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Caesar and Christ

(The Story of Civilization #3)

4.40  ·  Rating details ·  1,524 ratings  ·  138 reviews
Volume 3 of the monumental Story of Civilization, CAESAR AND CHRIST depicts the rise of Rome from a crossroads town to empire. The world's first republic, Rome spread its civilization over the Mediterranean and western European world. Its long, slow crumbling and final collapse plunged Europe into darkness and chaos.

The Pax Romana broke some heads. Jews felt the scourge in
Hardcover, 752 pages
Published June 1st 1983 by Simon & Schuster (first published 1944)
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Average rating 4.40  · 
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 ·  1,524 ratings  ·  138 reviews

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Roy Lotz
Jul 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
Having just read and loved Durant’s Life of Greece (I’d decided to skip the first volume on Asia), I jumped right into the next installment; but now, after finishing, my enthusiasm for this series has cooled a little. The quality of this volume is similarly high, so perhaps the only reason I am less excited about this one is that I’m used to Durant’s writing by now. But perhaps my gut is speaking truthfully, and this volume really is weaker.

For me, Durant is at his worst when he is describing
Jun 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, classics, series
“A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself within.”

Caesar and Christ is the third volume of The Story of Civilization and covers the rise and fall of the Roman Empire. Not as colorful and lively as the second volume “The Life of Greece”, but as thorough, informative and revealing.
Mar 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Will review later.
Bob Nichols
Sep 19, 2009 rated it really liked it
Volume III, "Caesar and Christ," of Durant's Story of Civilization is, as were Volumes I and II, another impressive feat. Each volume suffers only, perhaps, from too much detail that can obscure his story and the lessons of history, although the mountain of information is good for those who want to dig into particular aspects of this historical period. Durant said once that the best prediction of the future is the past. That past, as this volume shows, is not pretty. "Caesar" is a history of Rom ...more
Andrew Obrigewitsch
Nov 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, educational
So much info packed into this book it's amazing, it gave me a completely new perspective on Rome, what Rome did and how it progresses through it's existence.

Highly recommended for all.
Dec 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
In the preface to Caesar and Christ Will Durant describes the approach to history that he uses in his Story of Civilization series

The method of these volumes is synthetic history, which studies all the major phases of a people’s life, work, and culture in their simultaneous operation. Analytic history, which is equally necessary and a scholarly prerequisite, studies some separate phase of man’s activity—politics, economics, morals, religion, science, philosophy, literature, art—in one civilizati
Feb 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, will-durant
I have completed another milestone in my autodidact study of history. Caesar and Christ, which I have been reading off and on for three years, is quite a bit more about Caesar and Rome than it is about Jesus Christ and the beginnings of Christianity but there is good reason for that.

Early on in this volume on page 56 Durant lays out his thesis for the book: "The evolution of customs, morals, and ideas produced in one age the Stoic Cato, in a later age the Epicurean Nero, and at last transformed
Don Stanton
Mar 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
None of Durant's books are an easy read. As one having a fairy extensive vocabulary, I am surprised about the number of times I needed to look up words. (e.g. pusillanimous = shy, timid, reserved)
All of his work is written at graduate level, with the this, "Caesar and Christ", being the smallest of his offerings. (672 pages sans notes)

I heartily endorse this book for those who love history. (If not, they would be better off with Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys.)

This work is very time absorbing, for
An Idler
Feb 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Not much Christ in here - not much Caesar, either, in comparison to the whole sweep of Roman history. Durant covers Rome's thought, arts, politics, wars, and people from its early days as a subject of Latin Italy to the rise of Constantine in the third century. He does so in an earnest, humane, and often poetic voice. You will learn a ton here, and you will have fun learning it.

Durant still has his problems. Though his Catholic intuition of fallen human nature restrains him from the fellow-trave
Mohamad Almokhllati
Jan 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Durant never fails to amaze me with his historical accounts and superb use of language.I wish he elaborated more on the invasion of Rome by thr Visgoths and the Vandals. Duranta argues that Zenobia was led in gold chains to Aurelian in Roma, while other historians claimed she commited suicide with dignity.
Kiel Bryant
Jun 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
What no "starred article" will ever achieve — because Wikipedia purges all "value judgments," and therefore all compelling prose, from its pages.

