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Caesar: Life of a Colossus

Caesar: Life of a Colossus - Adrian Goldsworthy This is not an easy book to write, the biography of Caesar. The man who died at the hands of many but whose life has been revived repeatedly by numerous pens and brushes. From Plutarch, to Suetonius, to Shakespeare, to Gérôme, to the Hollywood or TV studios, to the Asterix cartoons…, we have a whole array of possible accounts to choose the version that better suits our imagination. And that is of course without counting the image that emerges from his own Memoirs, the Comentarii, and possibly from a collection of poems by him.. (De Bello…)Gaius Julius Caesar was a solid personality. He was a devoted son, a courageous soldier and astute commander. As a resourceful engineer he built bridges across the Rhine that held the footsteps of his soldiers but shook the minds of the Germanic tribes. He was a worthy husband but also expected a worthy wife, becoming a determined divorcee as his wife had to be above suspicion. Married or not, he was also a gallant philanderer who chose well, as his penchant for the women of other senators or his picking of a legendary beauty indicates. He was a loving father to his dear Julia even if he married her with political aims to someone twice her age. He had to know what was right for her as she did fall deeply in love with Pompey, her magnificent husband. His writing became the textbook of generals in posterity providing a tool for success for figures who further changed history, and we can think of Napoleon. His clemency was also notorious, and he seemed to have relished his power most, not in punishing but in forgiving. As a reformist politician, Caesar realized that if the Roman society had to change, the core revision had to involve land laws because everything else was founded there. His reforms also extended to the calendar. He synchronized it anew with the sun, in an almost perfect convention that lasted for about sixteen centuries. As a dictator he changed the concept of his position from the Roman elected nomination for a maximum of five years, to the fuller, more modern and more odious powers. And last but not least, he was the brave and unwilling prey of one of the most famous assassinations in history. His death features as the main plot in Shakespeare’s tragedy which coined the essence of treason in the: “Et tu, Brute?”. This death even becomes the first chapter in [b:Cicero: The Life and Times of Rome's Greatest Politician|84593|Cicero The Life and Times of Rome's Greatest Politician|Anthony Everitt|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1320502320s/84593.jpg|81654], as if the orator’s life could only be understood in reference to the figure of Julius Caesar. And this death has inspired the palette of many visionaries of which my favorite is Jean-Léon Gérôme's:If Julius Caesar was a solid man, Goldsworthy’s book is a solid biography. The author follows a very orderly chronological line, expanding, when necessary, with elucidatory explanations of social, political or military structures. I welcomed these because they help in abridging the gap of understanding that arises when traveling in one’s mind through historical times. Goldsworthy had to fill-in the knowledge holes and, probably more difficult, empty them of Hollywood debris.Goldsworthy’s style is very clear and clean. One wonders if he may be have been smitten by Caesar´s own, who although writing at a time when Cicero was stripping the traditional oratory style of its grandiloquence, produced an even more factual and limpid style. The author remains somewhat detached and only in a few occasions does he venture to make comparisons with later military figures and draw judgments. His is certainly the account of a historian, keeping a neutral tone and evaluating what we know and admitting what we do not. He shows particular concern and wishes to wash away the pollution produced by popular culture.Having to keep the same distance as Goldsworthy, one feels at times a bit too removed from such a rich personality. The reading at once awakens our desire to grasp fully this character so that we can admire or hate him, while keeping him removed and remote.The cover chosen for most editions befits the content of this book: a stony and captivating view of Caesar’s face, but as a fragment.This book has earned five solid stars. But please note that I would give six stars to another version that suited my imagination beautifully -- the one by Goscinny and Uderzo in their Asterix saga.

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