|Year||Events and Comments|
|Prior Timeline 21 BC – 40 BC|
41 BC: Mark Antony meets Cleopatra VII in Tarsus (Cilicia) and formed an alliance. He returned to Alexandria with her and they become lovers in the winter of 41 BC – 40 BC. To safeguard herself and Caesarion, she had Antony order the execution of her (half) sister Arsinoe IV, who is living at the temple of Artemis in Ephesus.
|42 BC||October 23—Second Battle of Philippi: Brutus’ army is defeated by Antony and Octavian, the Triumvirs smash through the weakened Republican centre and take Brutus’s right wing in its flank. After the battle 14.000 legionaries lay down their arms. Brutus fled to the heights of Philippi, where he commits suicide the following day.|
October 3—First Battle of Philippi: The Triumvirs Mark Antony and Octavian Caesar fight an indecisive battle with Caesar’s assassins Marcus Brutus and Cassius. The Roman forces including 2,000 Spartans who just arrived are routed, Octavian takes refuge in the marsh. Cassius’ camp is captured by Antony’s men, wrongly fearing that Brutus is dead Cassius commits suicide. He ordered his freedman Pindarus to kill him, Brutus feared the impact on morale and secretly buried his beheaded body on Thasos. The Republican navy in the Adriatic, intercept and destroy the supply ships with two legions of the Triumvirs.
42 BC: Marcus Brutus begins to plunder the cities of Asia Minor, in order to obtain money and soldiers. The inhabitants of Lycia refused to submit to Rome, and Brutus besieged Xanthus. After destroying their suburbs, the Xanthians withdrew into the heavily fortified city. The Roman legionaries (2,000 men) forced the gate and fight their way into the forum. The citizens made an heroic stand by the temple of Sarpedon, as night falls the Roman army conquers the city. The Xanthians preferred to perish in the flames rather than to yield.
|43 BC||Cicero, when he saw Antony trying to step into the dead dictator’s shoes of Julius Caesar, knew that the anti-climax was absurd. ‘Your ambition to reign, Antony, certainly deserves to be compared with Caesar’s. But in not a single other respect are you entitled to the same comparison. . . .’ His character was an amalgamation of genius, method, memory, culture, thoroughness, intellect, and industry.’|
March 15, 44 BC: Julius Caesar (102-44 BC) was assassinated by disgruntled colleagues after establishing the Roman Empire. (Assassination of Gaius Julius ▼Caesar.) Rome descended into more than ten years of civil war and political upheaval. After Caesar’s heir Gaius Ocavious (Augustus) ▲ defeated his last rivals, the Senate in 27 BC proclaimed him Augustus, meaning the exalted or holy one. In this way Augustus established the monarchy that became known as the Roman Empire.
March 15, 44 BC: Caesar attended the last meeting of the Senate before his departure, held at its temporary quarters in the portico of the theater built by Pompey the Great (the Curia, located in the Forum and the regular meeting house of the Senate, had been badly burned and was being rebuilt). The sixty conspirators, led by Marcus Junius Brutus, Gaius Cassius Longinus, Decimus Brutus Albinus, and Gaius Trebonius, came to the meeting with daggers concealed in their togas and struck Caesar at least 23 times as he stood at the base of Pompey’s statue. Legend has it that Caesar said in Greek to Brutus, “You, too, my child?” After his death, all the senators fled, and three slaves carried his body home to Calpurnia several hours later. For several days there was a political vacuum, for the conspirators apparently had no long-range plan and, in a major blunder, did not immediately kill Mark Antony (apparently by the decision of Brutus). The conspirators had only a band of gladiators to back them up, while Antony had a whole legion, the keys to Caesar’s money boxes, and Caesar’s will.
February, 44 BC: Julius Caesar was named dictator perpetuus (in perpetuity) enraging the Roman Senate. On February 15, at the feast of Lupercalia, Caesar wore his purple garb for the first time in public. At the public festival, Antony offered him a diadem (symbol of the Hellenistic monarchs), but Caesar refused it, saying Jupiter alone is king of the Romans (possibly because he saw the people did not want him to accept the diadem, or possibly because he wanted to end once and for all the speculation that he was trying to become a king). Caesar was preparing to lead a military campaign against the Parthians, who had treacherously killed Crassus and taken the legionary eagles; he was due to leave on March 18. Although Caesar was apparently warned of some personal danger, he nevertheless refused a bodyguard.
