesar] outright as Jupiter Julius;

  3. ordered a temple to be consecrated to him and to his Clemency; and

  4. elected [Mark] Antony as [the priest of his cult], like some flamen Dialis”, (‘Roman History’, 44: 6: 4).

Ittai Gradel (referenced below, at pp. 54-5) assigned these three honours to a third phase in the Senate’s awards of divine honours to Caesar, after he had arguably been designated:

  1. as Divus Julius in the inscription below his image on the Capitol (in which the inhabited world lay beneath his feet) in July 46 BC (phase 1); and

  2. as Deo Invicto in the inscription on his statue in the Temple of Quirinus in April 45 BC (phase 2).

Gradel returned to these three honours at p. 69 et seq., observing that they:

  1. “... deified Caesar outright.  ... [The honours themselves] and Caesar’s acceptance of them are basically confirmed [by other sources, including], most importantly, by Cicero ... “

David Wardle (referenced below, at p. 106) similarly observed that:

  1. “The contemporary testimony of Cicero is crucial in establishing the historicity of the formal deification, the cult honours and the title assumed by the new divinity.”

This testimony comes in a passage in Cicero’s second ‘Philippic’ (above):   

  1. “And are you [Mark Antony] diligent in doing honour to Caesar’s memory?  Do you love him even now that he is dead?  What greater honour had he obtained [while alive, at your urging] than that of having:

  2. -a pulvinar [a cushioned couch for the gods];

  3. -a simulacrum [an image, usually of a god];

  4. -a fastigium [a gable added to his official house that made it resemble a temple]; and

  5. -a flamen [priest]? 

  6. Thus, as Jupiter, Mars and Quirinus all have priests, so divus Julius has Mark Antony.  Why do you delay then?  Why are you not inaugurated?”, (‘Philippics’, 2: 110  translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, 2010, at Vol. I, p. 163). 

John Ramsey (referenced below, at p. 323) observed that this passage contains:

  1. “... the earliest extant instance of the noun ‘divus’ [combined with] the appositive ‘Julius’, which came to be the formal expression used to describe Julius Caesar after his deification.”

Caesar’s Planned Invasion of Parthia

According to Suetonius, after his victory at Munda in early 45 BC, Caesar planned a series of projects:

  1. “... for the adornment and convenience of the City and for the protection and extension of the Empire, [including]:

  2. the construction of

  3. a temple to Mars, greater than any in existence ... ;and

  4. a theatre of vast size, sloping down from the Tarpeian Rock;

  5. the reduction of the civil code ... and of the vast and prolix mass of statutes to include only the best and most essential in a limited number of volumes;

  6. the opening to the public of the greatest possible libraries of Greek and Latin books, assigning to Marcus Varro the charge of procuring and classifying them ...;

  7. the building of a highway across the Apennines from the Adriatic to the Tiber;

  8. the cutting of  a canal through the Isthmus [at Corinth];

  9. the checking of the Dacians, who had poured into Pontus and Thrace, followed by the invasion of Parthia by way of Lesser Armenia ... .

  10. All these enterprises and plans were cut short by his death [less than a year later]”, (‘Life of Caesar’, 44). 

However, many of these objectives could safely be delegated: as Robert Morstein-Marx (referenced below, at p. 923) observed:

  1. “By the time that [Caesar] returned from Munda in late September 45 BC, his mind was clearly set on a great expedition against Parthia ... ”

Situation in Syria (46 - 45 BC)

Caesar’s intentions in respect of the Parthians would have been coloured by the recent deterioration  Syria, where (as we have seen) the Pompeian Q. Caecilius Bassus had established a base.  By late 46 BC:

  1. Caesar had mandated Q. Cornificius, the governor of the neighbouring province of Cilicia, to oppose Bassus;

  2. Cornificius and Cicero expected the Parthians to return to the aid of Bassus; and

  3. it seems that Caesar shared this concern, since Cicero referred to:

  4. ... the legions that I hear are being brought to your support ... ”, (‘Letters to Friends’, 206, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, 2001, at Vol. II, p. 257).

