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The Assassination of Julius Caesar: A People's History of Ancient Rome (New Press People's History) First Ed. Edition

77 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1565847972
ISBN-10: 1565847970
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Why did a group of Roman senators gather near Pompey's theater on March 15, 44 B.C., to kill Julius Caesar? Was it their fear of Caesar's tyrannical power? Or were these aristocratic senators worried that Caesar's land reforms and leanings toward democracy would upset their own control over the Roman Republic? Parenti (History as Mystery, etc.) narrates a provocative history of the late republic in Rome (100-33 B.C.) to demonstrate that Caesar's death was the culmination of growing class conflict, economic disparity and political corruption. He reconstructs the history of these crucial years from the perspective of the Roman people, the masses of slaves, plebs and poor farmers who possessed no political power. Roughly 99% of the state's wealth was controlled by 1% of the population, according to Parenti. By the 60s B.C., the poor populace had begun to find spokesmen among such leaders as the tribunes Tiberius Gracchus and his younger brother, Gaius. Although the Gracchi attempted to introduce various reforms, they were eventually murdered, and the reform movements withered. Julius Caesar, says Parenti, took up where they left off, introducing laws to improve the condition of the poor, redistributing land and reducing unemployment. As Parenti points out, such efforts threatened the landed aristocracy's power in the Senate and resulted in Caesar's assassination. Parenti's method of telling history from the "bottom up" will be controversial, but he recreates the struggles of the late republic with such scintillating storytelling and deeply examined historical insight that his book provides an important alternative to the usual views of Caesar and the Roman Empire.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.


Always provocative and eloquent. -- Howard Zinn

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Product Details

  • Series: New Press People's History
  • Hardcover: 267 pages
  • Publisher: The New Press; First Ed. edition (August 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565847970
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565847972
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.8 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (77 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #807,397 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Michael Parenti (Berkeley, CA) is the acclaimed author of more than twenty books, including, most recently, Contrary Notions: The Michael Parenti Reader; The Assassination of Julius Caesar; and The Culture Struggle. The New York Times Book Review, the Washington Post, the New York Review of Books, Harper's, The Nation, and Antioch Review, are among the countless publications that have praised Parenti's work. For further information, visit his Web site:

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

116 of 131 people found the following review helpful By Drew Hunkins on December 2, 2003
Format: Hardcover
The Assassination of Julius Caesar blows away the so called truth proffered to us by the gentlemen historians who peddle a genre biased towards an upper-class ideological perspective. Parenti is an eloquent Caesarian historian who displays an astonishing amount of research finely organized and presented in this Pulitzer Prize nominated work; which will no doubt have the Ciceronians scrambling to put together a rebuttal.

The Assassination of Julius Caesar points out how numerous popularis fell victim to the optimates death squads, Tiberius Gracchus, Gaius Gracchus, Drusus, Clodius and Rufus all sealed their fates by taking up the populist cause. Along with Caesar each of them lobbied and passed such policies as land reform, debt forgiveness, expansion of the franchise, giving the craft guilds more power, and greater food allotments.

Parenti makes for especially fascinating reading when he documents the reign of Sulla; the fascist autocrat whose policies weren't rolled back until Caesar's First Triumvirate was able to abolish some his more regressive laws. Also Dr. Parenti's sections on Cicero, the Machiavellian statesman who served autocratic interests, are sensational. He exposes Cicero's fomenting of the witch-hunt like Cataline Conspiracy. Egalitarian reforms and attempts to democratize decision making were treated as outright subversion by the optimates. Cicero upheld these values by constantly propagandizing against Cataline and his tepid reforms. We discover that Cicero was an odious creature who sold-out to power at every opportunity by often being quite an effective mouthpiece for the priveleged of ancient Rome.
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40 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Arinda Lin Roelker on March 19, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This book is excellent. I started reading about Julius Caesar 50

years ago. I have been constantly amazed at the praise that major historians have given to Cicero (who lies to everyone but Atticus), Brutus (whose exhorbitant interest rates were talked about by even HIS peers), for Cato (whose hyprocrisy allowed him

to denounce Caesar at all points while manipulating Roman laws

to defeat Caesar at every turn) and others in the oligarchy as

"noble" protectors of the constitution.

