Caesar: Life of a Colossus, by Adrian Goldsworthy
New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006. Pp. viii, 583. Illus., maps, chron., gloss., notes, biblio., index. $35.00. ISBN:0-300-12048-6.
A detailed, comprehensive biography of the most famous
Roman of them all.Primarily an
historian of the Roman military experience, the author touches upon all aspects
of Caesar’s life, not merely his military career. So we have Caesar as a politician, author, advocate, lover,
logistician, jurist, soldier, reformer, propagandist, orator, author, manager,
and much else beside, usually in great depth.
The book also provides considerable detail on military, political, and
social life in the late Republic.
The section on Caesar’s early life is quite good with
a discussion about his upbringing, based on fragmentary information and
inference based on his background and class.
There is much more on Caesar’s early military experiences than is
customary; most works create the impression he had hardly any service at all
before heading off the conquer the Gauls.
There are, of course, a lot of rattling good battles
in here.Goldsworthy’s accounts of
Caesar’s numerous fights incorporated some of the most recent evidence,
bringing together not only ancient historical literature, but modern
archeological finds, and even the results of “living history” experimentation.
Goldsworthy attempts to get inside Caesar’s head,
trying to discern what Caesar was thinking at various times. Normally, this is not a useful exercise,
being largely speculative.But
Goldsworthy is pretty careful about it.
He uses hints in Caesar’s writings and that of others to guide his
conclusions, such as that Caesar may actually have intended to conquer the
Dacians, rather than the Gauls, but changed his mind based on the way events
The book is, of course, populated by numerous
interesting folks, Cicero, Pompey, Cleopatra, Mark Antony, Servilia, Brutus,
Cato, and lots more, all of whom are provided short, but interesting and often
Caesarhas some excellent illustrations, that help supplement
the discussion, and some very good maps.
Worth reading for anyone with an interest in military history.
Reviewer: A. A. Nofi
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