Article abstract: Military significance: Caesar demonstrated in the conquest of Gaul and in his victories in the Roman civil wars that when properly led, the Roman legionnaire was vastly superior to other contemporary forces. His writings on these wars greatly influenced military history.
A member of a large and very old family that had fallen from influence at Rome, Julius Caesar was related by marriage to the great military innovator Gaius Marius. In his early career, Caesar escaped Sulla’s violent proscriptions of Marius’s supporters, then gravitated toward the party of Pompey the Great as Pompey dissolved the Sullan reforms. Heavily in debt, he served as praetor in Further Spain during 61 b.c.e. and satisfied his creditors by a showy but unremarkable campaign. Returning to Rome, he formed a compact (the First Triumvirate) with Pompey and Marcus Licinius Crassus and claimed the consulship for 59 b.c.e.
As consul, Caesar secured the governorship of Cisalpine Gaul and Illyricum for five years. The Senate later added Transalpine Gaul, and his governorship was extended for another five years in 56 b.c.e. Caesar took up his post early in 58 b.c.e. He now had an army under his command. His appointment clearly included only northern Italy and the southern, coastal regions of Gaul; however, to advance his position at Rome, Caesar ignored the long-standing, senatorial principle of strategic defense and began to bring all of Gaul under Roman authority. He defeated the Helvetii, a Gallic tribe in what later became Switzerland, at the Battle of Bibracte in 58 b.c.e. His actions resulted in one of the largest acquisitions of territory in the history of Rome, the penetration of Roman culture and government into most of Western Europe, and the first...
(The entire section is 730 words.)