On 28th May 45 BC, less than two months after Caesar’s victory at Munda, Cicero noted in a letter to Atticus that Caesar had told his supporters that:

  1. “... he will not go to fight the Parthians until he has settled affairs here [in Rome]”, (‘Letters to Atticus’, 302: 3, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, 1999, at Vol. IV, p. 39).

However, as we have seen, Caesar had not been in any great hurry to return to Rome and, as Robert Morstein-Marx (referenced below, at p. 923) observed:

  1. “By the time that he [finally did so] ... in late September 45 BC, his mind was clearly set on a great expedition against Parthia ...”

Whatever his wider objectives, we can reasonably assume that they included the defeat of Bassus and the recovery of Syria.

Caesar had appointed C. Antistius Vetus as governor of Syria for 45 BC, but things had not gone well: Cicero reported to Atticus that their mutual friend, Balbus:

  1. “... has had a letter from [Antistius] dated 31 December 45 BC, to the effect that, when he was laying siege to [Bassus] and was on the point of capturing him, Pacorus of Parthia came up with a very large force.  Thus [Bassus] was snatched from his clutches with the loss of many of his own men”, (‘Letter to Atticus’, 363, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, 1999, at Vol. IV, p. 157).

Antistius may well have used the arrival f the Parthians to excuse his own lack of success against Bassus: according to Cassius Dio, Antistius and Bassus:

  1. “... had a fairly equal struggle and, when neither party was able to gain any great advantage, they parted, without any definite truce, to await the bringing up of allies.

  2. Antistius was joined by locals who favoured Caesar and by reinforcements that Caesar sent from Rome; while

  3. Bassus was joined by Alchaudonius the Arabian. ...  Even the Parthians came at the invitation of Bassus but they soon withdrew on account of the winter and hence did not accomplish anything of importance”, (‘Roman History’, 47: 27: 2-5).

Thus, as Gareth Sampson (referenced below, at p. 98) observed:

  1. “The year 45 BC ... ended with Bassus in control of Syria and the Parthians, [who had previously declined Pompey’s request for help after Pharsalus, were now] indicating their willingness to involve themselves in the Roman civil war [by taking the side of those who were fighting] against Caesar.”

Caesar in Rome (1st January - 15th March 44 BC)

Caesar’s Magistracies in 44 BC

Dictator IIII


Aureus issued by Caesar (RRC 481/1)                                 

Obverse: CAESAR·DICT·QVART: Portrait of Caesar

Reverse: COS·QUINC in laurel wreath 

Silver denarius issued by the moneyer M. Mettius: 44 BC (RRC 480/2)

Obverse: CAESAR·DICT·QVART: Portrait of Caesar (wreathed, with lituus behind)

Reverse: M·METTIVS: Juno Sospita (the patroness of Mettius’ native Lanuvium) in biga

Caesar began his fifth consulship on 1st January 44 BC.  As David Sear (referenced below, at p. 80) observed, he marked this occasion with:

  1. “... a special issue of gold aurei (RRC 481/1, illustrated above), presumably intended for distribution to notables at the time of the consular ceremonies.” 

At this point in time, Caesar was still dictator for the 4th time (with the expectation that this would roll over into a 5th annual dictatorship in April 44 BC), although, as we shall see this office became ‘perpetual’ at some time in February 44 BC).  As it turned out, this was the last coin type that Caesar himself ever issued at Rome.

For reasons that are unclear, the college of moneyers was increased from three to four men in this year (a change that the Emperor Augustus revered some years later).  The quattuorviri monetales of 44 BC were:

  1. L. Aemilius Buca;

  2. C. Cossutius Maridianus;

  3. M. Mettius; and

  4. P. Sepullius Macer.

Only one of them, Mettius, minted for Caesar as ‘DICT QUART’ (see RRC 480/2, illustrated above), and the bust of Caesar on the obverse of these coins probably represents the first portrait of a living person on a coin minted in Rome.

Dictator Perpetuo

Silver denarius issued by the moneyer P. Sepullius Macer: 44 BC (RRC 480/10)

Obverse: CAESAR DICT·PERPETUO: Portrait of Caesar (wreathed)

Reverse: P·SEPVLLIVS MACER: Venus standing, holding Victory

Caesar is designated as dictator perpetuo on 10 (of 27) denarii in the series RRC 480: these types were issued by:

  1. Aemilius Buca (2);

  2. Sepullius Macer (6, including this one); and

  3. Cossutius Maridianus (2).

It is possible to estimate the date of the change made to Caesar’s title, starting with the fact that, as we shall see, Cicero (in an undelivered invective against Mark Antony that he circulated in late 44 BC) claimed that Mark Antony:

  1. “... gave orders that the following notation should be added to the calendar beside the date of the Lupercalia: [15th February]:

  2. ‘To Caius Caesar, dictatori perpetuo, Marcus Antonius, consul, offered royal power by order of the people’.

  3. Caesar declined”, (‘Philippics’, 2: 87, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, 2010, at Vol. I, p. 139).

Although Cicero was being sarcastic here, it is nevertheless clear that the change in the character of Caesar’ dictatorship occurred at some time in the period 1st January - 15th February 44 BC.  Further information can be taken from Josephus, who referred to a speech that Caesar made in the Senate (in relation to decrees concerning the Jews) when he was:

  1. “C. Caesar, Imperator, dictator for the 4th time and consul for the 5th time, and designated to be perpetual dictator”, (‘Antiquities’, 14: 10: 7).

Miriam Pucci Ben Zeev (referenced below) deduced that this must  have related to the decree to which Josephus subsequently returned in the following passage:

  1. “As for the decisions rendered by C. Caesar, with the concurrence of the Senate, concerning the Jews, which there was not time to have registered in the Treasury . . . they were dated the 5th day before the [9th] February in the Temple of Concord”, (‘Antiquities’, 14: 10: 10, translated by Miriam Pucci Ben Zeev at p. 252).

She concluded (at p. 253) that these two records:

  1. “... allows us ... to establish a new terminus ante quem for the date in which the title dictator perpetuus was given to Caesar: 9th February of the year 44 BC.”

As Theodore Buttrey (referenced below, at pp. 221-2) pointed out, Caesar had already been awarded ten one-year, sequential dictatorships, which would have taken him to March 36 BC: a new title implying that he was dictator perpetuo would have added very little to his already considerable political power but would have played into the hands of his enemies (who accused him of wanting to be king).  He argued that the Caesar’s new title  meant ‘dictator without interruption’ rather than ‘dictator for life’ (which is how all of our Greek sources translated it): 

  1. “What was at issue was a problem in practical chronology.  ... The next renewal [of Caesar’s rolling dictatorship was during April 44 BC], when he would already have left for the Parthian Campaign; and reiteration would have been expected in successive Aprils, while Caesar was [still] away, no-one knowing for how long:  ... the point of Caesar’s new title [must have been simply] to maintain his position at Rome in his absence, given that [his right to the consulship for 5 years, beginning with 48 BC] would expire at the end of 44 BC”.

Fasti Capitolini and Fasti Privernum

Reconstruction of the entries in the fasti Privernum for 44 BC

Adapted from Fausto Zevi and Filippo Cassola (referenced below, at Fig, 2, p. 293

The entries in the fasti Capitolini for this year are very lacunose: with the certain completions made, the surviving lines read:

  1. C .JULIUS .C.F.C.N.CAESAR.IIII - ABD [resigned]


  3. [3 lines missing]

  4. VT.QVM.M.LEPIDUS PALUDATUS [when Lepidus left for war]


  6. IN.SEQUENTEM.ANNUM [in the following year]

  7. ERAT.NON.INIIT [he did not enter office]

However, a newly-discovered fragment of the fasti Privernum (EDR 158013), 17-7 BC) published by  Fausto Zevi and Filippo Cassola referenced below), adds a considerable amount of new information.  For example, Zevi and Cassola completed the equivalent entries in the fasti Privernum (at p. 295) as:

  1. C. Iulius Caesar IV dict(ator) abdic(avit) ut perpet(uo ?) [---]

  2. M. Aemilius Lepid(us) II mag(ister) eq(uitum) abd(icavit) ut perpet(uo ?) [---]

  3. quoad (?) dict(ator) Caesar esset

  4. C. Iulius Caesar desig(natus) in perpet(uum) dicta(tor)

  5. M. Aemilius Lepidus [---]

This suggest that Lepidus was to remain master of horse quoad (as long as) Caesar remained dictator (see Zevi and Cassola, referenced below, at pp. 296-7; Jean-Louis Ferrary, referenced below, at p. 1564; and Orazio Licandro, referenced below, at p. 340).

