Sextus Iulius Caesar

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"Sextus Iulius Caesar" by T. Iulius Sabinus

The Gens Iulia was one of the most ancient patrician families of Ancient Rome. Members of the Gens Iulia attained the highest dignities of the state since the earliest times of the Roman Republic.

The Iulii were of Alban origin, and it is mentioned as one of the leading Alban houses, which Tullius Hostilius [1] removed to Rome upon the destruction of Alba Longa [2] The Iulii also existed at an early period at Bovillae[3] as it is recorded in a very ancient inscription on an altar in the theatre of that town, which speaks of their offering sacrifices according to the Alban rites.[4] , [5] .

Iulii Caesares is a subdivision of the patrician Iulli family in the Roman Republic, and the beginnings of the Iulian side of the Iulio-Claudian Dinasty. All its members had the nomen Iulius and the cognomen Caesar and can only be told apart by numbers and differing praenomina.

Sextus Iulius Caesar was the name of several ancient Roman men of the Iulli Caesares family. Sextus was one of the three most common praenomina used by the Iulii Caesares, the others being Lucius and Gaius.

Iulii Caesares family tree[6]

Iulii Caesares.jpg

It is uncertain which member of the Gens Iulia first obtained the surname of Caesar, but the first who occurs in history is Sextus Iulius Caesar.

He was a praetor in Sicily in 208 BC, commanding the legiones Cannanenses, the legions formed from the survivors of Cannae[7] .On his return he was one of the ambassadors sent to the consul T. Quinctius Crispinus, after the death of the other consul, Marcellus, to tell him to name a dictator, if he could not himself come to Rome to hold the comitia.[8] , [9]

The origin of the cognomen Caesar is equally uncertain.

Spartianus[10] , in his life of Aelius Verus, mentions four different opinions respecting its origin:

  • That the word signified an elephant (caesai) in the language of the Moors[11]

and was given as a surname to one of the Iulii because he had killed an elephant; or

  • That it was given to one of the Iulii because he had been cut out of his mother's womb (a caeso matris utero) after her death; or
  • Because he had been born with a great quantity of hair (a caesaries) on his head; or
  • Because he had azure-colored (a caesiis oculis) eyes of an almost supernatural kind.

Of these opinions the third, which is also given by Festus[12] , seems to come nearest the truth. Caesar and caesaries are both probably connected with the Sanskrit kêsa, "hair", and it is quite in accordance with the Roman custom for a surname to be given to an individual from some peculiarity in his personal appearance.

Among Iulii Caesares the most famous Caesar was Gaius Iulius Caesar the Dictator of the Roman Republic.

The cognomen Caesar would itself become a title; it was greatly promulgated by the Bible, by the famous verse "Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's"[13] . Later, the title became the German Kaiser and Slavic Tsar/Czar.

The Caesar’s Comet[14] was perhaps the most famous comet of antiquity. The seven-day visitation was taken by Romans as a sign of the deification of the recently dead dictator, Iulius Caesar (100 - 44 BC). According to Suetonius[15] , as celebrations were getting underway (Ludi Victoriae Caesaris) , "a comet shone for seven successive days, rising about the eleventh hour, and was believed to be the soul of Caesar."


  1. Tullius Hostilius was the legendary third king of Rome. He succeeded Numa Pompilius and was succeeded by Ancus Marcius. Unlike his predecessor, Tullus was known as a warlike king.Livy, Ab urbe condita, 1,22 "He was not only unlike the last king, but he was a man of more warlike spirit even than Romulus"
  2. Alba Longa was an ancient city of Latium in central Italy, 12 miles (19 km) southeast of Rome, in the Alban Hills. Founder and head of the Latin League, it was destroyed by Rome around the middle of the 7th century BC. In legend, Romulus and Remus, founders of Rome, had come from the royal dynasty of Alba Longa.
  3. Bovillae an ancient town in Lazio, central Italy, located c.11 miles or 18 km south-east of Rome
  4. Publius Cornelius Tacitus, Annales, XI.24.
  5. Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Romaike Archaiologia, III. 9.
  6. Image from Livius.Org, with permission.
  7. Cannae - the place of a major battle of the Second Punic War which took place on 2 August 216 BC in Apulia in southeast Italy. The army of Carthage under Hannibal decisively defeated a larger army of the Roman Republic under the consuls Lucius Aemilius Paullus and Gaius Terentius Varro. It is regarded as one of the greatest tactical feats in military history and has been regarded as the worst defeat in Roman history
  8. Livy, The History of Rome, Book 27,21; Book 22,29. Perseus Digital Library.
  9. T.R.S Broughton, The Magistrates of the Roman Republic (American Philological Association, 1951, 1986), vol.1, p.290] - online book at ““
  10. Aelius Spartianus, Historia Augusta, The life of Aelius, 2.3; Lacus Curtius - Bill Thayer, public domain.
  11. The Moors were the medieval inhabitants of Marocco, Western Algeria, Western Sahara, Mauritania, Sicily, Malta and the Iberian Peninsula.
  12. Sextus Pompeius Festus was a Roman grammarian who probably flourished in the later 2nd century AD, perhaps at Narbo (Narbonne) in Gaul. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
  13. Matthew 22.21
  14. Caesar's Comet, (numerical designation C/-43 K1) - also known as Comet Caesar and the Great Comet of 44 BC - Grant, Michael (1970), The Roman Forum, London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson; Photos by Werner Forman, p. 94.
  15. C. Suetonius Tranquillus - “The lives of the twelve Caesars”, LXXXVIII; The Project Guntenberg Ebooks.

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