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Caesar: Life of a Colossus Hardcover – September 22, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
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Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top Customer Reviews
The tale of Julius Caesar has been told before many times but I doubt as well as this in recent times. The research and story telling is exceptional. I found the book easy to read although it is quite detailed in regards to the political and social events and background that made up Rome during Caesar's period.
The accounts of Caesar's military campaigns were well told and presented with a number of basic maps to assist the reader in following the action. The author presented the facts covering Caesar's life in an un-biased way and left it to the reader to make up his own mind in regards to those controversial events in Caesar's life.
The book is about 520 pages in narrative text along with a number of black & white photographs and maps. Overall this is a good book and I am sure anyone who has an interest or passion for this period of history or for Julius Caesar will enjoy this book immensely.
Goldsworthy doesn't focus primarily on any one aspect of Caesar's life, yet manages to go over all of them in a way that is still detailed and illuminating, even for one who's read dozens of books on the subject.
He gives comprehensive accounts of Caesar's military campaigns, at the same time giving backgrounds on the regions/peoples involved, yet without getting lost in the history/tactics/equipment of the legions themselves.
*(the definitive work on Caesar's military campaigns will always be Theodore Ayrault Dodge's "Caesar", with Stephen Dando-Collins' ongoing history series on individual legions also proving to be very interesting - to-date he's done "Caesar's Legion" on the 10th, "Nero's Killing Machine" on the 14th, and "Cleopatra's Kidnappers" on the 6th, with "Mark Antony's Heroes" on the 3rd coming out in November)*
Goldsworthy gives one of the most detailed descriptions of Caesar's early life and rise into politics that I've ever read, and in the process is able to go over the numerous political process(es) of the era in a way easily understandable for those unfamiliar with them.
He talks about Caesar's pros/cons in an objective manner, always bringing up alternative points of view, and asking questions that may not have occurred to those whose thinking may be slanted in one direction or the other.
While very long at first glance, Goldsworthy's writing is very insightful and reader-friendly, making the subject all the more fascinating.
Just as he did in his hard-to-find 2000 work "The Punic Wars", he's able to take a topic most people would have no interest in, and turn it into a study that you want to read more than once.
Goldsworthy's book provides a detailed view of Caesar's life. Where details are sparse, he uses good sense in trying to fill in the blanks, appropriately noting where the gaps in the record lie. The volume begins by describing the status of the Republic before Caesar's story begins. This includes the institutions of government and the increasing internal problems, with murder and assassination as more typical of "regime change" than is good for a stable polity. The role of the Senate is well described.
After setting the stage, Caesar's story is put into context. One key issue was his association with the popularis and the hostility of some of the elite of Rome toward Caesar as a result. On page 105, the author notes that "Caesar had from early in his career inclined toward a popularis path. . . ."
He held his first public office in 72 or 71 B. C. Shortly thereafter, he began to ally with Pompey the Great and, later, with Crassus in the First Triumvirate. He also began a habit of spending a great deal of money to generate support from Romans. This led to a situation where he was often risking great and even crushing debt in order to build support. Normally, the risk was rewarded with success over the course of his career.
The book goes on to discuss in nice detail Caesar's assignment in Gaul.Read more ›
With a quick but informative review, Goldsworthy lays out the structure of the Roman state and the ambitions of its great men. Yet, as people these important figures, Pompey, Carassus, Cicero, and even Caesar never truly come to life. In the limitations of the work even the Table of Contents is revealing, Caesar's years of dictator, the reforms he enacted, and his efforts all discussed in less than forty pages.
Some may see this to Mr. Goldsworthy's credit, that he eschews interpretive leaps or raising the drama of the story. Yet the stories or Rome, the struggle's between Caesar and Pompey, the wealth of Crassus (a man who the Romans considered the wealthiest man in Roman history and some historians have estimated to be one of the wealthiest men in human history) -- were nothing if not stuff of epics. Maybe such things are best left to the works of poets and novelists, but for this reader, one wished to see more of the human drama of these figures whose stories have transcended time.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
very detailed account. takes some time to read and understand all of the political connections in the roman worldPublished 12 hours ago by kevin halpin
* This book is a political and military biography of Julius Caesar. If you are looking for a bio that focuses on the personal aspects of his life, this book is not what you... Read morePublished 25 days ago by Amazon Customer
Great read! We truly are a modern Rome! Very detailed discription of a past long forgotten by most.Published 1 month ago by Kieth M.
Recommended to me by my ancient history professor. Super fascinating man who lived during one of the most fascinating times in history. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Dita von Krieg
I loved it and intend to read more by the same author. The book told me all I wanted (needed?) to know about Caesar without ever becoming too dry or scholarly -- in plain English:... Read morePublished 2 months ago by F. Fairfield
Overlong and lacking depth. That said military sections were quite good.Published 3 months ago by JohnWells
enjoyed very much. reminder to readers: Caesar was a military commander. if you not interested in his military campaigns, might try another book. factual not romanticized.Published 3 months ago by lovebooks
The book by Goldsworthy is comprehensive and detailed, it gives unparalleled analysis. He gives Roman military, political and social customs as background, precise, referenced and... Read morePublished 6 months ago by Catamaran'78