|Dictator, Autocrat & Monarch?
Caesar's control of politics, religion and the military meant that he had become in all, but name, an absolute ruler. Caesar's opposition now came chiefly from two groups - the aristocratic ruling class, who under Caesar could never gain an office which could challenge him for control of the State; and the republicans who feared the downfall of the Republic, and the re-establishment of the monarchy.
The aristocrats were concerned not only with the fact that they could no longer gain powerful office, but also because they didn't want to be ruled by Caesar's representatives. Caesar had set a date to leave for a campaign in Spain - 18th March 44 B.C.16. While he was away, two equites; Oppius and Balbus; would have had the right to rule over all officials, Senators and even Consuls in Rome. These men did not have any political background, and to the ruling class, were just another example of how the system of government was turning into a joke. They were further angered, when Caesar appointed several of his associates to the magistracies for the next two years. Now, the aristocrats not only were deprived of an office which could challenge Caesar, but couldn't even stand for office for the next two years at all. It became apparent that Caesar was using the government to suit his needs, with no thought to its consequences.
However, the discontent had also stemmed from Caesar's actions prior to this. He had come to dominate the lives of the Roman people, restricting their rights. As Pontifex Maximus, he could 'engineer' his religious forecasts and teachings to aid his political standings, and he did on a few occasions. As the Praefectura Morum, he used his title to pass a law restricting the amount of wealth being carried in public.17 The aristocrats saw these and other laws, as a restriction of their rights. The general reaction is summarised by this comment:
"Yet he himself celebrated Liberty on one of his coins; and felt entitled to do so, because the programme he had in mind was peace and security for the Empire... But what liberty meant to the ... governing class... was (their) own right to uninhibited freedom of speech. And of this he was depriving them."18
Caesar knew that the Republicans believed rumours about him wanting the throne.19 He also realised the dislike of them towards him: "How can I doubt that I am heartedly disliked, when Cicero sits waiting and cannot visit me at his convenience? Yet if ever there was a good natured man, it was he... I am perfectly sure that he detests me." 20 In order to dispel the rumours, he ordered Marc Antony to publicly offer him a diadem, which he would publicly refuse.21Here, he also delivered a speech saying "Non Sum Rex sed Caesar"22. But the show was without real substance - although he was not a monarch, he had the powers of one. To further allay the fears of the republicans, he prosecuted those who called him Rex, and ordered tribunes to remove a diadem placed on his statue.23 But, for the republicans, his actions in manipulating the government into his tool, the imprint of his head on coins,24 and the naming of Octavian25, his grand nephew, as his successor, they were falsely convinced of his latent 'ambition' to be king.