The entry in the fasti Capitolini for Caesar’s 5th consulship of this year is similarly lacunose:  with the certain completions made, the surviving lines read:



The corresponding entry in the fasti Privernum confirms the information of the literary sources that Mark Antony was Caesar’s consualr colleague.


Cicero (in an unpublished invective against Mark Antony that he would have made, had he attended a meeting in the Senate on 19th September 44 BC) charged that both Caesar and Mark Antony had acted:

  1. “... perfidiously ... toward Dolabella:

  2. Caesar led him on to stand for the office, and then, after it had been promised and guaranteed, snatched it away and transferred it to himself. 

  3. You, [Mark Antony], cloaked your own desire to block Dolabella’s consulship by placing the blame on Caesar’s treachery. 

  4. [On 1st January 44 BC], we were summoned to a meeting of the Senate, where Dolabella delivered a much more copious and studied invective against Antonius than I am delivering now. ... To begin with, Caesar had made it clear that before leaving Rome, he would order the consulship to be conferred on Dolabella ...  [However, Mark Antony], this fine augur of ours, then stated that he was invested with a priestly office that enabled him to hold up or invalidate the elections by means of auspices, and he emphatically declared that this was his intention”, (“Philippics’, 2: 79-80, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, at pp. 131-3).

Cicero returned to this topic later in the speech:

  1. “Let us, however, get back to the auspices, concerning which Caesar was going to consult the Senate on 15th March. ... Fortuna rei publicae (the good fortune of the State - i.e., Caesar’s murder) cancelled the meeting that day”, (“Philippics’, 2: 88, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, at p. 141).

Thus, the matter of Dolabella’s consulship was unresolved at the time of Caesar’s murder.  However, as set out in my page Mark Antony dropped his objection to it at the Senate meeting that was held in the Temple of Tellus two days later.

  1. Other Events at Rome before Caesar’s Murder

Caesar’s Ovation on the Alban Mount (26th January 44 BC)

The Augustan fasti Triumphales record that, on 26th January, Caesar celebrated an ovans ex monte Albano (an ovation on his return to Rome following his celebration of the Feriae Latinae on the Alban mount).  This record should probably be connected to a passage by Cassius Dio, in which he recorded that, at an unspecified date (presumably at some time after his victory at Munda on 17th March 45 BC), the Senate had awarded Caesar the honour of:

  1. “... returning  from the Alban Mount into the City on horseback after the Feriae Latinae”, (‘Roman History’, 44: 4: 4-5).

He thus seems to have availed himself of this honour for his celebration of the Feriae Latinae in 26th January, prior to his planned departure for Parthia.  The entry in the fasti is the only source for the information that Caesar celebrated a formal ovation on his return from the games: as Robert Morstein-Marx (referenced below, at p. 952) pointed out:

  1. “This [ovation] is remarkable, inasmuch as it had ... not been granted for any specific military achievement, as had always been the case [in the past]: the precise character of [Caesar’s ovation] is therefore unclear.”

Lupercalia (15th February 44 BC)

According to Cassius Dio, at some time after Caesar’s victory at Munda on 17th March 45 BC, the Senate decreed the institution of:

  1. “... a third priestly college, which they called the Julian, as overseers of the Lupercalia”, (‘Roman History’, 44: 6: 2).

As John North (referenced below, at p. 145) pointed out, the 15th February 44 BC:

  1. “... was the first day on which the new company (sodalitas) of the Luperci, the Luperci Juliani, joined the ancient ones, the Fabiani and Quinctiani, in running the Lupercalia route.”

In a speech that Cicero made to the Senate on 20th March 43 BC, in which he responded to a series of complaints that Mark Antony had listed in a letter addressed to the consul Hirtius and to Octavian, one of which was that the Senate had;

  1. “...  deprived the Luperci Juliani of their revenues”, (‘Philippics’, 13: 15, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, 2010, at Vol. II, p. 267).

The Luperci Juliani had appeared at the Lupercalia of 44 BC for both the first and the last time.

