The history of ancient Rome is divided into eras based on the leader at the time. Two such leaders were Julius Caesar and Octavian, later Augusts, Caesar. The two men were alike in genealogy, close in time and temperament, and yet one was a pronounced success, heralded centuries and even millennia later, while the other is considered a failure when it came to creating a role for himself as sole ruler. What determines a man is successful or unsuccessful? Historically, little is considered of individual successes or failures or who gained or lost the most domains for their empire. It is the will of the people that ultimately decides which is the better man. A tyrant may be an angel if he wins over the people, so too a benefactor may become a monster. History is written by the memory of the survivors. In the case of ancient figures, what is known about them is more mythology than merit, but from what is known about the two Caesars, Octavian succeeded in setting himself as emperor and Julius Caesar was assassinated for the endeavor.
Julius Caesar ruled Rome when the empire was still a Republic with Senators and other politicians holding equal power to the one man in charge. Caesar was beloved by the people and his role as emperor was one that was given to him by the people. It was not the choice of the Senate and many of his fellow politicians felt this gave Caesar far too much power over them. Rather than allow for their Republic to become an Empire ruled by a "dictator in perpetuity." Julius Caesar was not political enough when he accepted this position. Had he been so, there is a great likelihood that he would not have been assassinated by these self-same politicians on the Ides of March.
When Julius Caesar began his political career, Rome's government was determined by elections and campaigns, much like democratic elections today. Just like modern elections, chicanery often occurred with those running for office muckraking and scandal-mongering to make his opponent look bad. Politicians were no more above the use of bribery back in the ancient times than they are today, as well. This may well have had a good deal to do with Julius Caesar's lack of success later on. With his early political successes against some strong opposition, seeds of doubt were laid that the man himself was above such dirty deeds. In fact there is evidence that Caesar did bribe a high-ranking official to file charged against his political adversary Gaius Rabirius.[footnoteRef:1] Caesar utilized his popularity with the people to ensure that no one dared to side with Gaius. [1: Suetonius, and Catharine Edwards, Lives of the Caesars. (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2008)]
In his various jobs in the government, Caesar early-on proved himself to be a supporter of the lower classes and so he got their support. One such proposal was a law which would allow for redistributing of wealth and lands to assist the poorer people of Rome. This did not go over well with some of the other politicians and subsequent attempts to reform law were given strong opposition. Those who disagreed with Caesar would find themselves on the wrong side of the executioner's wrath.[footnoteRef:2] However, this only helped build political opinion for Caesar and after defeating then-ruler Pompey, Julius Caesar was made the ruler of Rome. Upon returning to the city, Caesar was hailed as a new demigod. Attempting to create a stronger supporting government, Caesar immediately pushed forth a plethora of new laws and reforms, even against the will of the Senate. The danger of defying the other politicians is that Caesar very quickly turned opponents into starch enemies. A compatriot of Caesar's, known as Sallust warned him in a letter that, "The Fathers, by whose wisdom the wavering state was formerly steadied, are overpowered and tossed to and fro according to the caprice of others; they decree now one measure and now another, determining what is helpful or harmful to the public from the enmity or favour of their masters."[footnoteRef:3] [2: Plutarch, The Life of Caesar (75)] [3: Sallust, and John Carew Rolfe, Sallust (Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1995)nt.]
Octavian Caesar, great-nephew to Julius Caesar, was far more successful in becoming a singular ruler in the Roman Empire. By the time he took over, the realm was so large that the Republic was no…