In Plutarch's Caesar he quotes Caesar as saying "They made this happen. They drove me to it. If I had dismissed my army, I Julius Caesar, after all my victories, would have been condemned in their law courts."

What specifically did Caesar think he would be charged with. Was it for killing the supposedly allied Germans, the one which Cato put a motion forward to turn him over to the Germans? Was it mismanagement of his province? Or was it just simply that he felt his rivals would trump up some charges on him?

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    It's going to be hard to come up with something that isn't a version of "Tomato, Tomahto". – Spencer Jun 9 '18 at 16:06
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    He would be charged for disobedience: his whole Gallic war was not approved by the senate. – Alex Jun 9 '18 at 21:53
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    I dont believe a proconsul required permission to wage a war (they were almost expected to), but i could be mistaken there. also crassus had just left to fight parthia without senate permission and pompey had waged several wars without senate permission. – ed.hank Jun 9 '18 at 22:15
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    Basically anything that would fly. Up to and including parking a chariot on a handicap spot. It would be a political show trial. – Jos Jun 9 '18 at 23:34
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    As I understand it, Caesar was immune to (what passed for) civil lawsuits while he was serving outside of Italy. He was massively in debt, and expected to be sued into poverty after his return. That would have been the end of his political career. – Rob Crawford Jun 18 '18 at 17:55

What specifically did Caesar think he would be charged with. Was it for killing the supposedly allied Germans, the one which Cato put a motion forward to turn him over to the Germans? Was it mismanagement of his province? Or was it just simply that he felt his rivals would trump up some charges on him?

Short Answer:

You mentioned Plutarch's versions of events. You can also check out

  • Appian
  • Cassius Dio
  • Suetonius

Julius Caesar, Nephew to the Great Roman Politician / General Gaius_Marius was born to a noble Roman Family, but he did not have the kind of wealth which would permit him to succeed in Roman Politics and fulfill his ambitions. Worse, pursuing his political ambitions had left him in great debt. To these ends he pursued Governorships in Roman Provinces. The money to be made in Governing a Roman Province was in extortion and in military adventurism. Caesar did both and obtained great wealth as well as enjoying immunity from prosecution. Caesar invaded unstable regions boarding on the provinces he was governing. He used the spoils of these campaigns to build his legions and conduct more lucrative wars. He subdued Gaul and invaded both Germany and Britain successfully. All of this while common was technically illegal. Caesar though knew he would be prosecuted because he used his fame and fortune to curry political power in Rome. His rivals would use his path to wealth as a fulcrum to separate him from his political allies. The Senate aligned with Caesars chief rival Pompey used these illegalities in an attempt to check Caesar's popularity politically. The Senate, lead by Pompey declared Caesar an enemy of the Rome; and after that Caesar crossed the Rubicon and invaded Rome.

Detailed Answer:

When Caesar said this is their (the Senates) fault, If I had disbanded my armies they would have condemned me in court; he's referring to the cat and mouse game he was playing with the Senate and probable more importantly "Gnaeus Pompous Magnus", or **[Pompey the Great][2]**.

Like all great political intrigue, and Julius Caesar is considered one of histories greatest military and political leaders; there where wheels inside of wheels working to propel actions.


Julius Caesar, **[Marcus Licinius Crassus][4]**, and "Gnaeus Pompous Magnus" formed a military-political alliance known as the **[First Triumvirate][3]** around 60BC. Caesar was an up incoming politician from a noble Roman family. Crassus was the wealthiest man in Rome. Pompey was considered the greatest military leader at the time of this alliance. Having fought and won two great wars. Third Servile War (73–71 BC) and the Third Mithridatic War (73–63 BC). After Pompey's wife, Julius Caesars daughter, died 54BC the political alliance between Pompey and Caesar began to frey. Crassus died in a war with the Parthians in 53BC the Triumvirate was shattered.

You see, while Caesar was arguable a junior member of the Triumvirate while the Triumvirate was initially established; while the Triumvirate lasted, Caesar had made the most of his time. Caesar had conquered Gaul, and become a famous military leader, as well as exceedingly wealthy. Worst of all Caesar aligned himself with the plebiscite the common man, who were Pompey's base supporters. Caesar was eclipsing Pompey in wealth, military reputation, and politically. So that's the backdrop.


What was occurring before and during Caesars decision to cross the Rubicon.