" . . . the typical educated Roman of this age was orderly, conservative, loyal, sober, reverent, tenacious, severe, practical. He enjoyed discipline, and would have no nonsense about liberty. He obeyed as a training for command. He took it for granted that the government had a right to inquire into his morals as well as his income, and to value him pu
Erik Graff
Jul 15, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Westerners
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: history
I purchased the Story of Civilization series from The Book of the Month Club, their come-on deal, while living at seminary in Manhattan. Twelve years later I finally got around to reading them, mostly as bedtime books over the course of several months. As a whole, the work is excellent, its weakest element being the first, and oldest, volume on "our Oriental heritage." Other than this, the rest of the series doesn't pretend to display anything but a western perspective.

Caesar and Christ was, for
Troy Soos
Jul 09, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Durant follows “The Life of Greece” with this history of ancient Rome. I am again struck that one man can write with such a combination of charm, enthusiasm, and erudition. He also has a sense of humor: the chapter titled “Roman Law” has an asterisk in the heading and a footnote that warns: “This chapter will be of no use to lawyers, and of no interest to others.”
Jonathan Mckay
40th book of 2021: History of Flesh and Bone

Greece may have been the freedom-loving philosophic pillar of western civilization, but it was Rome that built the empire of text and architecture that was able to withstand the dark ages until the renaissance. Like The Life of Greece Durant attempts to tell history as more than vicissitudes of politics and war, as if life for a thousand years had been nothing but taxation and death. This was a comparatively easy task for Greece, whose literatur
Poor Bjorn - Books & Experiments
Just like Rome wasn’t built in a day, this book is not read one either. It’s thousand pages covers almost all aspects of Roman civilization.
The broad scope is both it’s biggest strength and it’s weakness. While philosophy and statemanship holds my attention, Rome’s pottery and poetic traditions does not. This leads many highs and lows, but also to a holistic understanding of the workings of the empire.
📝 “A great civilization is not conquered from without before it has destroyed itself from wit
Aug 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: classics, history
Five years after his volume about Greece, the author comes back with another brilliant volume about the Roman history and the first few centuries of Christianity, again densely packed with all aspects of the civilization, full of vivid imagery, as opposed to a complete cronology of the consuls, empirors, and wars.

To me, some especially interesting parts include: the lesser known Itruscan history (amazingly, perspective and foreshortening were in their paintings), summaries about important Roman
Pat Rolston
Jul 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The journey through time continues with the consistency I would have hoped for from Will Durant. I now can enjoy a renewed perspective on the astonishing impact ancient Rome has had on our world. The singular event of holding the Rhine as a boarder preserving the rise of Gallic identity marks one of histories most seminal moments as identified by Mr Durant. He takes on the immensity of all aspects of history from diet of the locals to philosophy of the great, but flawed leaders in such detail an ...more
Ask Franck
Nov 30, 2020 rated it liked it
Fourth volume I read in this series. Seven to go, lol. Was close to giving this one four stars. To me it was the dullest and dreariest so far. But on occasion, like the other volumes, it truly rises to brilliant, majestic heights. Educational as always. I don't regret reading this. ...more
Jan 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
Well, done. And on to Vol IV. But before I start that, I'll finish a few books that came up in this volume, and read some of the original works he has referenced. I'm learning more about ancient history than I ever have before. ...more
May 26, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Iam awestruck by the magnificance that was Rome
Oct 23, 2019 rated it really liked it

"Cesar met Christ in the arena, and Christ won"

Durant appears to be coming into his own in this one, of course, he still doesn't know how to cite his sources, but his readers are hopefully used to it now that we're close to 5000 pages in. I will say that until around three quarters of the way through this book, I thought the title was rather a misnomer, as Christianity was barely referenced, however, he made up for it in the last act, spending quite a bit of time on the rise of the religion
Shawn Thrasher
May 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I bought his entire set at a used book sale, sans the last volume (which had not yet been read) and I'm making my way through them. I love Durant's style of writing, which is this wonderful combination of academic and witty. It's sometimes like being a cocktail party with a really smart professor of history who tells great stories, but is also full of amazing pithy bits of wisdom that you want to remember forever, or maybe even make a poster out of it. "Life’s final tragedy is unwilling continua ...more
Ramesh Naidu
Jul 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A marvellous bloodthirsty journey through the vicissitudes of Rome . As as aside I also found out why some of the founding fathers were so opposed to a standing army .
Heidi Burkhart
May 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The Durants were masters at compiling a very in-depth history of each period that they wrote about. I learn so much from their writing. Fantastic.
Eric Davidson
Oct 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Favourite Chapters to re-listen to: (Notes)

