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Caesar: Life of a Colossus

4.25  ·  Rating Details ·  4,232 Ratings  ·  249 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
Hardcover, 608 pages
Published September 22nd 2006 by Yale University Press (first published May 11th 2006)
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Aug 22, 2013 Kalliope rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 17, 2011 Szplug rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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'
Dec 12, 2013 'Aussie Rick' rated it really liked it
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
Gary Foss
Sep 26, 2015 Gary Foss rated it really liked it
This is a very thorough life of Caesar from soup to nuts, as it were. Any history about a figure or events as distant in time as that of the subject of this book is going to necessitate either a certain amount of speculation on the part of the historian, or regular admissions regarding the final unknowability of any number of particulars. In this case, Goldsworthy picks the latter, arguably more truthful path. Where he speculates, he does so cautiously and logically, presenting ideas that are re ...more
Jul 05, 2014 Jerome rated it it was amazing
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
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
Mar 31, 2015 illias rated it it was amazing
Shelves: bio
******SPOILER ALERT: Caesar DIES*********
Reading books like this make you realize that dictatorships are not so bad as they are often portrayed. Caesar is a clear example of that. It is sometimes better to have a good dictator who knows what he is doing rather than a bunch of corrupt politicians.

But then again... dictatorships tend to go towards tyrannies and a tyrant will lose his head eventually. As it happened with Caesar. To be precise it would have been less painful I think if he had lost h
Feb 18, 2012 David rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-history
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
Joyce Lagow
Apr 20, 2010 Joyce Lagow rated it did not like it
Shelves: history
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
Jul 29, 2016 Vijai rated it it was amazing
I think reading biographies is a must. About these great generals. Not to know the hero they were but to realize that when one brushes the dust away, what you look at is the portrait of a human being with potential to do both right and wrong. Just like you and me.

In this, Adrian Goldsworthy has done an excellent job. Sticking to the point of only knowing more about Caesar and only him, we do away with the romanticism that Shakespeare seems to influence every biography that I've read of Caesar.
Mar 19, 2015 Edwin rated it it was amazing
Probably my favorite historical era, and Goldsworthy gives pretty much the definitive biography of perhaps the biggest character of them all. The best thing about this biography is that, as much as possible, he is writing it without the use of hindsight. Every event is discussed in the context of its own moment, not in the context of who Caesar later became or what he later did, so we get a better picture of what was happening as Caesar and his contemporaries would have seen it at the time. The ...more
James Murphy
Apr 03, 2012 James Murphy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 11, 2009 LeAnn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 22, 2016 Darren rated it it was amazing
I can't begin to comprehend the amount of research Goldsworthy did to write such a complete and clear story of Caesar. Excellent work that showcases a brilliant politician and general of Rome.
Feb 11, 2015 James rated it really liked it
This is a good, sober biography of Caesar, with the early years and the last years being the most successfully narrated. The long section on the Gallic campaigns, though in places very informative on the historical record, really starts to sag. By the time Caesar finally crosses the Rubicon, you'll have been waiting for him to do so for at least a couple hours. That said, the one area where I would really have preferred Goldsworthy to loosen up a little would be speculations about Caesar's motiv ...more
Oct 16, 2015 B A rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography
This book is a thorough and interesting history of the life of Caesar. I was surprised by how engaging it was, even though it stuck almost entirely to (often sparse) historical fact and only the most scholarly of speculation.
Since the events in this book happened 2000 years ago, a lot of details are missing, especially regarding Caesar's thoughts and personality. And yet a surprising number of very intimate details have been preserved, mainly through Caesar's Commentaries (on the Gallic and Civi
Blair Hodgkinson
Sep 24, 2015 Blair Hodgkinson rated it it was amazing
I found this a very informative and detailed study of the political and military career of Julius Caesar.

It is well-written and concise and I always admire historians who admit that there are thngs we just don't know about their subject. Goldsworthy offers theories, both his own and others, that meet the known facts, but he never attempts to pass these off as fact.

He looks at Caesar through the eyes of his contemporaries as represented in their writings and by studying Caesar's own writings. Th
John Pinegar
Jun 09, 2016 John Pinegar rated it really liked it
Goldsworthy delivers a riveting account of Gaius Julius Caesar's life and times that rivals the brilliance of Shakespeare's dramatic interpretation. Goldsworthy does two things that I believe add a great deal to this narrative. First, he takes a more sympathetic approach to analyzing Caesar's life, and always attempts to place him in the context of his peers. Second, and equally important, he never makes the mistake of assuming the inevitability of future actions. For example, in 60 BC Caesar ga ...more
Oct 09, 2015 Ryan rated it really liked it
Caesar: Life of Colossus
Adrian Goldsworthy
Read it in Hardcover at 583 pages with Bibliography, maps, appendix, etc.

Historic side pot marches on down the roads of Rome and we decided to dive into the 'Colossus' that was Julias. Goldsworthy, with a Doctor of Philosophy in Ancient Military History from Oxford and a long list of publications is well suited to write about Caesar.

Goldsworthy tells a masterful tale of the rise of Julias from a young age and his earlier political maneuvering, aggregatio
Pete daPixie
Mar 23, 2011 Pete daPixie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history-roman
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
Nov 03, 2012 Jeremy Perron rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 26, 2010 Randy rated it it was amazing
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
May 07, 2016 David rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
This is a fantastic, in depth biography of Julius Caesar. There's not much else to say. If you want to read a biography of Caesar, you'd be hard pressed to find a better one. There are LOTS of details. I admit, I found myself almost skimming here and there. I had just read a book covering the same period so I was familiar with the events. If you want a book on the fall of the republic with details on all the characters, go with something like Tom Holland's Rubicon. This one, as advertised, is a ...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
Jul 24, 2015 Lars rated it liked it
Shelves: historie
Fascinating man and period. The accounts of battles and military descriptions of legions moving around are a bit dull. I would like to hear more on Roman politics. 'Definitive' biography on Caesar? I think not.
Oct 15, 2008 Keith rated it really liked it
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
Sep 15, 2014 Ben rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 14, 2014 Carrie Slager rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-bought
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
Nov 25, 2012 Diana rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
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Goodreads Librari...: Please correct auhtor 3 102 Nov 02, 2015 01:53PM  
  • Augustus: The Life of Rome's First Emperor
  • The Roman Revolution
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  • The Fall of the Roman Empire: A New History of Rome and the Barbarians
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  • Scipio Africanus
  • The Spartacus War
  • Julius Caesar
  • Soldiers and Ghosts: A History of Battle in Classical Antiquity
  • From the Gracchi to Nero: A History of Rome from 133 BC to AD 68
  • Rome's Last Citizen: The Life and Legacy of Cato, Mortal Enemy of Caesar
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  • Caligula: A Biography
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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...

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“Napoleon was later to comment that it was better to have one bad commander than two good ones with shared authority.” 0 likes
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