Julius Caesar: The Colossus of Rome

Julius Caesar: The Colossus of Rome

Julius Caesar: The Colossus of Rome

Julius Caesar: The Colossus of Rome


Julius Caesar offers a lively, engaging, and thoroughly up-to-date account of Caesar's life and times. Richard Billows' dynamic and fast paced narrative offers an imaginative recounting of actions and events, providing the ideal introduction to Julius Caesar for general readers and students of classics and ancient history.

The book is not just a biography of Caesar, but an historical account and explanation of the decline and fall of the Roman Republican governing system, in which Caesar played a crucial part. To understand Caesar's life and role, it is necessary to grasp the political, social and economic problems Rome was grappling with, and the deep divisions within Roman society that came from them. Caesar has been seen variously as a mere opportunist, a power-hungry autocrat, an arrogant aristocrat disdaining rivals, a traditional Roman noble politician who stumbled into civil war and autocracy thanks to being misunderstood by his rivals, and even as the ideal man and pattern of all virtues. Richard A. Billows argues that such portrayals fail to consider the universal testimony of our ancient sources that Roman political life was divided in Caesar's time into two great political tendencies, called "optimates" and "populares" in the sources, of which Caesar came to be the leader of one: the "popularis" faction.

Billows suggests that it is only when we see Caesar as the leader of a great political and social movement, that had been struggling with its rival movement for decades and had been several times violently repressed in the course of that struggle, that we can understand how and why Caesar came to fight and win a civil war, and bring the traditional governing system of Rome to an end.


Caesar is a historical figure who has never failed to fascinate, and the ending of the Roman Republican governing system is likewise a topic that has never failed to fascinate. Many, many historians, both academic professionals and enthusiastic amateurs, have written about one or both of these topics, creating a huge bibliography on the subject. Since it has been my aim to write for a wider audience than just fellow scholars of ancient Rome, I have not in this book followed the scholar’s habit of carrying on a running debate with earlier scholars in notes. Instead, I use the notes as a guide to the ancient source material on which our knowledge of Caesar and the later Roman Republic is based. At the end of this book is a bibliography which lists the more interesting and/or important books and articles (in my opinion) relevant to these two related subjects, and anyone sufficiently interested can pursue any of the subjects raised in the course of this book via the works listed there. The works in the bibliography (or most of them) have had some influence on the development of my ideas on these topics. Here, in this Preface, I offer to the reader a brief discussion of the most important ancient writers and texts that form the basis for our knowledge, and of the modern historical works that have to my mind been the most important contributions to our understanding of and ideas about Caesar and the collapse of Rome’s traditional governing system: these are certainly the ones that have contributed most to my understanding and ideas.

By far the most important of our sources are those contemporary, or near contemporary, with the events of the period under discussion – primarily 100 to 44 BCE. Of these contemporary sources, the most important by far is Cicero. Marcus Tullius Cicero was the dominant writer and intellectual of his time, perhaps in all of Roman history, as well as being one of the most influential political leaders of his day. We possess a huge collection of his private and public letters, addressed to his close friend Atticus, to his brother Quintus Cicero, and to a host of other friends and associates, which give us a unique insight into almost every aspect of Roman politics and society, and form without doubt our most important source material. In addition, we have many public speeches Cicero delivered, dealing with or referring to a host of . . .

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