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Caesar: Life of a Colossus

4.22 of 5 stars 4.22  ·  rating details  ·  2,910 ratings  ·  159 reviews
Tracing the extraordinary trajectory of the great Roman emperor’s life, Goldsworthy covers not only the great Roman emperor’s accomplishments as charismatic orator, conquering general, and powerful dictator but also lesser-known chapters during which he was high priest of an exotic cult, captive of pirates, seducer not only of Cleopatra but also of the wives of his two mai ...more
Paperback, 608 pages
Published January 28th 2008 by Yale University Press (first published May 11th 2006)
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This is not an easy book to write, the biography of Caesar. The man who died at the hands of many but whose life has been revived repeatedly by numerous pens and brushes. From Plutarch, to Suetonius, to Shakespeare, to Gérôme, to the Hollywood or TV studios, to the Asterix cartoons…, we have a whole array of possible accounts to choose the version that better suits our imagination. And that is of course without counting the image that emerges from his own Memoirs, the Comentarii, and possibly fr ...more
I truly enjoyed this book, and find that I'm actually rueful that I no longer have Goldsworthy's excellent biography to look forward to when I arrive home after work. I came to this six-hundred-plus page behemoth with a fair understanding of all the events, names, and places, and thus had originally planned to read it in installments scattered here and there whilst other books, long demanding my attention, received the majority of my time; however, damned if the erudite, illuminative, and fluid ...more
'Aussie Rick'
Adrian Goldsworthy's book, Caesar, is another one of those great books that you cannot afford to miss. 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
Philip Lee
CAESAR (Life of a Colossus)
by Adrian Goldsworthy

This life of Julius Caesar was originally published (minus subtitle on jacket) as one of Weidenfield's military history tomes back in 2006. With the success of the BBC/HBO TV series “Rome”, it was quickly repackaged and relaunched to cater for a subsequent surge of interest in the founder of Imperial Rome. Arguably, Julius Caesar has always been ancient history's most popular figure. Even contemporary contenders for that distinction – Cleopatra as
Goldsworthy writes with flair and with a good command of the subject matter, doing an excellent job of bringing to life one of the most celebrated and vilified characters of ancient and Western history. He paints an excellent portrait of both Caesar and the times he lived in. Goldsworthy’s treatment of Caesar’s campaigns, especially the Civil War, is engaging and lively. Goldsworthy does a great job of both stripping away the myth of Caesar and conveying the drama of his times.

In some cases, Cae
The text of Adrian Goldsworthy's biography of Julius Caesar is divided into three parts, one of which the Caesar's rise of political power inhabits, his campaigns in modern-day France and England the second, those who in their own time were called aristocrats, in ours assassins, the third.

This good book is best enjoyed by those with either an excellent memory or great patience. The author seems to assume that, if you bothered to pick up this book, that you are willing to keep track of a great va
James Murphy
The last century of the Roman republic was an unusually violent time. Ambition, the bids for political and military power, the taking advantage of opportunities by notable Romans with the skills to govern, made it an age of political turbulence within the seat of republican power, an age of war along the borders and civil wars among rival factions within Rome as the old, stable system of the republic gave way to dictatorship. The first to achieve supreme rule and the right to govern as virtual d ...more
Joyce Lagow
I found this book incredibly dull. Well researched--no question that almost all of the known material on Caesar is summarized here--but does it have to be so boring? While reading it, I found myself constantly comparing it wih Colleen McCullough's 5 volume fictional work on Caesar; IMHO, her books are infinitely preferable to this one volume. Same material, better read.[return][return]For someone who is supposedly a military historian, it is beyond my power to understand how Goldsworthy could ma ...more
After reading Colleen McCullough's massive Masters of Rome series, I wanted to know more about Julius Caesar, a man she clearly greatly admires, and to know how her research stacks up against that of professional historians.

