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Caesar: Life of a Colossus

4.29  ·  Rating details ·  5,770 ratings  ·  361 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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4.29  · 
Rating details
 ·  5,770 ratings  ·  361 reviews

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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
Mar 04, 2011 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'
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
Matti Karjalainen
Tulin, näin ja luin.

Englantilaisen historioitsijan Adrian Goldsworthyn "Caesar" (Gummerus, 2014) on tiiliskiven paksuinen elämäkerta kenties maineikkaimmasta koskaan eläneestä roomalaisesta, jonka nimen tunnistavat nekin, jotka eivät historiaa noin muuten harrasta.

Gaius Julius Caesar (n. 100 eKr - 44 eKr) jätti jälkensä maailmanhistoriaan eräänä kaikkien aikojen menestyksekkäimmistä sotapäälliköistä, joka muun muassa kunnostautui valtaamalla Gallian (pientä kylällistä ei tässä teoksessa mainita)
Mar 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bio, favorites
******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
Gary Foss
Aug 23, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, history
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
Heinz Reinhardt
Feb 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Gaius Julius Caesar is the most famous Roman to have ever lived. In part this is because his own writings have survived and are known to us, and he was himself a very good writer. However, it was also the sort of man that he was as well.

Caesar was an intellectual, a politician of rare genius, a dutiful soldier and Roman patriot, an inveterate and shameless ladies man who slept with the wives of numerous other men and the famous Cleopatra, and a man who knew how to turn a phrase to manipulate th
Aug 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Joyce Lagow
Apr 20, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 01, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, biography
Many people here have done detailed reviews of this so I am not going to go into that much detail. If you divide this book into thirds, the first third dealing with life in Caesar's time, the development and education of a patrician male, etc. was very well done and interesting. It helps greatly to explain the behaviors of the main characters throughout the rest of the book. The middle third bogs down after a good start. It deals with Caesar's campaigns, particularly the conquest of Gaul. Unfort ...more
Sep 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Eloquent and incredibly well-researched biography of a somewhat familiar historical figure. Provides an astonishing amount of new insights about this multifaceted and absorbing person.
Jul 19, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
This book begins with a description of the politics of late republican Rome in the early first century (BCE.) It details Caesar's rise through the complexities of assorted offices. The main emphasis is on Caesar the military leader including good descriptions (with maps) of most of the crucial battles and the all important logistical issues. There are well balanced characterizations of both Pompey and Caesar (showing the latter as definitely less brutal). The only negative was that there was not ...more
It's a good introduction but, like many classical biographies, remains highly speculative about the personal life of Gaius and especially his early life...because of this is of limited value in understanding the man. But it remains a good and useful introduction to not only the man but also the age of the civil wars in Roman history and the death of the Republic...important information for the Post-Bush Age.
Tudor Ciocarlie
Helga Cohen
"Caesar" is a very well written reconstruction of the life of Caesar. Goldsworthy does an excellent job in tracing the life of this extraordinary Roman leader from his early life until his assassination. His life is so well known, as everyone has heard of something about this extraordinary man, including Cleopatra and the Ides of March. Goldsworthy gives a vivid portrait of the times in which he lived.

We see Caesar in the daily lives of the Romans and the continuity of Roman culture and politics
Jeremy Perron
Nov 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An exceptional biography. Gripping yet scholarly.
James Murphy
Jan 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Roman Clodia
Reliable, authoritative and... safe?

With Adrian Goldsworthy you know you're in competent academic hands (unlike, for example, 'popular' historians like Bettany Hughes or Tom Holland) and so can rely on his reading of the sources and the scholarship on Caesar. But this isn't by any means a dry, academic tome - Goldsworthy writes well for a lay audience and wears his (intense) learning very lightly. His admiration for Caesar shines through (something which, perhaps, he has to dampen a little in hi
Dec 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 11, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Daniel Kukwa
Sep 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This is door-stopper history to end all history. As detailed, and informative, and compelling as any account of Julius Caesar you're likely to find...and frankly, I doubt anyone will come up any time soon with something that will beat the quality of this scholarship & writing. It can feel overwhelming at times...but Julius Caesar was an epic, overwhelming man, and his story can't feel anything BUT overwhelming and epic. Magnificent stuff.
This was an informative history of Caesar - truly greatly expanding my knowledge and understanding of the man
For me the difficulty of the book was that there were so many characters to try to understand (I failed to do so) and keep track of. It might have been easier if there were somehow an equivalent of a family tree or similar illustration for each of the characters.
But I enjoyed the book although it was a slow read for me as I wanted to try to understand it/him.
Part of the problem may have
Feb 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is an excellent biography of an important historical figure. Goldsworthy not only gives us details of Caesar's life, he places him in his historical context giving the reader glimpses of the wider Roman and Ancient western world of the time. He also discusses Caesar's legacy and attempts to separate legend from fact. This is very difficult when dealing with ancient primary and secondary sources. He also uses archaeology when appropriate such as the siege of Alesia, which, by the way, confir ...more
Katie Bayford
Apr 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A phenomenal and wide-reaching biography of Caesar and the late Roman Republic at large. Ambitious, scholarly, full of notable insights, analysis, and brilliant scandal.

