Erik's Reviews > Caesar: Life of a Colossus

Caesar by Adrian Goldsworthy
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M 50x66
's review
Oct 24, 2008

really liked it
Read in October, 2008

This is the first big fat biography I've read in many years, and I highly enjoyed it. Goldsworthy was authoritative without overreaching; if the historical record was spare on certain points, he said so. I ended the book with a much more positive impression of Caesar than when I started it. I'd always thought of him as being obsessed with power, and that was about it. And while that was of course a key part of his life, I was impressed to learn the extent to which he inspired loyalty in his troops, whom he generally treated very well. Also, while he could be ruthless at times in dealing with his enemies, he was perhaps first inclined to show them clemency -- not necessarily because he was gentle, but because it was the best way to secure peace and enhance his rule. The events leading up to crossing the Rubicon surprised me as well. The way Goldsworthy tells it, there was far more to this story than a naked power grab. From Caesar's perspective, actions by Pompey and the Roman Senate left him no choice. Finally, I learned that Caesar actually did a pretty good job as dictator. He took his responsibilities seriously. And it wasn't so much what he did with his power, as the fact that he had so much of it, that led to his assassination.
The book was too heavy on the military battles for my taste, and Goldsworthy's writing style could be a bit dry. But on the whole, it's an illuminating portrait of one of the most fascinating figures in history. I wouldn't have read it if I hadn't traveled to Italy this year, but I'm glad I did.

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