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Biographies have an in-built problem. They cover a person's entire life but, since that person generally does not do much worth recording until he or she becomes an adult, the part covering their childhood tends to be both boring and uninformative. Some people's early lives are interesting but most, like Caesar's, are generally bland and undocumented and the book ends up trying to fill space with no real information about the person and only speculation about the world in which he or she lived. Given that, Caesar is no better than most as a description of Julius Caesar's early life.
The book does pick up as Caesar enters politics and becomes truly interesting and informative when Caesar goes on campaign in Spain. From that point I found the book hard to put down and more informative than any other book I have read on either this period in Rome's history or on Caesar's life. Given how long ago the events in this book took place Mr Goldsworthy has done an excellent job of telling the reader when events are speculative and presenting not only what he believes to be the correct re-telling of what happened but also presenting other views and the reasons he believes the ones he specifies are the correct interpretations. This alone makes this book worth reading.
Once Caesar has gone on campaign with the Army the description of the events and battles he took part in go a long way to explaining why he is considered to be such a colossus of an individual. All of Caesar's battles are covered as well as an explanation as to why these were important to Rome and why Caesar was considered such a great general.
Caesar's return to Rome, his crossing of the Rubicon with his Army, his subsequent campaigns in the civil war and his terms as dictator are also covered in detail and the book only gets more interesting as it describes the events leading to Caesar's death. There is also a small section covering the subsequent civil war, the rise of Augustus and the end of the Republic although, as Mr Goldsworthy makes clear, the Republic had actually ended earlier than the assumption of the position of emperor by Augustus.
One of the things Mr Goldsworthy has done in this excellent book is present the world of that time as a real place with real people and at no time did I start thinking of Caesar and his world as anything other than composed of real living beings. It is easy when reading about life in the ancient world to think of places like Troy or Sparta as fictional locations rather than real live cities with real live people. Not so with this book.
Mr Perkins has done an excellent job in the narration and the book is well worth listening to if you are interested in the final years of the Roman Republic.
31 of 31 people found this review helpful
Every March 15 I think about Julius Caesar, but since I only have a few thoughts, I decided that a 25 hour book would fill some gaps. As expected, it’s jam-packed with military battles and the political intrigue of the Roman Senate. But this book also shares details that left me in shock. For example, there was the widespread practice among Roman Senators of seducing a rival’s wife to gain a political advantage. Also, as a demonstration of leniency following a bloody battle, to cut off the hands of the defeated army and setting the soldiers free. I was also surprised by Caesar and Cleopatra’s motivations for becoming friends with benefits. And finally, the narration is delivered with an academic voice that frequently reminds us that demeaning, mutilating and using others was very acceptable in the ancient world.
44 of 46 people found this review helpful