Pompey was looking to take Caesar down a peg or two. He wanted to weaken Caesar politically and militarily. To do this Pompey had to deny Caesar any subsequent governorships which would convey upon him further immunity from prosecution. Further, Pompey was trying to persuade Caesar to disband his legions and return to Rome. Pompey wanted to publicly humiliate Caesar, and perhaps banish him from Rome for a few years. Both of these steps would separate him from his military and political allies and make Pompey's Caesar problem much more manageable.

Caesar on the other hand was in an exceedingly strong position. His goals were to appear weak, invite / provoke Pompey and his allies to deny him a reasonable outcome; and generally appear to be a victim to Pompey and the Senate. So Caesar fed rumors that his legions were rebellious. That some of his legions basically only existed on paper they were so depleted by the Gaulic Wars and campaign illnesses. Finally, when he did approach Rome, Caesar did so with only one legion, the 13th legion.

You see, Caesar while a popular commander still commanded Roman soldiers. He knew he was in a strong position but he had to make it seem he was a reluctant invader. That Pompey's actions were not just against him, but also against his Legions.

So when the Senate declared Caesar an enemy of Rome, the Dye was cast, and Caesar obtained his justification for invading Rome. Impressively politically Caesar arguable could appear to be the victim, when in reality Caesar held all the cards.

Caesar's Civil War

In 52 BC, at the First Triumvirate's end, the Roman Senate supported Pompey as sole consul; meanwhile, Caesar had become a military hero and champion of the people. Knowing he hoped to become consul when his governorship expired, the Senate, politically fearful of him, ordered he resign command of his army. In December of 50 BC, Caesar wrote to the Senate agreeing to resign his military command if Pompey followed suit. Offended, the Senate demanded he immediately disband his army, or be declared an enemy of the people: an illegal political bill, for he was entitled to keep his army until his term expired.

A secondary reason for Caesar's immediate desire for another consulship was to delay the inevitable senatorial prosecutions awaiting him upon retirement as governor of Illyricum and Gaul. These potential prosecutions were based upon alleged irregularities that occurred in his consulship and war crimes committed in his Gallic campaigns. Moreover, Caesar loyalists, the tribunes Mark Antony and Quintus Cassius Longinus, vetoed the bill, and were quickly expelled from the Senate. They then joined Caesar, who had assembled his army, whom he asked for military support against the Senate; agreeing, his army called for action.

In 50 BC, at his Proconsular term's expiry, the Pompey-led Senate ordered Caesar's return to Rome and the disbanding of his army, and forbade his standing for election in absentia for a second consulship; because of that, Caesar thought he would be prosecuted and rendered politically marginal if he entered Rome without consular immunity or his army; to wit, Pompey accused him of insubordination and treason.

  • Excellent answer! I have already bought the other books (Seutoniu, Dio, etc) I just need to read them. I have noticed that Plutarch seems to believe that becoming sole ruler of Rome was always Caesar's ambition and not something that he was "forced" into, though it really seems to me that Cato and Lentulus did force his hand in most regards. Anyway I really enjoyed your answer, very well put. – ed.hank Jun 18 '18 at 15:59
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    The reason some believe Caesar bated the Senate and Pompey to "force his hand". Is seen in Caesar's actions leading up to the split with Pompey. Caesar pretended to be weak, pretended his legions were in near rebellion, and finally approached Rome with just a single Legion leaving the bulk of his forces on the other side of the alps. The only purpose for these moves was to bate Pompey and his Senate allies into provocation. As we know with 20 / 20 hind site, when the fighting started, Caesar held all the cards. – user27618 Jun 18 '18 at 20:07
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    If Caesar really wanted a political solution he would have tried to appear as strong as he could, not weaker than he was. – user27618 Jun 18 '18 at 20:28
  • As for becoming the "sole ruler of Rome". I think Caesar would have followed the model of the first Triumvirate(which Caesar was a part of) also utilized by his grandnephew and adopted heir Augustus. Leave the Roman Senate and governing institutions in place, while being the real authority behind the scenes pulling the strings of power. Augustus used that formula to rule Rome for 40 years after Caesar's death. – JMS 9 mins ago – user27618 Jun 18 '18 at 20:28
  • It seems to me that Cicero/Cato/etc... tried to play Pompey against Caesar (Im guessing because they thought Pompey was a lesser evil of the two) but they drastically underestimated Caesar and the strength of his position, just as Cicero tried to play Octavian against Anthony a few years later. Your answer really clarified some things for me, especially in terms of the various factions fighting for power and the desire to knock Caesar down a bit to weaken his politcal power. – ed.hank Jun 19 '18 at 14:36

The real problem of that time in Rome was the concentration of power in one person, and the risk of having a absolute monarch.
While Rome was a small nation, they prevented this problem having two consuls per year (each consul with an army), and since the distances were small, Senate did not lose control over them. But while the country grows more and more, the distances forced to keep the consul in charge for a long time, hence the risk of having a ambitious man with a loyal army behind him grew. The rule of not having an army in Italy was to prevent a coup.

