Skip to main content

Julius Caesar - Hero or Hitler?

  • Author:
  • Updated date:

Hero or Hitler?

Gaius Julius Caesar is perhaps the most renowned of all historical figures (aside from religious figures such as Jesus Christ). Caesar was a world leader, supreme general, brilliant lawyer, one of the most successful politicians of all time, acclaimed author and a man who took important women, including royalty, to his bed (Queen Cleopatra).

He was an incredibly gifted man, a genius. He has been worshiped through the ages as a hero, a true achiever and inspirational military man. He is celebrated in classic literature (Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar"), Hollywood movies and even the names of kings and emperors (Kaiser, Tsar).

However, it was his act in crossing the Rubicon on 10 January 49 BCE to secure his own glory and everlasting fame that caused civil and later, world war, resulting in the deaths of untold numbers. Was he a great hero or a self-serving uncaring despot, responsible for much death and horror?

Caesar DVD

Meier, Holland and Goldsworthy

According to Christian Meier, author of the staggering work "Caesar, A Biography " (Harper Collins, 1982, translated from the German by McLintockon and published in New York in 1995) Caesar's motivations were personal, he espoused no great cause. Meier says this because he cannot find any evidence that Caesar tried to deliberately reform the Republic with an 'ideal Republic' in mind when he came to power. Meier argues that any attempt to found a "new order " would require patience, empathy and great forbearance along with many concessions and a large amount of "quiet sedulous activity ". Meier simply states that Caesar was not this type of man. To my mind, the qualities described by Meier seem to be more characteristic of Augustus, who did have a 'new order' clearly in mind. Meier does not dispute Caesar's "brilliance and superiority" but does make the comparison of Caesar to Hitler in terms of them both being men who launched wars of conquest for their own sake.

Tom Holland, author of "Rubicon, the Triumph and Tragedy of the Roman Republic " (Little, Brown, Great Britain, 2003) argues that while Caesar was aware than in crossing the Rubicon he would plunge the ancient world into war (and "shuddered at the prospect ") he could not have anticipated the full consequences of his decision.

Adrian Goldsworthy, author of "Caesar, Life of a Colossus " (Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2006), expresses the view that while it is undoubted that Caesar was a great man, it is difficult to say he was a good man. Goldsworthy opines that while Caesar was kind, generous "inclined to forget grudges and turn enemies into friends " he was nonetheless "utterly ruthless ".


Gaius Julius Caesar


Military and Political Genius

Caesar, born July 13 100 BCE, grew up in a time of civil war. His young life was filled with examples of the heights to which personal power could take a man in Rome. In Caesar's youth, Sulla held the dictatorship.  Marius, Caesar's uncle, was another example of how far a man could go with military might on his side.  Caesar learned from these men and distinguished himself as a soldier and politician, even as a relatively young man.  When he was older, Caesar conquered Gaul in less than a decade.  He conquered more than 800 Gaulish cities and 300 Gaulish tribes.  Caesar invaded Britain, going further than any other Roman general before him.  Caesar eventually became "Dictator for Life", something no other Roman man had ever achieved.

Vercingetorix surrenders to Caesar


Best Selling Caesar DVD

Clemency and Ruthlessness

Caesar is said to have been extremely clement as a general rule. Unlike other tyrannical figures he did not kill his enemies as a matter of course. He is said to have wept when he discovered that Pompey had been beheaded in Egypt. However, clement as he was, he was responsible for the deaths of more than a million people in the Gallic War. Caesar is said to have defeated 3 million men, killed a third of them, and sold another third into slavery.

A particularly horrific episode is the cutting off of the hands of the men of the Gaulish town of Uxellodunum (modern Dordogne). Caesar, desperate to quell ongoing Gaulish rebellion, conquered the town (belonging to the Cadurci tribe) and ordered that all who had borne arms were to have both hands cut off. He did this after the men had surrendered to him. He spared their lives and mulitlated them in order to send a message to other rebellious Gauls.  In other episodes, women and children were slaughtered at Avaricum by the soldiers of Caesar and more massacres took place at Usipetes and Tencteri during the Gaulish war.

