From Publishers Weekly
Historian Freeman (The Philosopher and the Druids: A Journey Among the Ancient Celts
) paints a flattering portrait of Caesar in this admirable biography, exalting his cunning, military skill, political insights and allegiance to the plebeian class. In fast-paced prose and detailed historical sketches, Freeman traces Caesar's life from early youth onward, covering his marriage and service as a priest (or pontifex
); his election to pontifex maximus
in 63 B.C.; his command of Roman forces in the Gallic Wars; his ascension to leader of the republic; and his famous assassination. Drawing on Caesar's own writings, Freeman portrays him as a brilliant military strategist whose defense of Roman land in the Gallic Wars extended the rule of Rome from Italy to the Atlantic. Caesar returned to Italy in 49 B.C. and became dictator three years later, seeking to improve the republic through civic reforms, including the taking of a proper census, the building of a library, the codification of Roman law and the conversion of Rome to a solar calendar. Although Freeman's biography reveals little new information about Caesar, his cultural and historical knowledge bring the emperor to life and humanize him in a way no writer before him has succeeded in doing. (May)
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The character and exploits of Gaius Julius Caesar continue to fascinate both historians and laymen, with good reason. His military conquest of Gaul spread Roman civilization beyond the confines of the Mediterranean Basin. His political reforms laid the basis for the imperium established by Augustus. His personal story is loaded with drama and adventure. Freeman, a classics professor at Luther College, has written a compact but thorough account of the life and achievements of this historical giant. He traces Caesar’s family background, his patrician upbringing, and his early public career as he strove to survive in the tumult of the political chaos and civil wars that plagued the republic in the first century BCE. As Caesar’s political career advanced, he became, Freeman argues, a consummate manipulator who was prepared to take huge risks by reaching out to the plebeian class. This bold and sometimes reckless approach is even more evident in his military campaigns. Ultimately, as Freeman indicates, his willingness to challenge powerful vested interests led directly to his murder. This is a fine biography best suited for general readers. --Jay Freeman