1) Sulla felix/the happy

'Men had long since called him Sulla Felix, Sulla the Happy, because he had won every battle, known every pleasure, reached every power, and lived without fear or regret. He married five wives, divorced four, and eked out their inadequacy with mistresses.'

2) De Rerum natura

Life is given us not in freehold but on loan, and for so long as we can make use of it. When we have exhausted our powers we should leave the table of life as
May 06, 2021 rated it really liked it
"This chapter will be of no use to lawyers and of no interest to others."

This line opens up Durant's chapter on the development and evolution of law during the Roman Empire in his magisterial 1944 "Caesar and Christ." While his tongue was planted firmly in his cheek with that line, Durant produces a comprehensive, literary, often poetic (when he's writing about poetry), look at the Roman empire and the late rise of the Christian Church.

Despite the title, this is really a book about Rome. That w
Keith Karr
Similar to the previous volume covering Greece, this volume is a comprehensive account or Roman history to Constantine. The same struggles and the same strengths unite both works. The historical narrative is uneven. For the better known periods and Emperors, Durant's treatment is adequate. Particularly during those frequent confusing transitional periods, the narrative is unable to make sense out of the chaos. Similarly, the treatment of Roman art and architecture struggles from the lack of illu ...more
Arno Mosikyan
Jan 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
I am in love with the verse and construct of Durant! How enchanting the history sounds under the touch of his pen. He proves that history is not only a description of motley of wars, conquest, killings and human destitute, but also beauty of life, art, literature, lifestyle and just a mere being. 8 books to go, 8 huge books, but I am full of passion and enthusiasm. You are my author Mr Durant!


Between Pontus and the Caucasus rose the troubled mountains of
Armenia, on whose crest, story
David  Cook
Oct 15, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
This is the weakest of the volumes so far. Durant is at his best describing grand ideas and philosophies and at his worst political institutions and conditions. And this volume has much of the later. Durant’s disdain for Rome is evident. Caesar" is a history of Rome, and that history is one of ambition and assassination, greed and plunder, rank and glory, debauchery and decay. "Christ" is the history of early Christianity with all its impurities. It is filled with paganism, righteousness and com ...more
Aug 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
52nd book of the year - The Story of Civilization: Caesar and Christ by Will Durant. Volume 3 of this 11-volume series begins with the Etruscan Prelude (800BC) and concludes with The Triumph of Christianity (AD 325). Durant's epilogue sums up Rome's history thus: "Rome was not destroyed by Christianity, any more than by barbarian invasion; it was an empty shell when Christianity rose to influence and invasion came." It wasn't really any one factor that led to Ancient Rome's rise or fall but a co ...more
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William James Durant was a prolific American writer, historian, and philosopher. He is best known for the 11-volume The Story of Civilization, written in collaboration with his wife Ariel and published between 1935 and 1975. He was earlier noted for his book, The Story of Philosophy, written in 1926, which was considered "a groundbreaking work that helped to popularize philosophy."

They were awarde

Other books in the series

The Story of Civilization (1 - 10 of 11 books)
  • Our Oriental Heritage (The Story of Civilization, #1)
  • The Life of Greece (The Story of Civilization, #2)
  • The Age of Faith (The Story of Civilization, #4)
  • The Renaissance (The Story of Civilization, #5)
  • The Reformation (The Story of Civilization #6)
  • The Age of Reason Begins (The Story of Civilization, #7)
  • The Age of Louis XIV (The Story of Civilization, #8)
  • The Age of Voltaire (The Story of Civilization, #9)
  • Rousseau and Revolution (The Story of Civilization, #10)
  • The Age of Napoleon (The Story of Civilization, #11)

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“Rome remained great as long as she had enemies who forced her to unity, vision, and heroism. When she had overcome them all she flourished for a moment and then began to die.” 47 likes
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