Week 9: Thursday, December 8, 2016
Julius Caesar

LECTURE

Julius Caesar was born in 100 BC and he died March 15, 44, BC.  Caesar may be the most controversial figure in all of European history. For two thousand years, hIs life and death have represented the fate of the Roman Republic and the onset of the Roman Empire.  The fate of the Republic has often been the most important issue of debate in various periods of European history, including our own US history.  During any crisis of democracy, whether in Rome itself, or during the many later political crises, (1215 and the Magna Carta, the crises of the Tudor century, the crises of the Stuart era)—in each one of these moments when Western democracies have debated the true nature of political health in the West—debate has often gone back to Julius Caesar: Was he a tyrant, or was he a failed savior of the Roman Republic?  In 60 BC, and 50 BC, this was exactly the debate among Romans.  And then in 44 BC, the debate was ended with a sword.  For our study of the Republic, we must evaluate Julius Caesar and his life and career, and we must also try to decide what happened.  Was he the final destructive last chapter of the 500 year old Roman Republic?  HIs life and his debate with Cicero are the most important sources for debating such an issue.

SLIDES

Julius Caesar on film

REQUIRED READING

Michael Grant, History of Rome, Part VI, Chapter 12: “Caesar”

RECOMMENDED READING

Julius Caesar,

The Conquest of Gaul,

Penguin,

ISBN 0140444335

Goldsworthy presents a wonderful exploration of Caesar's life, including his military and political conquests, revealing his personality in a sympathetic telling. Many, many books have been written about Caesar and his time. This one is very accessible and worthwhile, and, I think, the best.

Adrian Goldsworthy,

Caesar: Life of a Colossus,

Yale University Press,

ISBN 0300126891

Philip Freeman,

Julius Caesar,

Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (May 14, 2009),

ISBN 0743289544

From Publishers Weekly

Historian Freeman (The Philosopher and the Druids: A Journey Among the Ancient Celts) paints a flattering portrait of Caesar in this admirable biography, exalting his cunning, military skill, political insights and allegiance to the plebeian class. In fast-paced prose and detailed historical sketches, Freeman traces Caesar's life from early youth onward, covering his marriage and service as a priest (or pontifex); his election to pontifex maximus in 63 B.C.; his command of Roman forces in the Gallic Wars; his ascension to leader of the republic; and his famous assassination. Drawing on Caesar's own writings, Freeman portrays him as a brilliant military strategist whose defense of Roman land in the Gallic Wars extended the rule of Rome from Italy to the Atlantic. Caesar returned to Italy in 49 B.C. and became dictator three years later, seeking to improve the republic through civic reforms, including the taking of a proper census, the building of a library, the codification of Roman law and the conversion of Rome to a solar calendar. Although Freeman's biography reveals little new information about Caesar, his cultural and historical knowledge bring the emperor to life and humanize him in a way no writer before him has succeeded in doing. (May)
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