Except for a few instances, Goldsworthy's biography of JC confirms the accuracy of McCullough's novels (which he described as "racy," proving that Oxford-trained historians are a rather sheltered lot). Of course, he maintains an academic distance better than the novelist, bu
Pete daPixie
Where biography is concerned, it is certainly beneficial when the subject is a giant.
Caius Julius Caesar was such a colossus. The times through which Caesar lived were also monumental, which contributes to Adrian Goldsworthy's 'Caesar', making it's five hundred plus pages a compulsive read.
For me, the narrative took off when J.C. rose to Proconsulate status in 58bc and commanded the legions in Gaul. Throughout I have followed Caesars campaigns using Google Earth to locate the sites of battles an
Jeremy Perron
In the over two thousand years since Julius Caesar was assassinated, many authors have written books about the great general and statesman trying to understand him. Was he a hero or tyrant? A visionary or a just a practical politician? Caesar is a hard man to nail down despite being one the most written about men in ll history. However, I feel I can say with absolute confidence that Adrian Goldsworthy has truly captured the essence of Caesar and has succeeded in writing in--what I feel--is the b ...more
Goldsworthy's biography on Julius Caesar is both insightful and full of details. It is bound to intrigue and excite both the professional historian and the casual reader. He balances Caesar's character in the light of the times he lived in making him more of a "product of his environment" rather than the exception to the rule. His insights in to Caesar's brilliance as a military tactician make it hard to put down this book during any of the battles, which take up a good half to two-thirds of the ...more
Ancient history wasn't my thing in college, but I've always made an exception for the late republic/early empire period during which Caesar, Augustus, and their friends rocked western civilization. Goldsworthy's "Caesar: Life of a Colossus" nicely sets the stage on which Caesar acted. The Roman Republic from around 100 B.C. on was turbulent, violent, corrupt, and litigious, all of which played into Caesar's taking of power in 49-46 B.C. Caesar crossed the Rubicon and led troops into Italy and Ro ...more
The focus is firmly on Caesar, his life, politics and military victories, and the book does a great job of explaining it all. It perhaps lacks a bit in painting a more vivid portrayal of the Roman world in that period, and is occasionally downright confusing, as it tried to pack in a lot without making an already long book, even longer.

Another quibble would be that Goldsworthy writes in the steady monotone of a historian: events occur without a change in tone, and there is little drama, no excit
A great history of one of the most influential people in the history of the world. The author does a great job of putting Caesar's actions in context of his times and though he does interpret as best he can he leaves the facts to speak for themselves and acknowledges the many gaps we have in the historical record. too be expected since these actions happened over 2,000 years ago. In addition he puts Cicero, Sulla, Marius, Brutus, Cassius, Pompey, Mark Antony and Cleopatra in the proper light and ...more
Dennis Husom
I'm 140 pages in, and so far, I am having trouble restraining myself from throwing this book at the wall opposite of my room.

I bought a book about Caesar. I want to read about Caesar, his personality, his decisions, his character, his person.

However, Caesar has been involved perhaps 3% of the book, so far. The author has an amazing talent for sidetracking. After a lot of blah, blah, blah, you finally see the name Caesar mentioned, and you're hopeful that this time, you'll learn something about
A great biography of a man who truly was a colossus of the ages .
The story of Julius Caesar is the story of Rome. Coming into manhood as the Roman Republic was in decline and as it's civil structure was twisted by a prolonged civil war, he grew into his greatness through another civil war ended the republic forever. Caesar saw how Rome suffered during the war between Sulla and Marius. Blood ran in the streets, heads were displayed on the walls of the Forum and entires families destroyed. The wa
Carrie Slager
This is my first time reviewing—but not reading—nonfiction, so here goes nothing.

There is a tendency to romanticize Julius Caesar, but society needs to take off those rose-coloured glasses of history. As a woman, I hate Caesar, but as someone who is fascinated by military strategies and politics in general, I love him. Adrian Goldsworthy provides a thorough, incredibly detailed account of Caesar’s public and private lives, showing him as the [insert creative expletive here] he was at times as we
I really need to re-read this book because it is a delight to read if you are interested in the Julio-Claudian emperors. What I really appreciate is it puts Caesar's time in context and you can imagine his struggles growing up during the bloody civil wars where so many he knew were slaughtered.

