The Death of Caesar: The Story of History's Most Famous Assassination Hardcover – March 3, 2015
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"[A] compelling, clarifying account of one of history's most dramatic assassinations. . . . [Strauss] conveys the complexity of late republican Roman politics while keeping up a lively pace." Author: Lev Grossman Source: Time
“Strauss’ account of the world’s most famous assassination is as thrilling as any novel.” Author: Robert Harris, bestselling author of the Ancient Rome Trilogy
“[A] page-turner. . . . Detail after detail clothes the familiar facts of Caesar’s seemingly inevitable murder with fresh images. . . . The last bloody day of the Republic has never been painted so brilliantly." Author: Greg Woolf Source: The Wall Street Journal
“With keen historical insights and the pace of a thriller, Barry Strauss brings vividly to life the Rome of 44 B.C., the final days of Julius Caesar, and the men who killed him. This is history as it should be written—a deeply human story of all the men and women caught up in these famous events.” Author: Adrian Goldsworthy, author of Augustus: First Emperor of Rome
“The superb storytelling of Barry Strauss shows that the details of history's most famous assassination are just as fascinating as why it happened. . . . The Death of Caesar provides a fresh look at a well-trodden event, with storytelling sure to inspire awe.” Author: Scott Manning Source: The Philadelphia Inquirer
“I have never read so detailed an account of the world’s most famous assassination—how the plot was planned, the many personalities, the killing itself and the bitter aftermath. The Death of Caesar brings back all the suspense of an extraordinary story, as if we weren’t sure what was going to happen next. An unputdownable book.” Author: Anthony Everitt, author of CICERO
"A fresh, accessible account of the archetypal assassination. . . .Strauss underscores [the conspirators'] dilemma with an urgency that makes each page crackle with suspense. . . . The Death of Caesar serves us both as an entertaining, vital act of preservation for those details and figures glossed over by other historians and as a reminder of a plot so daring it would be unthinkable today.”" Author: Nick Ochwar Source: The Los Angeles Review of Books
“This engrossing account of that pivotal event is exhaustive, yet surprisingly easy to read. . . . The Death of Caesar is brimming with memorable facts.” Author: Joe Queenan Source: Barron's
“This history of Caesar by the American academic Barry Strauss is a romp, yes, but a glorious one, through the final months of Rome’s most famous ruler. . . . One of the most riveting hour-by-hour accounts of Caesar’s final day I have read. . . . An absolutely marvelous read.” Author: Catherine Nixey Source: The Times (London)
About the Author
- Item Weight : 1.16 pounds
- Hardcover : 352 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1451668791
- ISBN-13 : 978-1451668797
- Dimensions : 6 x 1.4 x 9 inches
- Publisher : Simon & Schuster; Book Club Edition (March 3, 2015)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #234,809 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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In the case of Barry Strauss, writing boring text seems to be impossible. The Death is Caesar is doubly impressive in that Strauss is a fine historian who thoroughly researches the subject. Strauss sets the background by explaining the motivation of the assassins. Caesar had just become a perpetual dictator. He was about to launch an attack on Parthia. If he achieved his usual military success it would have consolidated his position. Not only would the beloved republic come to end, but the position of the assassins would be weakened.
The motives were misguided. The republic was designed for a city state, not a growing empire. It was a glorified gangster state, frequently descending into autocratic rule. Killing Caesar accelerated its end.
Most of us know about two of the leaders, Brutus and Cassius. Strauss calls attention to the third leader, Decimus. Decimus talked Caesar into going to the Senate on the Ides of March. He provided the gladiators who protected the killers from Caesar's allies. Initially it looked like a compromise would let the assassins get away with it. The turning point was the reading of Caesar's will and Marc Antony's funeral oration. The will named Decimus, turning the mob against the ingrate. Antony's speech, which wasn't like the one presented by Shakespeare, sealed the hostility towards the assassins. They were forced to flee and died in the ensuing civil war. In the end Caesar's heir Octavian became the emperor Augustus.
This book is rich in detail. We get specifics on the daggers that killed Caesar. We get capsule biographies of the main characters. All in all this an excellent and informative book.
On the other hand, some of these details and comparisons can become a bit tedious as not all are of the same importance as the background of the perpetrators. So that is the reason I took off one star.
The book is written in language that is plain - as compared to academically stilted - and for any amateur interested in classical history a very easy, worthwhile read.
Top reviews from other countries
The author gives clear portraits of all the main characters. The handsome, athletic and self-assured Mark Antony, the wealthy Decimus – a military hero and, as the author wryly puts it, “on the rise,” and the young Octavian. Octavian is the only one of the group who is not of pure Roman nobility, his father being of a slightly lower status. Yet, despite his rather frail health and his youth, it is obvious that Caesar saw something special about this ambitious, intelligent and rather ruthless young man.
Back in Rome, we are introduced to the conspirators and, also, to the reasons why they deemed it necessary to assassinate Caesar. At this point, Caesar has been proclaimed Dictator for Ten Years. However, with the Civil War over, Rome’s senators are ready to take back power. There are fears he wants to be named ‘Dictator in Perpetuity’ and make himself a virtual king. Cleopatra is also housed just outside the city and there are concerns she wishes to have her son recognised as Caesar’s child. Also, there is good old ambition, political jostling for power and the wish to be recognised as Caesar’s heir. Therefore, people are acting for different reasons – whether it is to defend the Republic, out of jealousy, dislike or self interest.
Thanks to written accounts and letters which have survived from that period, much of them from Cicero, we are lucky to have a great deal of detail about what happened around the time of the assassination of Caesar. The author outlines the many portents, omens and bad dreams which supposedly warned Caesar of the coming danger. He also takes us through the events of that day, including many of the myths which have surrounded what happened, such as Caesar’s last words. We learn about not only what led up to the plot to assassinate Caesar and the actual events, but also the aftermath. This is a very entertaining and informative book, which gives you a real sense of the people involved in this conspiracy. Lastly, I received a copy of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley, for review.