Part 1 of BBC Production on Caesar

The Fall of the Roman Republic

Many attribute the fall of the Roman Republic to Caesar's drive for pre-eminence and personal glory. I believe the Republic fell due to a multiplicity of factors including inherent problems within the Roman constitution and changes to the traditional military structure. In the late Republic, many great men (including Marius, Sulla, and Pompey) and many not so great men (Cinna, Carbo and the like) were able to take control because of the failures in the system of government. The system and the (aristocratic) Roman culture actually channelled men towards becoming generals and tyrants and Julius Caesar was ultimately the most successful of these warlord type figures.


How many died in Caesar's wars?

It is impossible to say how many people died as a result of Caesar's decision to cross the Rubicon and march on Rome on 10 January 49 BCE. It is said he agonised over the decision and was conscious of the damage he might cause. As a result of his decision that night, war in Italy followed. After the Senate under Pompey fled Rome for Greece, was in Greece followed (Pharsalus) and spread to Africa, Spain and the East, in short, to the reaches of the Republic.

Caesar achieved his aims and won everlasting fame and acclaim, but at what cost?

What do I think? Well, to me Caesar is an incredibly fascinating figure.  I am not sure if he should be seen as a hero or not.  I personally cannot not see him as a Hitler even though I accept he was responsible for the death and enslavement of countless people.  I think this is because of the particular horror that the evocation of Hitler has for me personally.  Hitler is relatively proximate to my life now and Caesar was alive more than 2000 years ago.  The horror Hitler caused resulted in the mass post-war migration that ultimately led to my grandparents coming to this country from Europe.  I am well aware of the effects that Hitler had from my reading around the extermination of European Jewry, Gypsies, disabled people and political activists.  Caesar did none of these things, he did not target particular minority groups.  Like many other men of his times, he simply exterminated those who stood in his way without fear or favour. He also practiced clemency for the most part, against the norm for his time. So I cannot see him as a Hitler.  I see him as an intensely practical man of his times who single mindedly achieved his aims and who, on occasion, employed ruthless measures. 


Louise Powles from Norfolk, England on August 12, 2017:

Scroll to Continue

Your article was really interesting to read. Caesar was certainly an interesting man.

Cain Danger on May 02, 2016:

first off Caesar did not kill babies show me some evidence to back that up second of all he was a nationalist so yes he believed the Romans were superior and at that time they were they had superior leaders superior armies superior technology superior strategies at that time Rome was the biggest superpower otherwise they would not of conquered so much land historians estimate that at least 300 men died to Caesars blade making him not only an adept warrior but a incredible military strategist and an excellent leader

jgcool on March 27, 2015:

Why the hell would you call this man a hero. He conquered land cause he felt Romans were superior. He spent all his time turning tribes and people against eachother. Hence the saying divide and conquer. Well he showed clemency, crocodile tears. He was a tyrant, slaughtering babies.

Susanna Duffy from Melbourne Australia on September 11, 2014:

I agree with you. He was a practical man, a great leader too.

dia6olo on January 06, 2014:

You'd be surprised how much of our history is distorted, pretty much all books related to the Roman Empire, be it on Caesar, the Empire or anything Roman related will mention crucifixion.

However, when it comes down to finding hard evidence (not literature) you will not find any, you certainly won't find it in Roman accounts of the time either! There is a ton of Roman archaeology including Trajan's Column depicting the Dacian War (Rumania), it literally shows the entire war step by step, decapitated heads are shown held by the Roman soldiers, decapitated heads stuck on pikes as well as people tied to trees. no crucifixion anywhere on the column.

In 79AD, Pompeii and Herculaneum (Time Capsules) were obliterated and buried underneath massive pyroclastic flows and lava.

Some of Rome's wealthier aristocrats had villas with large libraries there, some literature has survived along with a lot of the buildings & mosaics.

That happened 40-50 years after Jesus was supposed to have been crucified yet you will find ZERO evidence of crucifixion & ZERO evidence of Christianity.

We then have the story of Spartacus were 6000 of them were crucified along the Appian Way in Rome, can you imagine the Romans going through the trouble of making and erecting 6000 crosses for slaves? Not likely! Again it is not mentioned in Roman literature of the time & there is ZERO archaeological evidence. What is more likely to have happened is decapitation with their heads stuck on pikes along the Appian Way.

