Ancient History Rulers and Dictators

10 Surprising Things About Julius Caesar

Julius Caesar, the ancient Roman statesman is a historical figure who seems larger than life. Having a Shakespearean play based on your life would do that to you. But what do we really know about this Roman nobleman who left a permanent impact on European history? Here are ten surprising facts you probably haven’t heard before


1.He wasn’t born through C-Section


While the Caesarean section bears his name, this surgery probably didn’t give birth to Julius Caesar. How do we know? Back in those days, C-sections were only performed on pregnant women who were dying or already dead during childbirth. Since Caesar’s mother lived close to 50 years after he was born, she probably wasn’t cut up when giving birth to Julius.



2. He was a dictator without a crown


Thanks to the loyalty he garnered from the military, Caesar ran Rome as a virtual dictator. Still, he didn’t claim to be king and therefore didn’t have a crown.



3. He survived a pirate abduction


While in his 20s, Caesar headed to Rhodes island in Greece from Rome. He wanted to study under the renowned Greek rhetorician Appollonius who counted many famous Romans as his students including Cicero. On the way, the ship Julius was on was hijacked by pirates. He was released when his family paid his ransom.



4. Caesar insisted that his family pay a higher ransom for him


Insulted that pirates who captured him asked for a low initial ransom, Caesar asked the pirates to jack up their ransom demand. Once freed, Caesar got a small group of ships together and hunted down his captors. He had his pirate captors executed.



5. Caesar only had one known son-the Egyptian Pharaoh Ptolemy XV


While in Egypt to restore its Roman protectorate status, Caesar fell in love with Cleopatra-the Greek-descended queen of Egypt’s Ptolemaic line of rulers. Around the year 47 BC, she gave birth to Caesarion (“Little Caesar”). According to tradition, Caesarion was Julius Caesar’s son. Caesar had no other known sons.

While Caesarion would eventually ascend the Egyptian throne as Ptolemy XV, he was viewed as a threat by his father’s successor, Octavian (Augustus Caesar). Soon after the military defeat and deaths of Cleopatra and her lover Mark Anthony, Ptolemy XV was murdered.



6. He switched the Roman calendar to a 365 day system


Prior to Caesar’s rule, the Romans used a lunar calendar. This system was problematic because each year was only 355 days-10 and a quarter days short of a solar year. Since the lunar calendar doesn’t neatly track the solar seasons, Roman officials had to add days to the calendar every year to make it line up with the seasons. Caesar put an end to the confusion by decreeing that the Roman calendar follow a solar 365 day system. To make sure the system tracked the solar year closely, every 4th year, Caesar would add a day to the calendar. That’s how the leap year was born.



7. Some scholars believe one of Caesar’s killers, Brutus, was actually his son


Caesar was quite the ladies’ man during his lifetime. While he was married three times and divorced twice, had quite a long list of girlfriends and mistresses. According to some scholars, since Brutus’ mother was Servilia Caepionis, one of Julius’ lovers, Brutus might have been his love child.



8. Caesar could not legally marry Cleopatra and save Egypt

Caesar could have spared Egypt from the succession turmoils that eventually destroyed it if he had married Cleopatra. The problem was Roman law. The only people Roman citizens could marry were other Roman citizens.



9. His blood line traces back to Rome’s first king


According to his family’s traditions, his family line can be traced to Rome’s legendary first king. This was the more modest part of Caesar’s family origin claims-they actually claimed that their family line traces back to the son of Aeneas (the Trojan War survivor prince who fathered the founders of Rome). Aeneas himself was considered the son of the goddess Venus.



10. Caesar was born to a politically powerful and connected Roman family

Not exactly a rags to riches story, Julius Caesar’s life story begins with a tremendous advantage: he was the son of a powerful governor of Asia province, Gaius Julius Caesar.  If that political pedigree wasn’t solid enough, Caesar was also related, through his sister’s marriage, to one of the most powerful political figures in Roman history, Gaius Marius.


Thanks to Shakespeare, the most common picture people have of Julius Caesar is that of murder victim. The facts listed above reveal him to be a more complicated, nuanced, and even visionary figure.