“When Caesar was dictator the entrails were found to have no heart. His wife Calpurnia dreamt that the akroterion of the house, which had been added in accordance with a senatorial decree, fell down. At night when the doors of the bedroom were closed, they opened of their own accord, so that the light of the moon, which came inside awoke Calpurnia. Caesar himself was pierced through with twenty three wounds in the Pompeian senate house by the conspirators.” C. Caesare M. Antonio http://www.alexthenice.com/obsequens/text/67.html
(A newspaper similar to a tabloid)
44 BC: According to Suetonius, a sibylline prediction that only a king could triumph over Parthia fueled rumors that Caesar, leader of the then-republic, was aspiring to kingship. (Caesar, 79)
Summary: Julius Caesar is assassinated by his friends. Mark Anthony takes authority.
|45 BC||April, 45 BC: The two sons of Pompey: Gnaeus and Sextus, led a revolt in Spain against Julius Caesar; since Caesar’s legates were unable to quell the revolt, Caesar had to go himself, winning a decisive but difficult victory at Munda. Gnaeus Pompey was killed in the battle, but Sextus escaped to become, later, the leader of the Mediterranean pirates.|
45 BC Julian calendar of 12 months and 365.25 days per year (with a leap year every 4 years) instituted by Roman Julius Caesar.
|46 BC||July 25, 46 BC: The victorious and now unchallenged Caesar arrived back in Rome and celebrated four splendid triumphs (over the Gauls, Egyptians, Pharnaces, and Juba); he sent for Cleopatra and the one year-old Caesarion and established them in a luxurious villa across the Tiber from Rome. In a letter at this time he listed his political aims as “tranquility for Italy, peace for the provinces, and security for the Empire.” His program for accomplishing these goals—both what he actually achieved and what he planned but did not have time to complete—was sound and farsighted (e.g., resolution of the worst of the debt crisis, resettlement of veterans abroad without dispossessing others, reform of the Roman calendar, regulation of the grain dole, strengthening of the middle class, enlargement of the Senate to 900), but his methods alienated many of the nobles. Holding the position of dictator, Caesar governed autocratically, more in the manner of a general than a politician.|
Although he nominally used the political structure, he often simply announced his decisions to the Senate and had them entered on the record as senatorial decrees without debate or vote.
46 BC: Herod was appointed governor of Coele-Syria and Samaria by Caesar’s representative, (but later, with the death of Caesar and the arrival of Cassius in Syria, Herod was quick to line up with the republicans. He won Cassius’s favor by raising the 700 talents’ tribute which Cassius exacted. He also married Mariamne, a Hasmonean princess and granddaughter of the high priest Hyrcanus II.)
|47 BC||October, 47 BC: Caesar arrived back in Rome and settled the problems caused by the mismanagement of Antony. When he attempted to sail for Africa to face the Optimates (who had regrouped under Cato and allied with King Juba of Numidia), his legions mutinied and refused to sail. In a brilliant speech, Julius Caesar brought them around totally, and after some difficult battles decisively defeated the Optimates at Thapsus, after which Cato committed suicide rather than be pardoned by Caesar.|
The Optimates (Elites) were the dominant political group in the Roman Senate. They blocked the wishes of the others, who were thus forced to seek tribunician support for their measures in the tribal assembly and hence were labeled Populares (who favored the cause of the commoners). Julius Caesar was a Popularist and Pompey and Sulla was an Optimate.
August 1, 47 BC: After leaving Alexandria, Caesar swept through Asia Minor to settle the disturbances there. On August 1, he met and immediately overcame Pharnaces, a rebellious king; he later publicized the rapidity of this victory with the slogan veni, vidi, vici (“I came, I saw, I overcame”).
June 23, 47 BC: Caesar left Alexandria, having established Cleopatra as a client ruler in alliance with Rome; he left three legions under the command of Rufio, as legate, in support of her rule. Either immediately before or soon after he left Egypt, Cleopatra bore a son, whom she named Caesarion, claiming that he was the son of Caesar. (Note: the first written record of a mother and baby surviving a cesarean section comes from Switzerland in 1500 when, after several days in labor and help from thirteen midwives, Jacob Nufer’s wife was unable to deliver her baby. A sow gelder, Jacob Nufer, performed the operation on his wife.)