These "protectors" of the Roman constitution allowed Pompey to

become consul before he was legally of age, appointted him sole

consul (a unique position) at one point, allowed him to govern

Spain and maintain an army without going to Spain, and gave him

control of the Roman state BEFORE Caesar crossed the Rubicon.

Mr. Parenti was able to take these inherent contradictions of the wealthy Senators AND many hisotrians and recognize their

class blindness. Almost by instinct many historians seemingly

identified themselves with the oligarchy ("the best") and condemned Caesar for excessive arrogance and ambition in a Rome

where all of the Senatorial class were equally ambitious and

desirous of getting & keeping private wealth.

His book is readable and well reasoned. Thanks to Mr. Parenti!
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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Steven Peterson TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 18, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Michael Parenti's book, The Assassination of Julius Caesar: A People's History of Ancient Rome, might be read most profitably in conjunction with Goldsworthy's new biography, Caesar: Life of a Colossus. Parenti's work focuses on a specific issue--Caesar as "populist," murdered by wary elitists. Goldsworthy's book is much more detailed, provides much more context. Parenti's book can be viewed within the larger context.

Parent's thesis, outlined on page 3, is straightforward: "Caesar's sin, I shall argue, was not that he was subverting the Roman constitution--which was an unwritten one--but that he was loosening the oligarchy's overbearing grip on it. Worse still, he used state power to effect some limited benefits for small farmers, debtors, and urban proletariat, at the expense of the wealthy few."

Some other reviewers are appalled at this thesis and the manner in which Parenti writes. This is typical of Parenti's work more generally. He has a position and normally writes in such a way as to address that view in no uncertain terms. Some will appreciate this; others won't. But the question should not be whether or not one likes his passionate writing. The question should be: Does he make his case? This is why reading this book in concert with Goldsworthy's makes sense. In the latter volume, much the same theme is advanced, although presented in a much more nuanced, and, in fact, more convincing manner.

This book is most useful in laying out a perspective that is straightforward and not subtle. Sometimes, the lack of subtlety undermines the logic of the analysis. Still, the volume provides a thesis that places Caesar in a political context.
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54 of 64 people found the following review helpful By Gianmarco Manzione on December 28, 2004
Format: Paperback
Critics who fail to see through the very blindnesses Parenti challenges throughout this book are just proving his point. It is not, as "L.C" Robinson asserts above, that Parenti thinks everybody is wrong. Parenti's interest is not in some puerile (and typically American) debate over who is right and who is wrong, but rather a very fair and disinterested discussion about the consequences of crippling class stratification in ancient Rome and, as it turns out, throughout much of the history that followed.

People like Mr. Robinson speak from precisely the privileged perspective Parenti works so tirelessly to challenge here. It is unfathomable to people such as himself that there are those for whom education is a pipe dream, an unattainable aspiration prohibited by the financial situations into which they were born. From the days of Sallust, Seutonius and Polybius on down to Edward Gibbon, education was a privilege reserved for the wealthy. Literacy rates in ancient Rome were horrific; the vast majority of the population could neither read nor write. This insurmountable disadvantage persisted over thousands of years and continues even today, when there are only two ways by which an American kid gets a good education: rich parents, or a willingness to plunge oneself into tens of thousands of dollars into debt (I myself owe $57,000 in student loans, which will not be paid off for 30 years). In less developed nations, literacy rates remain as bad as they were in Caligula's day. Still, though, America's own literacy rate ranks just 48th in the world (see Morris Berman's "Twilight of American Culture"). Of course, some of us are lucky enough to land a scholarship or grant, but that is too often like winning the lottery.
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