Caesar against Rome: The Great Roman Civil War

Caesar against Rome: The Great Roman Civil War

Caesar against Rome: The Great Roman Civil War

Caesar against Rome: The Great Roman Civil War


Caesar Against Rome is an absorbing narrative of the four-year Roman Civil War that began with Caesar's crossing of the Rubicon in 49 BCE. Focusing always on Caesar, the book sketches a panorama of Roman society--the first society to display the ambition, greed, and intrigue of modern politics--in the last century before Christ. Caesar was a complex and contradictory figure, extraordinarily talented and extremely ambitious, but at the same time vain, careless, and inclined to be forgiving. While Caesar's unusual clementia was a major factor in winning popular support, soldiers, and towns to his side, it allowed virtually all enemy leaders to return to the battlefield against him.


Although the Romans suffered their first civil conflicts during the ninth decade BCE, the war that began with Julius Caesar's attack across the Rubicon River in 49 was the first that had a lasting effect upon their method of government. It had its genesis in the fears and ambitions of Caesar, Gnaeus Pompeius, and a few dozen others of the elite Senatorial class, including its newest member, Marcus Tullius Cicero. This is the story of that war and how it changed the unwieldy Roman oligarchy into a somewhat more efficient dictatorship that fluctuated from benevolent to murderous for the next five hundred years.

From its beginnings, ancient Rome applied itself to war and conquest, as did nearly every ancient society. Such a purpose does not necessarily result in civil war, but in Rome's case the repeated success of its warmaking machine created a strong impetus to internal strife. Its generals used their devastating armies to conquer and then annex territories ever further afield, until the collection of provinces and subject kingdoms reached a size that was almost impossible to govern. The Roman Senate, which had sole responsibility for foreign policy and warmaking, became reluctant to finance the large standing army necessary to police and defend this territory. The result was that control and support of Rome's armies gradually fell to its generals, who began to conscript their own troops, and then maintain and reward them with booty and captives from conquered lands.

This situation led to the rise of millionaire soldier-politicians, of whom Sulla, Caesar, and Pompey were the most notable examples. With great victories behind them, and powerful armies under their command, these generals were wont to have their way when they returned home. The resulting quarrels and confrontations with the Senate led to armed conflicts, of which the Civil War between Caesar and the Senatorial forces led by Pompey was the lengthiest and the most damaging to the shaky Republican government.

Those who are interested in the people and events of the late Republic are fortunate in that this period is among the best documented in all of Roman history. The major political and military figures (one and the same, except for Cicero) have been repeatedly portrayed by poets, historians, and biographers. The Civil War itself was the subject of several narrative histories and epic poems. But we are without what was probably the most comprehensive treat-

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