The earliest surviving record of the controversy that arose on this day is found in a passage by Cicero that was written for delivery on 19th September 44 BC but not delivered and probably first circulated towards the end of the year:

  1. “[Caesar] sat on the rostra [at the end of the Lupercalia route], dressed in his purple toga, on his golden throne (sella), wearing a crown (coronatus). You, [Mark Antony[,  climb up, you reach the throne - you were being a lupercus when you ought to have been remembering that you were the consul; you display a diadem.  Groans round the whole forum.   ... You placed the diadem on [Caesar’s] head to popular lamentation; he refused it to popular cheering.  So, you were the only one to be found who, having tried to launch a monarchy by turning the man who was your colleague into your lord, tested out what the Roman People would tolerate and suffer”, (“Philippics’, 2: 85, translated by John North (referenced below, at p. 146).

John North (as above) observed that the purple toga and golden throne had been honours already granted to Caesar, but the diadem was obviously a controversial innovation.  Cassius Dio claimed to know what the diadem signified:

  1. “... [Mark] Antony, with his fellow-priests [presumably the other Luperci Juliani], saluted him as king and, placing a diadem on his head, said: ‘The people offer this to you through me.’”, (‘Roman History’, 44: 11: 2).

As we have seen, in a passage of the speech that Cicero claimed that he would have given in the Senate on 19th September, 44 BC, had he attended (which he probably published in November of that year), he claimed that Mark Antony:

  1. “... gave orders  that the following notation should be added to the calendar beside the date of the Lupercalia: [15th February]:

  2. ‘To Caius Caesar,  dictatori perpetuo, Marcus Antonius, consul, offered royal power by order of the people’.

  3. Caesar declined”, (‘Philippics’, 2: 87, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, 2010, at Vol. I, p. 139).

Cicero is probably being ironic here, and it is unlikely that Mark Antony ever issued this order.  However, we can reasonably assume that:

  1. Caesar formally assumed the title dictator perpetuo a few days before the Lupercalia of 44 BC;

  2. at the Lupercalia, Mark Antony, as one of the newly-instituted Luperci Juliani, saluted him as king and, placing a diadem on his head; and

  3. Caesar declined the honour. 

Caesar’s Murder (15th March 44 BC)

As everyone knows, Caesar was murdered on the Ides of March 44 BC at the start of a meeting of the Senate in the Theatre of Pompey (the usual venue since the old Curia Hostilia had burned down in riots in 52 BC.  According to Nicolaus of Damascus, as Caesar was about to leave for the meeting, amid warnings from his wife and some of his supporters not to do so:

  1. “... the attendants came to summon him, saying that the Senate had a quorum.  Caesar cast a look toward his friends, but [Decimus Brutus] approached him ...  and said:

  2. 'Come Sir, ignore these people's nonsense and do not postpone the business that deserves the attention of Caesar and of the great empire, but consider your own worth a favourable omen.'

  3. Having persuaded him, he ... led him in, for the Senate-chamber was nearby.  Caesar followed in silence.  When [he entered], ... the senators rose ... : [the conspirators] were all around him: 

  4. The first to approach him was [L. Tillius Cimber, see below]. who stepped forward as though to make an urgent appeal on behalf of his brother, [whom Caesar had exiled].  He seized Caesar's toga, seeming to act rather boldly for a suppliant, and thus prevented him from standing up and using his hands if he so wished.

  5. [Although] Caesar was very angry, the [conspirators] maintained their purpose, and all of them suddenly drew their daggers and rushed upon him:

  6. First, [C. Servilius Casca , a plebeian tribune] stabbed him on the left shoulder a little above the collar bone, at which he had aimed but missed through nervousness.  Caesar sprang up to defend himself against him, and Casca called to his brother, [P. Servilius Casca], speaking in Greek in his excitement.  The latter obeyed him and drove his sword into Caesar's side.

  7. A moment before [C. Cassius Longinus] had struck him obliquely across the face.

  8. Decimus Brutus struck him through the thigh.

  9. Cassius Longinus was eager to give another stroke, but he missed and struck Marcus Brutus on the hand.

  10. [L. Minucius Basileus, praetor in 45 BC but refused a province in 44 BC], also made a lunge at Caesar but he struck [the otherwise unknown] Rubrius on the thigh.

  11. It looked as if they were fighting over Caesar.  He fell,under many wounds, before the statue of Pompey, and every one of them but struck him as he lay lifeless, to show that each of them had had a share in the deed, until he had received 35 wounds, and breathed his last.  ...  The body of Caesar lay where it fell, ignominiously stained with blood ... , no-one daring to remain in order to remove the body.  Those of his friends who had been present ran away, and those who [had not been present]  remained hidden in their houses, or else changed their clothing and went out into the country districts nearby.  Not one of his many friends stood by him, either while he was being slaughtered or afterward, except:

  12. C. Calvisius Sabinus [who had recently returned to Rome, having served as governor of Spain in 45 BC]; and

  13. L. Marcius Censorinus;

  14. but though they offered some slight opposition ... [during the] attack, they were forced to flee because of the greater number of their opponents.  All the others looked out for themselves and some even acquiesced in what had occurred”, (Life of Augustus’, 24-6).

According to Cicero, Mark Antony accused Trebonius of parricide, to which he (Cicero) responded:

  1. “What was his crime, except to draw you away from the destruction you deserved on the Ides of March?, (‘Philippics’, 13: 23, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, 2010, at Vol. II, p. 253).

Read more

Morstein-Marx R., “Julius Caesar and the Roman People”, (2021) Cambridge

Licander O., “Cesare, la Missione Partica e la Dictatura Perpetua nei Fasti di Privernum: Uno Studio Preliminare”, Bullettino dell'Istituto di Diritto Romano Vittorio Scialoja’, 114 (2020) 331-51

Sampson G. “Rome and Parthia: Empires at War: Ventidius, Antony and the Second Romano-Parthian War, 40–20 BC”, (2020) Yorkshire and Philadelphia

Ferrary J.-L., “Le Nouveau Fragment des Fastes de Privernum et le Projet Césarien d’ Organisation des Pouvoirs en Occident à la Veille de la Guerre contre les Parthes”, Comptes Rendus des Séances de l'Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, 161:4 (2017) 1561-81

Ramsey, J. T. and Raaflaub, K. A., “Chronological Tables for Caesar's Wars (58–45 BC)” , Histos, 11 (2017) 162–215

Zevi F. and Cassola F., “I Fasti di "Privernum”, Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik, 197 (2016), 287-309

Buttrey T. V., “Caesar at Play: Some Preparations for the Parthian Campaign, 44 BCE”, Journal of Ancient History, 3:2, (2015) 220-41

Welch K., “Magnus Pius: Sextus Pompeius and the Transformation of the Roman Republic”, (2012) Swansea

Wardle D., “Caesar and Religion”, in:

  1. Griffin M. (editor), “Companion to Julius Caesar’ (2009) Chichester and Malden, MA, at pp. 100-11

Shackleton Bailey D. R. (translator), “Cicero: Philippics , 1-6 (Vol. I) and Books 7-14 (Vol. II)”, (2010) Cambridge, MA

North J. A., “Caesar at the Lupercalia”,  Journal of Roman Studies, 98 (2008) 144-60

Ramsey J. T., “Cicero: Philippics I-II’, (2003) New York

Gradel I., “Emperor Worship and Roman Religion’, (2002) Oxford

Shackleton Bailey D. R. (translator), “Cicero: Letters to Friends, Vol. II: Letters 114-280”, (2001) Cambridge, MA

Sear D., “History and Coinage of the Roman Imperators 49-27 BC”, (1998) London

Shackleton Bailey D. R. (translator), “Cicero: Letters to Atticus, Vol. I-IV”, (1999) Cambridge MA

Ramsey J. T. and Licht A. L., “The Comet of 44 B.C. and Caesar's Funeral Games”, (1997) Atlanta, Georgia

Pucci Ben Zeev M., “When Was the Title ‘Dictator Perpetuus’ Given to Caesar ?”, L'Antiquité Classique, 65 (1996), 251-3 Pelling C. B. R., “Plutarch: Life of Antony”, (1988) Cambridge

Sumner G. V., “The Lex Annalis under Caesar (Continued)”, Phoenix, 25:4 (1971) 357-71

Broughton T. R. S., “The Magistrates of the Roman Republic. Vol. II : 99 BC - 31 BC”, (1952) New York

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