Also, it furthered my jokes about "Patrician Ambition" - a tour I thought Madonna could have. Yes, sometimes learning is really just a foundation for witty, esoteric jokes.
I would have loved to have been his slave valet right up until March 14th, 44BCE, oh the stories I could tell. The life of Gaius Julius Caesar is one full of action and sheer drama, if the sources are to be believed. As a young adult, he told off the current brutal dictator Sulla- who was not a above mounting the heads of his enemies on the walls of the Forum- after refusing to divorce his politically unviable wife. As a young man he is kidnapped by Mediterranean pirates who are charmed by their ...more
Amazing book. Well-sourced with a detailed narrative of Caesar's life leading up to his assassination and the second triumvirate. The only holes in the biography are due to poor or no sources (Egypt and African campaign.) Having said that, the book is a bit top heavy, meaning, it spends a large chunk of time in the Gallic wars and Caesar's time in Britain, the latter of which is almost entirely sourced from Caesar's correspondences so biased is assumed. This is just a problem with the circumstan ...more
David Whipple
"Readable" and informative. Goldsworthy demonstrates a command of the Roman era. His writting can be disjointed at times. I attribute this to his being so far ahead of the reader he sometimes outpaces them in his thought process without leaving a written trail for us to follow. By backtracking the reader can pick up the trail again so Goldsworthy never loses us completely but he loses points for those leaps of thought. Bottom Line: his maturity and command of subject carries the work. He walks a ...more
Tom Copeland
This is an excellent, detailed account of the life of Julius Caesar. I confess, it's the first biography of Caesar I've read, so I don't have anything to compare it to -- other than other good historical biographies. Goldsworthy makes Roman politics understandable, and does not get bogged down in the minutiae of Roman military deployments and battles. He presents Caesar somewhat sympathetically, but does not shrink from pointing out the man's pride and ruthlessness. He also is clear about places ...more
Don't let 500+ pages scare you away. This book is an incredibly well-written account of one of the most important figures In history, so the length is worth it. I think Goldsworthy did very well with his sources. I never lost interest. Somehow, despite knowing how the book would end I was nervous for the subject.
I would have liked to know more about the relationships the great man had, like with Antony, Brutus, Cassius, and some of his female conquests. Also, less detail in the sections on mili
It's not fair to rate this book. I didn't finish it. I enjoyed chapter one, but it's very long and I just didn't want to invest that much time in it.
Jeremy Neal
Possibly the greatest biography I have ever read, wonderful and totally engaging. I gave it to my brother after, and he loved it too.
Sherwood Smith
Vivid and interesting, and intersects with other readings on the period. My touchstone is usually how Pompeii is presented.
Philip Persinger
Brilliant popular scholarship. Clearly shows the mechanics of grabbing power and holding on. It's all about the money.
Lewis Smith
A well-written, detailed biography of one of the most fascinating men of history. Relying on ancient sources and carefully evaluating their credibility, Goldsworthy presents as complete a life story of Caesar as is possible at this late date. Reading how many of this great Roman's works, as well as many early works about him, are now lost forever is saddening to those of us who would like to know more. But Goldsworthy presents a highly readable, unflinching look at a man who was as legendary for ...more
One of the best parts about rereading books from my younger days is confronting the same "formative" texts with the increased awareness that they helped spawn in the first place. My old love for history and the classics led me to Goldsworthy's Caesar, while now my newer, more mature love for history and the classics brings me back to critique it.
In narrative style Goldsworthy is unmatched by any living classical historian. In his use of sources he is familiar with the remaining primary sources,
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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 yea
More about Adrian Goldsworthy...
The Punic Wars How Rome Fell: Death of a Superpower In the Name of Rome: The Men Who Won the Roman Empire Roman Warfare Antony And Cleopatra

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