From Publishers Weekly
The man who virtually defined the West's concept of leadership comes alive in this splendid biography. Military historian Goldsworthy (The Complete Roman Army
) gives a comprehensive, vigorous account of Caesar's conquest of Gaul and his victories in the civil war that made him master of Rome. But he doesn't stint on the nonmartial aspects of Caesar's life—his dandyism, his flagrant womanizing (which didn't stop enemies from gay-baiting him), his supple political genius and the flair for drama and showmanship that cowed mutinous legionaries and courted Rome's restive masses. Goldsworthy's is a sympathetic profile. In his telling, Caesar's massacres and group enslavements, though "utterly ruthless," are considered and pragmatic, not wanton, and the conqueror seems to possess a moderation and magnanimity that sprang from the same idealized self-image that fed his ambition. The author's vivid portrait of the late Roman Republic that Caesar toppled is correspondingly jaundiced: its politics are about nothing except the personal ambitions of powerful men, and chaos, corruption and violence reign beneath the ritualistic niceties of republican procedure. More compellingly than most biographies, Goldsworthy's exhaustive, lucid, elegantly written life makes its subject the embodiment of his age. 16 pages of b&w photos, maps. (Sept.)
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One of the most recognizable names to the ancient and modern worlds, Caesar is one of the few figures from the Roman Empire--Cicero and Augustus are two others--susceptible to modern biographical treatment. Caesar,
by Christian Meier (1996), was the previous portrait. Goldsworthy is a historian of the Roman army, a credential vital to assessing the career of Caesar, conqueror of Gaul, instigator of a fateful civil war, dictator, and would-be conqueror of Parthia (modern Iraq) but for the Ides of March. Leaning on Caesar's Commentaries on the Gallic War
, Goldsworthy exhibits strong explanatory skill about military campaigns and about Caesar's rising but precarious political status at Rome. Accepting that Caesar crossed the Rubicon to stave off personal ruination, Goldsworthy's account of the ensuing war nevertheless does not absolve his opponents, Pompey and Cato primarily, from responsibility for the political impasse behind the war. In any case, Caesar sealed his military reputation with a rapid victory. Eternally intriguing history readers, the end of the Roman Republic receives astute analysis and dramatic narration in Goldsworthy's life of Caesar. Gilbert TaylorCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved