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There was a time, of course, when most of us would not only have known the life of Caesar backwards and forwards, but would have read him in the original Latin. Today though it's not even a safe assumption that everyone was exposed to Shakespeare's Julius Caesar in school. Still, what with the success of movies like Gladiator, tv shows like HBO's Rome, novels like Steven Saylor's Gordianus mysteries, those of Colleen McCullough and Conn Iggulden, and Robert Harris's Imperium, and the penchant of pundits for comparing 21st Century America to Imperial Rome, it seems fair to say that there's at least a mini-boom of interest in the ancients. Comes now Adrian Goldsworthy, who John Keegan famously described as, "one of our most promising young military historians today," with an invaluable biography of the great man himself.

As we've noted in the past, Mr. Goldsworthy once again demonstrates a real facility with describing convoluted military action so that the layman can follow it. This is important here because Caesar spent so much of his life at war. Indeed, the author raises the possibility that Caesar fought more major actions than any other leader in history. But Mr. Goldsworthy also shows a sure hand in describing the political machinations back in Rome, where Caesar was forced to battle just as hard as he ever did in Gaul. Topping it all off are insights into Caesar's personality, sexual conquests, and literary career as well as a solid grounding in the social and political milieu of his times. That he manages to handle all of these quite different themes so well, and presents them in such readable fashion, makes this a definitive biography.

Personally, I found the book to be an especially effective complement to Rome, and vice versa, because Mr. Goldsworthy gives you the facts and the battles that the show doesn't have the time, in the first case, or the money, in the latter, to present. The series, on the other hand, succeeds dramatically by showing the personalities and petty feuds that often drove events even moreso than any historical forces. If you're watching the show you'll find the book enhances your viewing experience greatly and if you're reading the book you'll find the series fleshes out the characters nicely.


Grade: (A+)


See also:

Adrian Goldsworthy (3 books reviewed)
Adrian Goldsworthy Links:

    -Adrian GoldsworthyWikipedia)
    -BOOK SITE: Caesar: Life of a Colossus by Adrian Goldsworthy (Yale University Press)
    -BOOK SITE: How Rome Fell (Yale University Press)
    -GOOGLE BOOK : How Rome Fell
    -AUDIO LECTURE: Adrian Goldsworthy: How Rome Fell (Adrian Goldsworthy, October 15, 2009, at the Central Library, 14 W. 10th Street, Kansas City, MO.
    -AUDIO INTERVIEW: Adrian Goldsworthy interview, "How Rome Fell: Death of a Superpower" (Marshall Poe, University of Iowa, 5-1-2009, New Books Network)
-ESSAY: Brutus says he was ambitious: On Caesar, Cato & the fall of the Roman Republic. (Adrian Goldsworthy, February 2023, New Criterion)
    -ESSAY: An Empire of the Mediterranean: There was more to Carthage than her defeat by Rome (ADRIAN GOLDSWORTHY, 7/23/11, WSJ)
    -ESSAY: Caesar: Diplomacy and power: How would four of the greatest war leaders in history have handled Iraq? (Adrian Goldsworthy, December 29, 2006, LA Times)
    -REVIEW: of THE CLASSICAL WORLD: An Epic History From Homer to Hadrian by Robin Lane Fox (Adrian Goldsworthy, Washington Post)
    -REVIEW: of Jonathan P. Roth, The Logistics of the Roman Army at War (264 BC - AD 235) (Adrian Goldsworthy, Bryn Mawr Classical Review)
    -REVIEW: of Greg Woolf, Rome: An Empire’s Story (Adrian Goldsworthy, National Interest)
    -VIDEO INTERVIEW: Adrian Goldsworthy (Book TV, 12/16/06)
    -AUDIO INTERVIEW: with Adrian Goldsworthy (Tom Ashbrook, 9/15/06, On Point)
    -PODCAST: with Adrian Goldsworthy (Yale University Press)
    -ESSAY: Decline and Fall. And Hope. (Dr. Edmund J. Mazza, February 03, 2013, Catholic World Report)
    -ESSAY: Why Rome Fell (Richard A. Gabriel, 7/3/2013, HistoryNet)
    -ESSAY: Gibbon, the Muses, and the Decline of Rome (Michael Auslin, National Review)
    -ARCHIVES: "adrian goldsworthy (Find Articles)
    -REVIEW: of How Rome Fell: Death of a Superpower by Adrian Goldsworthy (Diana Preston, Washington Post)
    -REVIEW: of How Rome Fell (Bruce S. Thornton, New Criterion)
    -REVIEW: of How Rome Fell (Hugh Elton, Trent University , Bryn Mawr Classical Review)
This is not a book that I could use in the classroom--too thick, too well-written, and perhaps most dangerously, too clear.

    -REVIEW: of How Rome Fell (Brandon Crocker, American Spectator)
    -REVIEW: of How Rome Fell (Marc Tracy, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of How Rome Fell (Peter Stothard, Times Literary Supplement)
    -REVIEW: of How Rome Fell (Dr. Philip Matyszak, UNRV History)
    -REVIEW: of How Rome Fell (About Ancient History)
    -REVIEW: of How Rome Fell (Ilya Somin, Volokh Conspiracy)
    -REVIEW: of How Rome Fell (Alexander Wilson, Armchair General)
    -REVIEW: of Caesar: Life of a Colossus by Adrian Goldsworthy (Tom Holland, The Spectator)
    -REVIEW: of Caesar (Adam Kirsch, NY Sun)
    -REVIEW: of Caesar (Anthony Everitt, Independent)
    -REVIEW: of Caesar (Christopher Hart, Independent)
    -REVIEW: of Caesar (Steve Coates, International Herald Tribune)
    -REVIEW: of Caesar (Dave Gagon, Deseret Morning News)
    -REVIEW: of Caesar (David Walton, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)
    -REVIEW: of Caesar (A.A. Nofi, Strategy Page)
    -REVIEW: of Caesar (The Week)
    -REVIEW: of Caesar (N.S. Gill,
    -REVIEW: of Caesar (Irene Hahn,
    -REVIEW: of Caesar (Blake D. Dvorak, Washington Times)
    -REVIEW: of Caesar (Pete Stothard, Globe & Mail)
    -REVIEW: of Caesar (Noonie Minogue, The Tablet)
    -REVIEW: of Caesar (Daily Telegraph)
    -REVIEW: of Caesar (Tara Pepper, Newsweek)
    -REVIEW: of Caesar (Tracy Lee Simmons, Washin gton Post)
    -REVIEW: of How Rome Fell: Death of a Superpower By Adrian Goldsworthy (Brandon Crocker , American Spectator)
    -REVIEW: of (
    -REVIEW: of IN THE NAME OF ROME by Adrian Goldsworthy (Allan Massie, The Spectator)
    -REVIEW: of The Roman Army at War 100 BC-AD 200 by Adrian K. Goldsworthy (Dr. Randall S. Howarth, Bryn Mawr Classical Review)
    -REVIEW: of Roman Warfare by Adrian Goldsworthy (Ashton Boone, Encompass: A Journal of Military History)
    -REVIEW: of Phillip & Alexander by Adrian Goldsworthy (NB)

Book-related and General Links:

-ESSAY: The long death of the Roman republic: Julius Caesar’s murder is often seen as the event that ushered in the age of emperors. Yet – writes Shushma Malik – structural weaknesses had plagued Rome’s republic long before his death (Dr Shushma Malik, January 2, 2024, History Extra)
    -ESSAY: The unmaking of Julius Caesar: A landmark BBC/PBS documentary attempts to tell Julius Caesar's story in contemporary terms. In doing so, it obscures and simplifies a more complex — and fascinating — history. (ANDREW SILLETT, 12/12/23, Englesberg Ideas)
    -ESSAY: THE ABUSE OF HISTORY: RORY STEWART’S CAESAR (T.P. Wiseman, December 2023, Antigone)
    -ESSAY: A Deadly Underestimation: The Dueling Words of Brutus and Antony (W. Winston Elliott III, October 2nd, 2023, Imaginative Conservative)
    -REVIEW: of Uncommon Wrath: How Caesar and Cato’s Deadly Rivalry Destroyed the Roman Republic by Josiah Osgood (Joseph Epstein, Washington Times)
    -ESSAY: What was the Impact of Julius Caesar’s Murder?: Julius Caesar was killed on 15 March 44 BC. We’ve heard about the ‘Ides of March’ – but what happened next? (History Today, March 2023)
    -ESSAY: JULIUS CAESAR’S LAST WORDS (J.S. Ubhi, March 2023, Antigone)