Regarding the cross, the Romans used a Tropaion (symbol of victory & were the word trophy originates from), they were used to hang armour & shields on to symbolise victory with prisoners often bound and displayed at the base. These Tropaions resemble a cross and were very sacred to the Romans, to put a peasant up on one would be sacrilege, it would be like depicting a peasant as a God!

When Julius Caesar was assassinated on the ides of March 15th (incidentally the same date as Jesus 15th of Nisan even if not the same year).

A huge wax figure of him showing all the wounds was placed on a rotating Tropaion (cross) during his funeral for the people to see the God that has been killed (by that time he was already a God to the people).

The people mourned him & it is said in particular the Jews who came to his funeral site day after day. The mourning turned into anger with the people running through the streets of Rome looking for the senators who killed him & accidentally mistaking an innocent bystander because of his name and tearing him apart from limb to limb before returning to the senate and burning it to the ground.

Civil war broke out between Caesar's people & the senators who killed him with the end result being the people started worshipping Caesar throughout the Empire, especially so after a comet appeared 4 months after his death in July (Caesar's birth month) during some funeral games put on in his honour by Octavian (Agustus Caesar, Julius Caesar's adopted son) who turned around & told the people that Caesar has resurrected & is up above to protect us.

That is were the blood sacrifice, star of Bethlehem (Caesar's comet depicted as a star on his coins and monuments), passion & crucifixion come from & all of it provable with hard evidence, inscriptions, coins depicting his wax image on a Tropaion, coins & monuments showing him resurrecting. Also the Chi Rho, Constantine's vision & early Christian symbol is an exact copy of Julius Caesar's comet as depicted on his coins & monuments.

Amongst other titles, Divine, Son of God, God Incarnate, God from God, Lord, Redeemer, Liberator, Saviour of the World are all titles that belonged to Caesar & Augustus long before Jesus came along (Divus Julius - Divine Julius) & Augustus (Divi Filius - Son of God).

If you then go further & read the gospel of Mark (considered the oldest) along with the life of Julius Caesar from the crossing of the Rubicon to his assassination, not only is the story the same in the same chronological order but so are the characters & in most cases names too!


On Caesar’s coins one also finds the Mother of God depicted: Venus Genetrix, the mother of Aeneas and thus the original mother of all Romans. And via Iulus, the son of Aeneas, she was also the original mother of the family (gens, house) of the Iulii. She carries a moony diadem like the Madonna. She is accompanied by Amor (hard to see here on this small coin, a denarius) like the Madonna is accompanied by angels.

On the reverse there is an image which makes one think of a crucifixion with Mary and John beneath the cross.

It is the defeated Vercingetorix and the mourning Gallia. On the cruxiform tropaeum hang the weapons of Vercingetorix. Both sides of these coins are still found unchanged on medaillons which the Christians sill carry around the neck with the Madonna on the one side and the cross on the other – 48 years before Christ’s birth!

One sees the miniature model of the Venus temple in which Caesar’s body was laid out. Here the wax figure on a tropaeum. And here Mark Antony who pulls away the toga with a lance. In the background the Capitol, Caesar’s Golgotha (by the way, both names mean place of a skull, Golgotha, (Aramaic: Skull) where Jesus was crucified:

Underneath the body one recognizes the fire. And one clearly sees how Caesar sits up during his cremation and is taken by heavenly figures:

A proper ascension is not missing with Caesar either. One sees it here on the left. On the right there is the oldest preserved ascension of Christ as Helios (from the necropolis under the Basilica of St. Peter’s in Rome: in the mausoleum of the Iulii). Please note that Iulii are Julius Caesar's ancestors, we spell it Julius but it's Iulius and incidentally you'll find the mausoleum of the Iulii slap bang in the middle of the Basilica of St. Peter’s in Rome under the altar.

Both ascend to heaven in a chariot pulled by horses:

Here is Divus Iulius on a coin issued by Octavianus.

In addition to a wreath he also carries the sidus Iulium on his head, the comet which appeared in the sky during the festivities that were held in his honor after his death. The people regarded the comet as the returned soul of Caesar. Octavianus had this comet affixed to all the statues of Divus Iulius. We stand here before the oldest complete icon of Christ: long before Christ’s birth!

Sidus Iulium (Comet) and Christogramm (Chi Rho):

The Comet Of 44 B.C. and Caesar's Funeral Games:

Related Articles