Veni Vidi Vici - Carly Sartori

Sartori 1
Veni Vidi Vici: The Lives of Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar
Blood spatters on the ground with the flick of a wrist and a slice from the swift sword’s
blade sliding across the skin of the warrior. The rigidity and intelligence of the phalanxes push
the defenders backward as they stumble in disarray. The harsh glint of swords is dampened by
the cold stale blood of the defending warriors. General George Patton once said, “Battle is an
orgy of disorder” and as true as he was, no two were greater at finding rhythm and victory in this
disorder than the ancient war leaders, Alexander the Great and Gaius Julius Caesar ("George”).
Although known for having distinct personalities, individual weaknesses, and different power in
their respectful times, these two men led their civilizations to conquest, luxury, and overall
advancement for their respective cultures.
Both born from the lineage of nobles and assumed to be divine, destiny stood in wait for
both Caesar and Alexander. Philip II of Macedonia, the father of Alexander and the man who
helped establish and assemble the army Alexander would later use to conquer more land than
any ruler had before, reigned over Macedonia and Greece with plans of conquest into Persia (the
territory his son would later conquer and control) until his assassination in 336 B.C.E. (Kagan,
Ozment, and Turner, Chapt. 3 Classical, 88). This led to Alexander taking over his father’s
throne as well as his armies. On top of this monumental building block for Alexander, Philip
also claimed to be a relation of Heracles through the House of Argos, therefore directly aligning
himself and his family as divine, a move his son would imitate later in his life (Strazinsky
“Hellenistic Times”). Similarly, Caesar’s history is deeply involved in the world of mythology;
Caesar was said to have descended from the original family of Rome, the heirs of Romulus
(Strazinsky “Roman Republic’s End”). The involvement of deities and mythology in bloodlines
of these iconic figures set a rare platform for them to become unworldly and legendary. In
Sartori 2
addition to the interesting background of their families, Alexander and Caesar had the disease
notably known during the ancient times as a sign of being touched by the gods, epilepsy
(Strazinsky “Hellenistic Times”; “Roman Republic’s End”). This disease singlehandedly took
the life of Alexander the Great, one of the greatest generals to have ever existed with vast
knowledge in a host of intellectual matters and military strategy, at the age of thirty-three leaving
behind not only a wife and child but an immense empire without a readied successor (Strazinsky
“Hellenistic Times”). Matching the unexpected demise of Alexander, Caesar’s gory murder at
the hands of the Senate led to the Roman Republic that was already teetering along the brink of
an empirical takeover possibly with Caesar at helm forcefully fell into the laps of eager Lepidus,
incensed Marc Antony, and cunning Octavian (Strazinsky “Roman Republic’s End”). These two
men had such power and control that at their deaths their lands and people plunged into
confusion and chaos. The realm of Alexander — starting at Macedonia stretched eastward until
present-day India — grew too much for any ordinary man to maintain, and the struggle between
Alexander’s generals and half brothers led to only three divided but somewhat significant
dynasties: Ptolemy I took over Egypt (and coincidentally his last heir, Cleopatra, had a public
affair with Caesar), Seleucus I acquired Mesopotamia, and Antigonus obtained Alexander’s
homeland of Macedon and Asia Minor (Kagan, Ozment, and Turner, Chapt. 3 Classical, 89-90).
From 336 until 323 B.C.E., Alexander managed to not only keep the territory he had gained as
heir but sustained his vast empire with an assortment of languages, cultures, and religions but his
untimely death led to the empire’s demise (88). Under Caesar’s two year reign from forty-six to
forty-four B.C.E., the Senate built a passionate hostility after Caesar defeated his co-commander
in the first Triumvirate, Pompey, but escalated into a popular public figure for the Romans
(Strazinsky “Roman Republic’s End”). Ultimately the public outcry for Caesar to control led to
Sartori 3
his demise, but at the time, Caesar held power in military and political matters while holding the
hearts of the Roman people. His exploits in Gaul (detailed in his journals in the language of the
day, Latin) made him a hero upon arrival when Pompey was still alive and even his breaking of
tradition by entering Rome with his troops at his side did not halt his fame (Strazinsky). Unlike
Caesar, Alexander was not a popular figure throughout his kingdom. Regardless of being the
first to ever conquer the Persian Empire, many of his native Macedonians were not pleased by
his wild behavior and his adoption of other cultures with his roots; they felt such action was
unpatriotic in a way and failed to represent Macedonia and Greece while mixing together other
cultures in the territories he conquered. After promptly taking Egypt as his own, he returned
from Oasis proclaims himself a god further enraging his fellow Macedonians (Strazinsky
“Hellenistic Times”). On the other side pressing similarly angry allegations were the conquered;
the Persian people became outraged and furious by a foreigner controlling them and even to this
day, present-day Iranians speak of Alexander the Great’s influence while still feeling animosity
over his conquering nearly twenty-three centuries ago (Strazinsky). In the center of such
resentment surrounds his treatment of the capital of Persia in January of 330 B.C.E in which he
basically plunders Persepolis for its wealth to pay off financial concerns and putting “a vast sum
of money into circulation, with economic consequences that lasted for centuries” before
symbolically burning it to the ground for revenge for the invasions into Greece done by the
Persians (Kagan, Ozment, and Turner, Chapt. 3 Classical, 90). His lack of empathy for those
living under his jurisdiction also falls back on his personality. Even though Julius Caesar and
Alexander the Great share the same style in intelligent strategic thinking as well as proving
themselves on the battlefield and captivating and charming their fellow soldiers, Alexander’s
personality and upbringing led to clashing with others around him. Born into a royal world, he
Sartori 4
was accustomed to having his own way and ruled as such (Strazinsky “Hellenistic Times”).
Basically, his need for control and having everything according to his liking led him to bouts of
paranoia and much controversy surrounds his death because of his glaring and harsh sense of
self. In the age of Caesar and before the fall of the Roman Republic, he never saw the signs of
any revolt or rebellious action to be taken against him. The Ides of March remains infamous to
this day, but Caesar was seen in the public many times refusing the crown and even according to
Nicholas of Damascus, a Greek writer in the ancient times, threw it off his head and “ordered it
to be taken to the temple of Capitolme Jupiter, saying that it was more appropriate there”
(Kagan, Ozment, and Turner, Chapt. 4 Rome, 125). Clearly the two maintained two different
types of appearances in public. On top of their public personas is their success on the battlefield.
Alexander the Great in his many battles and conquests throughout the ancient world never lost a
single battle. His plans were flawless, he used the terrain to his advantage, changed tactics and
communicated said tactics throughout the entire army as he fought along with them, had the trust
of everyone under his command, and even developed maneuvers and lines of attack based on
how many enemies there were and what their means of transportation were. When fighting in
India, he used the mud from previous days of rain and their elephants to his advantage. To make
the elephants cumbersome and useless, he told his archers to aim at their eyes to blind the
massive creatures. Before heading home at his tired troops’ request, he had swept eastward with
many casualties but zero losses in land or power. As amazing of a general and leader as Caesar
was, his military strategy was based on much of Alexander’s work but was not always as
successful. When Caesar first entered the Triumvirate, the Senate often refused to bow to any
demands made by Pompey and Caesar; this led to them pushing their agenda until Pompey
received the pension he wanted for his soldiers after fighting for so many years and Caesar was
Sartori 5
given command of Gaul, a key to his ambition to become a strong political and military leader,
by renewing their coalition (Strazinsky “Roman Republic’s End”). By fifty-one B.C.E, he had
fought tedious and difficult battles against the Gallic resistance, and in his want for more power
led to an unsuccessful launching of a campaign into Germania (Kagan, Ozment, and Turner,
Chapt. 4 Rome 122). One last military difference between the two was that Julius Caesar had a
well-trained quality army with experienced personnel (122). Alexander the Great makes his
already impressive feat of never losing in battle even more superior by having a group under him
that although had been trained by his father as best as possible lacked the skills of most warriors
(Strazinsky “Hellenistic Times”). These two expert leaders finally had a different effect on the
people and what they left. Alexander established approximately seventy new cities along trade
routes, which encouraged commerce and a spread of Hellenistic culture (Kagan, Ozment, and
Turner, Chapt. 3 Classical, 90). In this culture includes the polis (the central point of all cities
and Greek life), philosophy, literature and arts, and mathematics and science. These meshed and
prospered throughout his kingdom leading to more knowledge being spread as well as being used
as building blocks. Caesar’s reign led to different sorts of concrete establishments such as the
Julian calendar and the reformation that goes along with it (in fact, our modern calendar is
basically the same except the minor change in years being B.C.E and A.D.), public works like
aqueducts, roadways, and buildings were built upon and expanded with the usage of the arch in
building structures while the roads were made by the traveling armies and led to many trade
routes, and on top of this all, he improved the tax system (Strazinsky “Roman Republic’s End”).
In the end, both impressively influenced their territories in different ways.
Concisely Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar ruled over their lands and gained
control through sharp strategy, decisive decision making, and extraordinary leadership skills,
Sartori 6
even if their way of gaining supremacy diverged and had different but still strong personalities.
In the ancient world that was cut-throat and brutal to all those who dare try to secure any form of
dominance, these two men stepped up to the challenge and imprinted the world with their
exceptional ways. Nobel Prize winner and American diplomat Ralph Bunche spoke, “There are
no warlike people, just warlike leaders” (“Ralph Bunche”). In the realm of warlike leaders, none
reign supreme over Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar.
Sartori 7
Works Cited
"George S. Patton Quotes." Quotes and Poems. Web.
Kagan, Donald, Steven Ozment, and Frank M. Turner. The Western Heritage. 10th Ed.
Vol. 1: To 1740. “Chapter 3 Classical and Hellenistic Greece.” Upper Saddle River, NJ:
Prentice Hall. 4 July 2009. Print.
---. The Western Heritage. 10th Ed. Vol. 1: To 1740. “Chapter 4 Rome: From Republic to
Empire.” Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. 4 July 2009. Print.
"Ralph Bunche.” Quotes Museum. Web.
Strazinsky, David F. “Early Western Civilization Lecture on Hellenistic Times.” Westmoreland
County Community College at Bushy Run Center. 25 January 2010. Lecture.
---. “Early Western Civilization Lecture on Roman Republic’s End.” Westmoreland County
Community College at Bushy Run Center. 1 February 2010. Lecture.