Julius Caesar won his civil war against the Senate and Pompey the Great, but did not know it. After routing his opponent and gaining control of Rome, Caesar chased Pompey to Egypt. While in Egypt, he entered into an alliance with Queen Cleopatra and became embroiled in Egyptian politics. After defeating Pompey, Caesar mopped up the opposition, settled the Egyptian civil war, and officially became Rome’s dictator.
Caesar arrived in Alexandria, Egypt searching for Pompey the Great. His former ally and adversary fled to what he hoped was a stronghold. Upon landing, the Egyptians murdered the Consul. Pharaoh Ptolemy XIII presented Pompey’s head to Caesar. The attempt to curry Caesar’s favor failed. Instead of rejoicing, Caesar wept and grew angry at the teenage Pharaoh.
Ptolemy hoped to avoid a confrontation with Rome. His sister, Cleopatra VII, opposed him. At the time of Caesar’s arrival, Ptolemy held the upper hand. Cleopatra moved quickly to form an alliance with Rome against her brother. She smuggled herself to the Roman general inside a carpet or sack and unfurled herself before his feet. The two became involved and Caesar threw Rome’s support to Cleopatra. Ptolemy’s stunt with Pompey’s head probably provided additional motivation.
Roman intervention swung the Alexandrine Civil War in Cleopatra’s favor. Although outnumbered and in a hostile land, the Romans managed to extricate themselves from near disaster and achieved victory. In 47 B.C., Caesar and Cleopatra’s forces defeated Ptolemy at the Battle of the Nile. The Romans stormed Ptolemy’s position and broke into his camp. The teenager’s forces fled in terror and he drowned. Cleopatra’s sister Arsinoe IV was captured. Despite Cleopatra’s pleas, Caesar allowed Arsinoe to live.
Following the Battle of the Nile, Caesar spent considerable time in Egypt. He did not have to. There was no pressing need. He was vacationing with Cleopatra and enjoying cruises on the Nile. Eventually, he left to handle a Middle Eastern upstart and the remnants of the Republican forces. In June, 47 B.C., Cleopatra gave birth to their son, Caesarion.
To secure Caesarion’s future, Caesar dealt with his Republican enemies. In 46 B.C., he defeated the last military obstacle and won a sweeping victory at the Battle of Thapsus. After the battle, his enemy Cato the Younger committed suicide by pulling out his own entrails. Unfortunately, Pompey’s sons escaped to Hispania. Caesar chased them down and defeated them. By this point, the Senate elected Caesar dictator for an unprecedented ten year term.
Julius Caesar spent about two years mopping up Republican opposition and settling a dynastic dispute in Egypt. He defeated all challengers and accumulated unprecedented power. By 45 B.C., Caesar had conquered Gaul, invaded Germania and Britannia, defeated Pompey and the combined Republican forces, defeated Ptolemy’s forces, settled the Egyptian political situation, and ushered in many reforms beneficial to the lower classes. Caesar also formed an alliance with Cleopatra and the pair had a son. He was the most powerful man in the world.