March, 47 BC: Caesar had sent for reinforcements, two Roman legions and the army of an ally, King Mithridates; when they arrived outside Alexandria he marched out to join them and on March 26 defeated the Egyptian army (Ptolemy XIII died in this battle). Although he had been trapped in the palace for nearly six months and had been unable to exert a major influence on the conduct of the civil war, which was going rather badly without him, Caesar nevertheless remained in Egypt until June, even cruising on the Nile with Cleopatra to the southern boundary of her kingdom.
February, 47 BC: After some months under siege, Caesar tried unsuccessfully to capture Pharos, a great lighthouse on an island in the harbor; at one point when cut off from his men he had to jump in the water and swim to safety. Plutarch says that he swam with one hand, using the other to hold some important papers above the water; Suetonius adds that he also towed his purple general’s cloak by holding it in his teeth so that it would not be captured by the Egyptians.
47 BC: Antipater is appointed as chief minister of Judea by Hyrcanus II (title: ethnarch) who ruled with Roman support. Antipater was the father of Herod the Great and Phasael. When Julius Caesar momentarily settled Palestinian affairs, he seems to have entrusted Antipater with the effective civil government. Antipater named his eldest son, Phasael, governor of Jerusalem and his second son, Herod, governor of Galilee. Herod won favor with the Romans by his success in dealing with local guerrilla bands, but he executed a guerrilla leader (zealot) out of hand, and opponents of the upstart Idumean family got the matter brought before the Sanhedrin. Herod was accused of murder. He did not quite dare ignore the summons of the Sanhedrin, but he did appear in Jerusalem with a large armed bodyguard, and the matter was dropped. He seems, however, to have lost his position in Galilee.
|48 BC||After Oct 2, 48 BC: Ptolemy XIII (Cleopatra’s VII’s enemy and husband) allowed to join the army of Achillas.|
After Oct 2, 48 BC: When Julius Caesar ordered the Egyptian fleet burnt, the great Library of Alexandria was accidentally consumed in the flames.
48 BC “Thunderbolts had fallen upon Pompey’s camp. A fire had appeared in the air over Caesar’s camp and had fallen upon Pompey’s … In Syria two young men announced the result of the battle (in Thessaly) and vanished.” – Dio Cassius, Roman History, Book IV
October 2, 48 BC: Caesar, with no more than 4,000 legionaries, landed in Alexandria, Egypt; he was presented, to his professed horror, with the head of Pompey (his old friend), who had been betrayed by the Egyptians. Caesar demanded that the Egyptians pay him the 40 million sesterces he was owed because of his military support some years earlier for the previous ruler, Ptolemy XII (“The Flute Player”), who had put down a revolt against his rule with Caesar’s help. After Ptolemy XII’s death, the throne had passed to his oldest children, Cleopatra VII and Ptolemy XIII, as joint heirs (wife and husband). When Caesar landed, the eunuch Pothinus and the Egyptian general Achillas, acting on behalf of Ptolemy XIII (at this time about 12 years old), had recently driven Cleopatra (at this time about 20-21 years old) out of Alexandria. Cleopatra had herself smuggled into the palace in Alexandria wrapped in a rug (purportedly a gift for Caesar) and enlisted his help in her struggle to control the Egyptian throne. Like all the Ptolemies, Cleopatra was of Macedonian Greek descent; she was highly intelligent and well-educated.
Caesar saw her as a useful ally as well as a captivating female, and he supported her right to the throne. Through the treachery of Pothinus and the hostility of the Egyptian people to the Romans, Achillas and an army of 20,000 besieged the palace. Caesar managed to hold the palace itself and the harbor; he had Pothinus executed as a traitor but allowed the young Ptolemy (XIII) to join the army of Achillas.
48 BC: Tyre surrenders the contents of her temple treasury to Caesar to pay for her support of Pompey.
Caesar, reaching Egypt, is not pleased when sent by Ptolemy XIII the gift of Pompey’s severed head (who was betrayed by Ptolemy XIII), already embalmed
48 BC: Pompey and the Optimate faction had established a strong position in Greece by this time, and Caesar, in Brundisium, did not have sufficient ships to transport all his legions. He crossed with only about 20,000 men, leaving his chief legate, Mark Antony, in Brundisium to try to bring across the rest of the soldiers. After some rather desperate situations for Caesar, the rest of his forces finally landed, though they were greatly outnumbered by Pompey’s men. In the final battle, on the plains of Pharsalus, it is estimated that Pompey had 46,000 men to Caesar’s 21,000. By brilliant generalship, Caesar was victorious, though the toll was great on both sides; Caesar pardoned all Roman citizens who were captured, including Brutus, but Pompey escaped, fleeing to Egypt.
