The Caesarian Civil Wars, which happened between 49 BC and 45 BC, were a major turning point in Roman history. These wars were caused by deep disagreements within the Roman Republic about politics, society, and ideas. They were more than just a fight for power between Julius Caesar and the Senate, led by Pompey the Great. They were also about the struggle between popular movements and traditional government.

At the centre of all this was Julius Caesar. He was a brilliant military leader, a clever politician, and a champion of the common people, especially the lower-class citizens and army veterans. His success in Gaul and his earlier alliance with Pompey and Crassus (the First Triumvirate) upset the balance of power in Rome. Caesar’s victories and his army’s loyalty threatened the Senate and the old way of running the Republic, which was controlled by a group of rich aristocrats.

The move to civil war came after a long period of political problems. The Senate, which looked after the interests of the upper class, saw Caesar as a danger to their privileges and the stability of the Republic. On the other hand, Caesar, who supported the populares (the people’s party), saw the Senate as a group that was blocking necessary changes and the fair sharing of power and resources.

Caesar crossing the Rubicon river in 49 BC was a key moment. This act went against the Senate and Roman law, turning a political argument into a war. This bold step, full of meaning, showed that there was no turning back and that the conflict would be solved by fighting. The term “crossing the Rubicon” has become a way to describe making a decision that you can’t take back.

The civil war was important not just for its battles, like those at Pharsalus, Dyrrhachium, and Munda, but also for what it showed about Rome. It revealed weaknesses in the Roman Republic, like its struggle to manage powerful individuals and collective governance. It also showed the growing gap between Rome and its provinces, where Caesar had a lot of support.

The wars set a pattern of using military force in Roman political disputes, breaking down the traditions of the Republic. Caesar’s victory and his taking on dictator powers marked a big change from the Republic to the Empire, starting with the rule of his adopted heir, Octavian Augustus.

These wars were more than just fights; they were a critical moment in Roman history. They ended the Roman Republic and led to the Empire, deeply affecting Western civilisation. The wars and their key figures still interest historians and the public, reminding us of the complexity of power, the weakness of political systems

Now that we have a basic overview of the civil wars we can start looking at the wargaming side of things in the next post where we’ll start by looking at some of the miniatures available to represent Caesar’s and Pompey’s troops.

The Tabletop Historian