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Julius Cæsar: The Life and Times of the People's Dictator Hardcover

ISBN-13: 978-0520235021 ISBN-10: 0520235029 Edition: English Language Ed

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 408 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; English Language Ed edition (April 16, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520235029
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520235021
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.5 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,880,461 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

“A fluid, distinctive, and highly intelligent portrait of Caesar in his times.”—Clifford Ando, author of Imperial Ideology and Provincial Loyalty in the Roman Empire

“Master of the complex source material and at home in the vast secondary literature, Canfora has used his experience with communism to construct a subtle, original quest for ‘the real Caesar,’ the proletarian dictator. The book can only enrich research and teaching.”—William M. Calder III, William Abbott Oldfather Professor of the Classics and Professor of Comparative Literature, University of Illinois, Urbana/Champaign

About the Author

Luciano Canfora is Professor of Greek and Latin Philology at the University of Bari. He is the author of many books including the best-selling The Vanished Library: A Wonder of the Ancient World (UC Press).

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Michael Zeleny on July 27, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This is not a chatty narrative meant for beginners, but a skillful synthesis of ancient sources leavened by polemical engagement with key modern authorities. Only time will tell whether this book belongs in the company of Syme and Mommsen, to which its author so clearly aspires. For now, it will richly reward readers familiar with their Suetonius and Plutarch as well as Caesar's own Commentaries, in a fashion no less self-serving than that dished out by "the people's dictator" himself.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In what I can only describe as a suprise, Canfora spends an enormous amount of time and energy attempting to discredit the majority of Julius Caesar's "greatness" and reduce him to the ranks of a common political and war criminal. Canfora's exhaustive research is impressive but his single-minded focus on bringing to light a long laundry list of Caesar's illegalities, immoralities and overall underhanded ways truly ruins the research. Why? Because anyone who knows much about the ancient world, Rome in particular, knows that the Roman system itself was overflowing with contradictions, primarily the twin relentless pursuits for a nobleman of Honor and Glory, usually at the expense of another, rival noble and always at the expense of any foreigner, that is to say, any non-Roman. From its birth as a republic, Rome overflowed with power struggles, often bloody contests over justice and freedoms. In fact, Rome's entire political-psychological-moral foundation was the pursuit of Honor and Glory, at all costs. This was the fuel for what became an empire. Thus, when Canfora talks about Caesar's indifference to "the human cost" of his Gallic wars, it sounds downright childish and silly. There was no such concept as a "human cost" in the ancient world, especially not in Rome, where a minimum of 5,000 foreigners had to die before a general could enjoy his Triumph- the origin of our ticker-tape parade. On the day of a general's Triumph he was hailed as the great-god Jupiter Optimus maximus himself. Clearly, the greater the scale of the war the closer a general came to the Gods themselves. But none of these realities matter to Canfora. His "modernity" completely nullifies his historical sense and the value of his research.

Don't waste your money or time on this.
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By bonnie_blu on November 12, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Even though the translation from the original Italian is at times cumbersome and could stand some additional editing, Canfora's sweeping analysis of Caesar's life is innovative and perspicacious. His book is organized into sections that each deal with one specific event in Caesar's life, and how each event was colored and shaped by the larger social and Mediterranean environments. I have read hundreds of books about Caesar and Ancient Rome, but found Canfora's approach enlightening. His work, taken along with other works on Caesar and Rome, provide a much more fully formed view of the greatest of all Romans and of the civilization that formed the western world.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jeremy A. Perron on December 2, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This is not going to be a positive review. The problem is however; I really do not know whom to blame for it. This book was written and published in Italian, in 1999, and then translated into English in 2007. Since I do not speak Italian and do not have the original work even if I did, it is hard to pin down blame.

I think the forward was the best and most interesting part of the whole book. That part of the book is fascinating, dealing with how Caesar has been viewed over the thousands of years since he died by various individuals. The first thing the Canfora discusses is how Caesar's reputation is dealt with through the propaganda of his heir, the Emperor Augustus. This is followed by how Caesar was viewed by the monarchs of the Early and High Middle Ages, and a whole section dedicated to how Napoleon Bonaparte viewed Caesar and himself by comparison. Although Caesar has fans throughout the ranks of the rulers, his reputation amongst republicans is not positive, to them Caesar is no hero.

After that, however, the book goes down hill very quickly. If one were to look at the table of contents, the book would seem very well organized. However, the narrative is clogged and that makes it extremely hard to follow. Often times the author interrupts what he is saying make some point about how Napoleon viewed something or another that Caesar did. For example, almost halfway though the book, at the end of part II, is a whole `debate' about how brutal Caesar was while in Gaul. During which the author stops talking about Caesar's life entirely and for a whole chapter just focus on how various historians have treated and focused on the conquests themselves. It would make an incredible article for some journal, but it completely interrupts the narrative of the book.
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