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Please note that Mommsen uses the AUC chronology (Ab Urbe Condita), i.e. from the founding of the City of Rome. You can use this reference table to have the B.C. dates


V. The Establishment of the Military Monarchy

From: The History of Rome, by Theodor Mommsen
Translated with the sanction of the author by William Purdie Dickson

The History of Old Rome

Chapter I - Marcus Lepidus and Quintus Sertorius


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Page 21

In the democratic party, among the rising youth, Gaius Julius Caesar, who was twenty-four years of age (born 12 July 652?(14)), drew towards him the eyes of friend and foe.

14. It is usual to set down the year 654 as that of Caesar's birth, because according to Suetonius (Caes. 88), Plutarch (Caes. 69), and Appian (B. C. ii. 149) he was at his death (15 March 710) in his 56th year; with which also the statement that he was 18 years old at the time of the Sullan proscription (672; Veil. ii. 41) nearly accords. But this view is utterly inconsistent with the facts that Caesar filled the aedileship in 689, the praetorship in 692, and the consulship in 695, and that these offices could, according to the -leges annales-, be held at the very earliest in the 37th-38th, 40th-41st, and 43rd-44th years of a man's life respectively.

We cannot conceive why Caesar should have filled all the curule offices two years before the legal time, and still less why there should be no mention anywhere of his having done so. These facts rather suggest the conjecture that, as his birthday fell undoubtedly on July 12, he was born not in 654, but in 652; so that in 672 he was in his 20th-21st year, and he died not in his 56th year, but at the age of 57 years 8 months. In favour of this latter view we may moreover adduce the circumstance, which has been strangely brought forward in opposition to it, that Caesar "-paene puer-" was appointed by Marius and Cinna as Flamen of Jupiter (Veil. ii. 43); for Marius died in January 668, when Caesar was, according to the usual view, 13 years 6 months old, and therefore not "almost," as Velleius says, but actually still a boy, and most probably for this very reason not at all capable of holding such a priesthood.

If, again, he was born in July 652, he was at the death of Marius in his sixteenth year; and with this the expression in Velleius agrees, as well as the general rule that civil positions were not assumed before the expiry of the age of boyhood. Further, with this latter view alone accords the fact that the -denarii- struck by Caesar about the outbreak of the civil war are marked with the number LII, probably the year of his life; for when it began, Caesar's age was according to this view somewhat over 52 years. Nor is it so rash as it appears to us who are accustomed to regular and official lists of births, to charge our authorities with an error in this respect. Those four statements may very well be all traceable to a common source; nor can they at all lay claim to any very high credibility, seeing that for the earlier period before the commencement of the -acta diurna- the statements as to the natal years of even the best known and most prominent Romans, e. g. as to that of Pompeius, vary in the most surprising manner. (Comp. Staatsrecht, I. 8 p. 570.)

In the Life of Caesar by Napoleon III (B. 2, ch. 1) it is objected to this view, first, that the -lex annalis- would point for Caesar's birth-year not to 652, but to 651; secondly and especially, that other cases are known where it was not attended to. But the first assertion rests on a mistake; for, as the example of Cicero shows, the -lex annalis- required only that at the entering on office the 43rd year should be begun, not that it should be completed. None of the alleged exceptions to the rule, moreover, are pertinent. When Tacitus (Ann. xi. 22) says that formerly in conferring magistracies no regard was had to age, and that the consulate and dictatorship were entrusted to quite young men, he has in view, of course, as all commentators acknowledge, the earlier period before the issuing of the -leges annales---the consulship of M. Valerius Corvus at twenty-three, and similar cases.

The assertion that Lucullus received the supreme magistracy before the legal age is erroneous; it is only stated (Cicero, Acad. pr. i. 1) that on the ground of an exceptional clause not more particularly known to us, in reward for some sort of act performed by him, he had a dispensation from the legal two years' interval between the aedileship and praetorship--in reality he was aedile in 675, probably praetor in 677, consul in 680. That the case of Pompeius was a totally different one is obvious; but even as to Pompeius, it is on several occasions expressly stated (Cicero, de Imp. Pomp, ax, 62; Appian, iii. 88) that the senate released him from the laws as to age. That this should have been done with Pompeius, who had solicited the consulship as a commander-in-chief crowned with victory and a triumphator, at the head of an army and after his coalition with Crassus also of a powerful party, we can readily conceive.

But it would be in the highest degree surprising, if the same thing should have been done with Caesar on his candidature for the minor magistracies, when he was of little more importance than other political beginners; and it would be, if possible, more surprising still, that, while there is mention of that--in itself readily understood--exception, there should be no notice of this more than strange deviation, however naturally such notices would have suggested themselves, especially with reference to Octavianus consul at 21 (comp., e. g., Appian, iii. 88). When from these irrelevant examples the inference is drawn, "that the law was little observed in Rome, where distinguished men were concerned," anything more erroneous than this sentence was never uttered regarding Rome and the Romans. The greatness of the Roman commonwealth, and not less that of its great generals and statesmen, depends above all things on the fact that the law held good in their case also.

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