48 BC: Around 49 BC Antipater appointed his son, Herod the Great, governor of Galillee and Herod’s older brother Phasael, governor of Jerusalem.
|49 BC||49 BC: Caesar tried to maintain his position legally, but when he was pushed to the limit Jan 10, 49BC he led his armies across the Rubicon River (the border of his province), which was automatic civil war. Pompey’s legions were in Spain, so he and the Senate retreated to Brundisium and from there sailed to the East. Caesar quickly advanced to Rome, set up a rump Senate and had himself declared dictator. Throughout his campaign, Caesar practiced—and widely publicized—his policy of clemency (he would put no one to death and confiscate no property). In a bold, unexpected move, Caesar led his legions to Spain, to prevent Pompey’s forces from joining him in the East; he allegedly declared, “I am off to meet an army without a leader; when I return, I shall meet a leader without an army.”|
After a remarkably short campaign, he returned to Rome and was elected consul, thus (relatively) legalizing his position. Suetonius was a Roman historian and biographer. He served briefly as secretary to Emperor Hadrian (some say he lost his position because he became too close to the emperor’s wife.) His position gave him access to privileged imperial documents, correspondence and diaries upon which he based his accounts. For this reason, his descriptions are considered credible. We join Suetonius’s narrative as Caesar receives the news that his allies in the Senate have been forced to leave Rome:
“When the news came [to Ravenna, where Caesar was staying] that the interposition of the tribunes in his favor had been utterly rejected, and that they themselves had fled Rome, he immediately sent forward some cohorts, yet secretly, to prevent any suspicion of his plan; and to keep up appearances, he attended the public games and examined the model of a fencing school which he proposed building, then – as usual – sat down to table with a large company of friends.
However, after sunset some mules from a near-by mill were put in his carriage, and he set forward on his journey as privately as possible, and with an exceedingly scanty retinue. The lights went out. He lost his way and wandered about a long time – till at last, by help of a guide, whom he discovered towards daybreak, he proceeded on foot through some narrow paths, and again reached the road. Coming up with his troops on the banks of the Rubicon, which was the frontier of his province, he halted for a while, and revolving in his mind the importance of the step he meditated, he turned to those about him, saying: ‘Still we can retreat! But once let us pass this little bridge, – and nothing is left but to fight it out with arms!’
Even as he hesitated this incident occurred. A man of strikingly noble mien and graceful aspect appeared close at hand, and played upon a pipe. To hear him not merely some shepherds, but soldiers too came flocking from their posts, and amongst them some trumpeters. He snatched a trumpet from one of them and ran to the river with it; then sounding the “Advance!” with a piercing blast he crossed to the other side. At this Caesar cried out, ‘Let us go where the omens of the Gods and the crimes of our enemies summon us! THE DIE IS NOW CAST!’
Accordingly he marched his army over the river; [then] he showed them the tribunes of the Plebs, who on being driven from Rome had come to meet him, and in the presence of that assembly, called on the troops to pledge him their fidelity; tears springing to his eyes [as he spoke] and his garments rent from his bosom.”
Duruy, Victor, History of Rome vol. V (1883); Suetonius “Life of Julius Caesar” in Davis, William Stearns, Readings in Ancient History (1912).
Julius Caesar Crosses the Rubicon, 49 BC, EyeWitness to History, http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com (2002).
|50 BC||Gladiators have metal studs on their boxing gloves, and a public bout is expected to go on until the loser dies.|
The Maya introduce a calendar which has a cycle of fifty-two years, known as the Calendar Round.
The Phoenicians discover that a blob of molten glass can be puffed out to form a hollow vessel.
