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Book Review: Caesar: Life Of A Colussus

post #1 of 3
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I just finished reading Caesar: Life Of A Colussus by Adrian Goldsworthytoday. Not only was it a good, entertaining read, it also provided a lot of insight into one of the most famous people in history- Caius Julius Caesar.

The book is divided into three major parts. The first part tells some of the history of Rome and explains the political system. The first part of the book also gives details about Caesar's early life and his rise through the political ranks, including his consulship in 59BC. Politics in Rome weren't much different than what we see today- money and favors were two of the keys to political success. Caesar was no exception. In 63BC he ran and was elected as Pontifex Maximus. This was one of the three major priesthoods. The Pontifex Maximus played the role of chairman rather than being an out right leader but it was still considered to be an important position. Caesar had to borrow money to finance his campaign for the post (he was seemed to be in debt from the borrowing of money to fuel his political ambitions). On the day of the election he told his mother that he would return as a winner or not at all. In other words, losing the election could have cost him his life due to not being able to pay off his debts.

The second part of the book, and this is where Adrian Goldsworthy really shines, is about Caesar's governorship in Gaul. During his time there as proconsul he fought some in battles against various Gallic and Germanic tribes. In 55BC he had his soldiers bridge the Rhine, a feat that took only 10 days. Afterwards he led his army across where they spent a couple of weeks before crossing back into Gaul, taking the bridge down behind them as they went. There were two major rebellions in Gaul, the first was in 54-53BC. The second was in 52BC which culminated in the Gauls surrender and the capture of Vercingetorix after the siege of Alesia. Throughout the wars in Gaul, Caesar could be lenient towards the Gallic tribes who surrendered and met certain conditions. At the same time Caesar also had moments where he was harsh, such as when he ordered the hands cut off of the rebels after the siege of Uxellodunum.

The third part of the book deals with the political rivalries and jealousies of that led to the Roman Civil War that began in 49BC. This part also tells what is known of his relationship with Cleopatra and, eventually his murder. Before and during the civil war Caesar made every attempt to come to a peaceful solution with his rivals in the senate and with his once close friend and son-in-law Cnaeus Pompeius Magnus (Pompey "the Great"). Towns and cities that were loyal to Pompey during the civil war were treated with leniency when they surrendered to Caesar. The people, after all, were Roman citizens and Caesar did everything he could to avoid unnecessary bloodshed. Pompey was eventually defeated by Caesar's veteran legions and fled to Egypt where he was murdered. Pompey's head was sent back to Caesar as a "gift" but Caesar refused and wouldn't look at it. Caesar wept over the death of his former friend.

The civil war continued and was eventually ended. Caesar was given dictatorial powers by the senate and remained in power until his murder in 44BC. Afterwards, there was another civil war as the conspirators of the assassination were hunted down by Marcus Antonius (Mark Antony) and Caesar's adopted son, Octavian. The conspirators were finally defeated at the Battle of Phillipi. Octavian, also known as Caius Julius Caesar Octavianus, would become the sole ruler and the first emperor of Rome as Emperor Augustus.

I found myself drawn into this book from page one and found it hard to put down and provides a revealing insight into the complex nature of someone who seems larger than life. My impression of Julius Caesar after reading this book is that he was a man who knew what he wanted and knew how to play the game to get there. He could be full of charm and grace, capable of great and noble deeds while at the same time he could be cruel and commit what would be considered atrocities by modern standards. I would have loved to have seen what else he could have accomplished if he wasn't struck down in the prime of his life.

Edit: I misspelled the word "colossus" in my title.
post #2 of 3
sounds good. i may get to it in about 5 months(i have it).
i have several over books sitting here now, that i am reading.
ok course i dont think there will be much to do until work cause i doubt if i will dig myself out until time to go there.
post #3 of 3
I am going to have to read this. It sounds very similar to Colleen McCullough's Rome series. The First Man in Rome, The Grass Crown, Fortunes Favorites, Caesar and Caesar's Women.

Her books are hard to get into at first because they are so technical. She really wants the reader to understand what life was like back then. They were wonderful, despite being 900 pages each. I have read them all twice.

Her book about McBeth, " King Hereafter" is excellent too. Wonderfully depicts the struggle of politics, Paganism and Christianity.
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