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Caesar: Life of a Colossus

4.23 of 5 stars 4.23  ·  rating details  ·  2,720 ratings  ·  151 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...more
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...more
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...more
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...more
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...more
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...more
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...more
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
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...more
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...more
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
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.
Laura Bellini
We all know Caersar's great actions as a general then ruler of the Roman Empire, and I do remember, having been brought up in Italy, of how I learnt about this extraordinary character at school, how he was seen as a hero by myself and my school mates, as he was a kind of revolutionary, standing 'alone' (not really, with the support of a large class called the Equestrians who had become more powerful than the nobles) against an old and corrupt senatorial class and bringing peace and order back to...more
Steven Peterson
Goldsworthy's book provides a detailed view of Caesar's life. Where details are sparse, he uses good sense in trying to fill in the blanks, appropriately noting where the gaps in the record lie. The volume begins by describing the status of the Republic before Caesar's story begins. This includes the institutions of government and the increasing serious internal problems, with murder and assassination as more typical of "regime change" than is good for a stable polity. The role of the Senate is...more
Adrian Goldsworthy's Caesar: Life of a Colossus is a worthy addition to the Caesarian bibliography. In readable prose, Goldsworthy presents a very detailed portrait of Caesar's military career, situated within a remarkably vivid portrayal of the great general's times. Goldsworthy's asides on the attitudes of Caesar's contemporaries, both rivals and allies, are among the most entertaining parts of the book, but its heart is the detailed and informative presentation of the major engagements that m...more
I have read about Caesar here and there: his own accounts of the Gallic Wars and the Civil War, Plutarch's description of his life, and Theodore Ayrault Dodge's "Caesar" (which confines itself to an examination solely of his military actions). This is the first full biography I have ever read about him. I was led to do so because of a recent perusal of Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar" and my attempts to revisit his accomplishments in the videogame "Rome: Total War." He's one of those persons in hi...more
Complete History, just a little uneven

Goldsworthy is an apt writer, not at the levels of the masters but very readable. His Caesar is complete and well organized. The three main sections are almost the same length: “Rise to Consulship”, “Proconsul” (which covers mainly the Gaul and British campaigns) and “Civil War and Dictatorship”. This gives you an idea of the scope and depth of each section.

The first part is very good indeed. It discusses a lot of background and the setting for Caesar’s earl...more
Wes O'Dell
Aug 03, 2009 Wes O'Dell rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Wes by: Miriam Carlisle, Ph.D.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Historian Adrian Goldsworthy has written a detailed account of the life of Julius Caesar. He describes the trends in Roman political life leading up to the time of Caesar's birth and during Caesar's early years. This was a time in the Republic's history when the constitution of the Roman Republic was fracturing amid the growth of concentrated political power amongst a few individuals and the rise of corruption and political violence in the operation of the Republic. Goldworthy shows that rather...more
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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
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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“Tradition maintained that Rome had been founded in 753 BC. For the Romans this was Year One and subsequent events were formally dated as so many years from the `foundation of the city' (ab urbe condita).” 0 likes
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