|51 BC||51 BC: The conquest of Gaul effectively completed, Caesar set up an efficient provincial administration to govern the vast territories; he published his history The Gallic Wars. The Optimates (Elites) in Rome attempted to cut short Caesar’s term as governor of Gaul and made it clear that he would be immediately prosecuted if he returned to Rome as a private citizen (Caesar wanted to run for the consulship in absentia so that he could not be prosecuted). Pompey and Caesar were maneuvered into a public split; neither could yield to the other without a loss of honor, dignity, and power.|
|52 BC||52 BC: Rioting in Rome led to Pompey’s extra-legal election as “consul without a colleague.” Without Julia and Crassus, there was little to bond Caesar and Pompey together, and Pompey moved to the Optimate faction, since he had always been eager for the favor of the aristocrats.|
|53 BC||In the Parthian War, Crassus sacks the Temple of Hierapolis and the Temple of Jerusalem on his way to engage the Parthians.|
|54 BC||BC: Pompey builds the first permanent theater in Rome.|
54 BC: Caesar led a three-month expedition to Britain (this was the first Roman crossing of the English Channel), but he did not establish a permanent base there. Meanwhile, Caesar’s coalition with Pompey was increasingly strained, especially after Julia died in childbirth in 54BC (same year). In the following year, Crassus received command of the armies of the East but was defeated and killed by the Parthians.
|55 BC||ca. 55 BC: As Romans deliberated sending a force to restore Ptolemy XII (Cleopatra VII’s father) to the throne of Egypt, lightning struck the statue of Jupiter on the Alban Mount; the oracles were consulted and one found to read “If the King of Egypt comes to you asking for assistance, refuse him not your friendship, yet do not grant him any army, or else you will have toil and danger”. This considerably delayed Ptolemy’s return. (Dio Cassius History of Rome 39:15)|
|56 BC||56 BC: Julius Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus (belonging to the Populates political party) met in Caesar’s province to renew their coalition, since Pompey had been increasingly moving toward the Optimate (Elite) faction (political party). Pompey and Crassus were to be consuls again, and Julius Caesar’s command in Gaul was extended until 49 BC.|
|57 BC||Rome sets up the Jewish Sanhedrin: In 57 BC the Proconsul Cabineus (Rome) established five regional synhedria (Sanhedrins, or councils) to regulate the internal affairs of the Jews. The Sanhedrinae was a legislative council of 71 elders chaired by the high priest, that interpreted Jewish law and adjudicated appeals, especially in ritual matters. Their specific composure and powers actually varied depending on Roman policy.|
|58 BC||58 BC: Julius Caesar left Rome for Gaul; he would not return for 9 years, in the course of which he would conquer most of what is now central Europe, opening up these lands to Mediterranean civilization—a decisive act in world history. However, much of the conquest was an act of aggression prompted by personal ambition (not unlike the conquests of Alexander the Great). Fighting in the summers, he would return to Cisalpine Gaul (northern Italy) in the winters and manipulate Roman politics through his supporters.|
~58 BC: Ancient Document “Julian Law on Agrarian Matters”
To read translated documents see:
|59 BC||Beginning of the ACTA Roman handwritten “Newspaper”: Rome had a particularly sophisticated system for circulating written news, centered on the acta — daily handwritten news sheets, which were posted by the government in the Roman Forum from the year 59 BC to at least AD 222 and which were filled with news of such subjects as political happenings, trials, scandals, military campaigns and executions. (Stephens, “History of Newspapers,” for Collier’s Encyclopedia) (bg: superstitions, rumors, etc. more like a tabloid)|
59 BC: Julius Caesar was elected consul against heavy Optimate opposition led by Marcus Porcius Cato, a shrewd and extremely conservative politician. Caesar married his only daughter, Julia, to Pompey to consolidate their alliance; he himself married Calpurnia, the daughter of a leading member of the Popular faction. Caesar pushed Pompey’s measures through, helped Crassus’ proposals, and got for himself a five-year term as proconsul of Gaul after his consulship was over. However, he used some strong-arm methods in the Assembly and completely cowed his Optimate colleague in the consulship, Bibulus, so that jokers referred to the year as “the consulship of Julius and Caesar” (instead of “the consulship of Caesar and Bibulus”). Caesar was safe from prosecution for such actions as long as he held office, but once he became a private citizen again he could be prosecuted by his enemies in the Senate.
|60 BC||“Although the entire day previously had been clear around the eleventh hour night extended itself, then restored the gleam of day. Buildings were destroyed by the force of a whirlwind. When a bridge collapsed men were thrown headlong into the Tiber. In the country many trees were upturned by their roots. The Lusitanian Gallaeci were defeated.” Quinto Metello L. Afranio coss. AUC 694/60 BC|
60 BC: Julius Caesar returned from Spain and joined with Pompey and Crassus in a loose coalition called by modern historians “The First Triumvirate” dubbed by his enemies at the time as “the three-headed monster.”
|Continued See Timeline 61 BC – 80 BC|