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Caesar: Life of a Colossus Paperback – January 28, 2008


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (January 28, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300126891
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300126891
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.1 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (126 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #23,975 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. 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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

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 Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

More About the Author

Adrian Goldsworthy was born in 1969 in Cardiff. He was educated in Penarth and then read Ancient and Modern History at St. John's College, Oxford, where he subsequently completed his doctorate in ancient history. His D.Phil. Thesis was the basis for his first book, The Roman Army At War 100 BC - AD 200, which looked at how the Roman army actually operated on campaign and in battle.

For several years he taught in a number of universities, and began to write for a wider audience. A succession of books followed dealing with aspects of ancient military history, including Roman Warfare, The Punic Wars (which was later re-issued as the Fall of Carthage), Cannae, In the Name of Rome and the Complete Roman Army. More recently he has looked at wider themes, combining the military focus with discussion of politics and society in a biography of Caesar, and a study of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, titled How Rome Fell (although released in the UK as The Fall of the West). His latest book is a paired biography of Antony and Cleopatra.

He is now a full time writer, and no longer teaches, although he is currently a Visiting Fellow at the University of Newcastle. However, he frequently gives one off lectures and talks both to universities and other groups in the UK, USA, Canada, and Europe. In the last couple of years audiences have included local history societies, graduates and undergraduates in a range of countries, the cadets of VMI, and the distinguished cast of a new production of Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra. He frequently appears as a talking head or presenter in TV documentaries and has acted as consultant on both documentaries and dramas. He will appear in six of the eight episodes of the forthcoming When Rome ruled series for National Geographic. He often appears on radio.

More information can be found on his website - www.adriangoldsworthy.com

Customer Reviews

He writes very well in an entertaining and informative manner.
B.E.F.
Adrian Goldsworthy's Caesar: Life of a Colossus provides a balanced, detailed, and highly readable biography of one of the most important figures in history.
Leonard J. Wilson
He does interpret, making a good case for his conclusions, most of which give us a positive view.
zsuzsanna22

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

159 of 164 people found the following review helpful By Aussie Reader on October 7, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Adrian Goldsworthy's latest book, "Caesar", is another one of those great books that you cannot afford to miss this year. Following on from his excellent run of books; "The Punic Wars" and "In The Name of Rome", this new title is a great addition to anyone's library.

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.
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114 of 120 people found the following review helpful By Deygan Brendan on September 27, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Fans of Goldsworthy's previous works won't be disappointed with this bio, which will undoubtedly be named as one of the best overall works about Julius Caesar for many years to come.

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.
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47 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Steven A. Peterson TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 18, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Adrian Goldsworthy's Caesar: Life of a Colossus joins two other recent biographies from the same period to provide a rich sense of Rome in the first century BC and shortly thereafter. The other two are Everitt's volumes on Cicero and Augustus. Among them, once gets a sense of the increasing dysfunction of the Roman Republic and the various efforts to address the increasingly unfortunate state of affairs.

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.
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69 of 81 people found the following review helpful By J. A Magill TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 15, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Perhaps writing a biography of a man who died over 2,000 years ago, even if about the most written about of the Romans, the limitation of the sources makes a truly deep biography impossible. Or perhaps Mr. Goldsworthy, as able and talented a military historian as any currently writing focused on the area he knew best. Whatever the reason, Caesar: The Colossus works only so well and so far. Julius Caesar the general comes blazing through here, with well detailed strategic and tactical analysis. Where the author's work proves less successful is in describing the other theatre of battle in which his subject excelled politics.

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.
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