Therefore, for Caesar the problem about disbanding his army was to lose the chance to get more power in Rome. While the Senate saw on him was ambition, success in war, an army and fame... it didn't matter the accusation against him, the point was to prevent him having a loyal army. What happened to Caesar might have occurred earlier with Sulla or Marius, or later with other if Caesar would have given up. Rome was already too big to be controlled in the old way.


To answer the specific question asked, I think @Jos 's comment "Basically anything that would fly. Up to and including parking a chariot on a handicap spot. It would be a political show trial." is exactly correct. The question behind the questions is why?, and that's more interesting.

The previous eighty years had seen ever-increasing convulsions in the Roman Republic. For a couple of centuries it had been a club in which the powerful and competent (not always the same people!) took turns running Rome and fleecing the empire. Politics was rough and tumble, but not (usually) fatal.

But starting with the Gracchi around 130 BC, and continuing with Livius Drusus, Marius, Sulla, Pompey the Great, Cataline, and the First Triumvirate, that relatively stable order had collapsed. Now, power came more from control of the legions than from politics in Rome and to fall from power was often fatal.

The First Triumvirate combined Pompey and Marcus Licinius Crassus -- two of the most powerful men in Rome -- in an alliance with Caesar, and up-and-coming sharpie. Its purpose was to keep the members of the FT solidly in control and, hence, alive and wealthy and to give Caesar the chance to go conquer stuff. When the FT broke up, one of the factions (the so-called Optimates) wooed Pompey to their party. Pompey had begin to fear Caesar and the Optimates had concluded that Pompey (who was getting older) was the lesser evil.

As long as Caesar had Imperium as Governor of Lots of Stuff, he legally controlled his armies and was immune from most legal action. Caesar's plan was to run for Consul (which also had Imperium) and get elected before his term as governor ran out, and while in Rome as Consul and still with Imperium, attempt to come to some sort of settlement with his opponents.

The Optimates appear to have miscalculated and forced a confrontation which they thought they could win. Some (e.g., Cato the Younger) hated Caesar and were willing to do anything to destroy him. Others, appear to have simply overestimated Pompey and underestimated Caesar amd figured that Caesar would give in without a fight or, if he resisted, would quickly lose a minor civil war.

The tactic was to break Caesar's control of his legions and then to tie him up in legal battles where his opponents would be judge and jury.

The root cause of all this was that Roman power politics had degenerated to the point where to lose was not just to lose power, but to lose wealth, liberty and life. The Optimates thought Caesar was a rat and figured they could corner him -- and ignored the adage that a cornered rat will bite the cat. (Always allow a powerful opponent a way out!)

(It is certainly true that most of our sources were pro-Caesar and this doubtless biases what we know, but we also have sources like Cicero -- a moderate opponent of Caesar's -- which supports this reading.)

  • Cicero (so I was told) once told any Roman governor during the Republic had to accumulate three fortunes: one to pay off his campaign debts, a second to pay for his court costs when he returned to Rome, & a third to actually enjoy. – llywrch Dec 18 '20 at 18:48

The point was not the disbandment of his army but that he could not be charged with crimes as long as he was consul. So his enemys wanted to bring the election forward in order to get a chance to drive him off the office.

I don't know all the specifics but I read that the main point was that he enacted laws without the proper ratification of the Roman Senate.

Specifically he ignored vetos of his colleague Marcus Calpurnius Bibulus. He was a fierce enemy of Caesars politic actions. When he tried to block Caesars laws in the senate, Caesar organized thugs who would throw feces and drive him and his supporters off the Forum. Bibulus had to hide at home in order to protect himself but he vetoed each law Caesar enacted in the Senate. This meant that these laws did, legally, not come into effect. So Caesar ruled without a legal foundation, which would result in prosecution for breaking the roman constitution as soon as he left office as consul.

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    Sources would improve this answer... – Evargalo Jun 13 '18 at 13:44

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