Did you know that when Caesar was once accused of aiding a conspiracy, he was handed a letter in the Senate which he refused to read out? His arch-rival Cato, smelling blood, put more and more pressure on Caesar to read the contents of the letter to the gathered men, growing apopletic as the latter demurred from reading it aloud
Blake Charlton
Jan 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
an expansive biography of a man who is so central to western history. the most curious part of reading this is realizing how much of a nothing cesar was; he had no original ideas, champions no great causes, but was merely a very successful politician and general. personally, I was reading to try to understand what he understood of his epilepsy (or, some would argue, cerebrovascular disease), but of that there’s passingly little recognition. he seem to have no conception of himself as someone enc ...more
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The History Book ...: WE ARE OPEN - CAESAR - BOOK AS A WHOLE - FINAL THOUGHTS - Spoiler Thread 9 74 Jul 30, 2018 01:32PM  
The History Book ...: WE ARE OPEN - CAESAR - WEEK THIRTEEN - May 21st - May 27th - Chapter Twenty-Three: The Ides of March and Epilogue - (pages 490-519) ~ No Spoilers, Please 13 31 Jul 10, 2018 01:56PM  
The History Book ...: WE ARE OPEN - CAESAR - WEEK TWELVE - May 14th - May 20th – Chapter Twenty-One: Africa, September 47 – May 46 BC and Chapter Twenty-Two: Dictator, 46-44 BC - (pages 448 - 489) ~ No Spoilers, Please 14 32 Jul 05, 2018 11:55AM  
The History Book ...: WE ARE OPEN - CAESAR - WEEK ELEVEN - May 7th - May 13th – Chapter Nineteen: Macedonia, November 49 – August 48 BC and Chapter Twenty: Cleopatra, Egypt and the East, Autumn 48 – Summer 47 BC - (pages 405 - 447) ~ No Spoilers, Please 11 31 Jun 28, 2018 12:57PM  
The History Book ...: WE ARE OPEN - CAESAR - WEEK TEN - April 30th - May 6th -> Chapter Seventeen: The Road to the Rubicon and Chapter Eighteen: Blitzkrieg: Italy and Spain, Winter-Autumn, 49 BC - (pages 358 - 404) ~ No Spoilers, Please 16 33 Jun 25, 2018 07:41PM  
The History Book ...: WE ARE OPEN - CAESAR - WEEK NINE - April 23rd – April 29th – Chapter Fifteen: The Man and the Hour: Vercingetorix and the Great Revolt, 52 BC and Chapter Sixteen: ‘All Gaul is Conquered’ - (pages 315 - 357) ~ No Spoilers, Please 13 33 Jun 10, 2018 01:00PM  
The History Book ...: CAESAR - GLOSSARY - Spoiler Thread 45 72 Jun 04, 2018 02:44PM  
  • Augustus: The Life of Rome's First Emperor
  • The Fall of the Roman Empire: A New History of Rome and the Barbarians
  • The Roman Revolution
  • The Ghosts of Cannae: Hannibal & the Darkest Hour of the Roman Republic
  • Marcus Aurelius
  • Caesar: A Biography
  • The Peloponnesian War
  • The Spartacus War
  • Chronicle of the Roman Emperors: The Reign-by-Reign Record of the Rulers of Imperial Rome
  • Alexander the Great
  • Caesar's Legion: The Epic Saga of Julius Caesar's Elite Tenth Legion and the Armies of Rome
  • Scipio Africanus:  Greater than Napoleon
  • The Last Generation of the Roman Republic
  • From the Gracchi to Nero: A History of Rome from 133 BC to AD 68
  • Soldiers and Ghosts: A History of Battle in Classical Antiquity
  • Carthage Must Be Destroyed: The Rise and Fall of an Ancient Civilization
  • Rome's Last Citizen: The Life and Legacy of Cato, Mortal Enemy of Caesar
  • Hannibal
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
“Napoleon was later to comment that it was better to have one bad commander than two good ones with shared authority.” 2 likes
“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).” 2 likes
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