The Assassination of Julius Caesar by Michael Parenti

Book Review by Germanicus

The book titled "The Assasination of Julius Caesar" by Michael Parenti, makes for compelling reading. It provides a detailed account of the events leading up to, and including, the fatefull Ides of March.

Written from what I can only term a modern day "plebian" perspective, Parenti separates the book into chapters which compliment each other. They range in subject from discussions about Caesar the Popularis, to Cicero.....the conservative but brilliant orator who's position at the time was certainly anti Caesar, and whose same position has been adopted time and time again by historians ever since those fatefull days of the late republic.

Parenti's basic arguement revolves around this historical pre-occupation with Cicero, and also around the fact that most of the Roman historians from later periods whose work has survived, adopted his position due to their patrician bias. Parenti also maintains that later writers such as Gibbon, were equivalent in their own societies to Roman patricians, being of the upper or educated and aristocratic classes. He refers to these writers as "Gentlemen Historians". Parenti believes this to be the reason for the overwelming amount of liturature condemning Caesar as a power mad demagogue and even goes so far as to say Caesar never wanted absolute power, and would have stepped down from the dictatorship eventually. What I found particularly interesting was his discusions of what has commonly referred to as the Roman "mob", being equivalent in many ways according to Parenti to the modern working class.

The author quotes some excellent resources to back up his position, a great one from Cicero denounces craftspeople "the artisans and shopkeepers and all that kind of scum". The book is absolutely littered with quotes of this kind from Cicero to Cassius Dio and Suetonius, condeming the general population as brainless rabble on the one hand and on the other...inadvertantly recording specific instances where history shows that they were not. We are told of the crowd widely critiscising Caesar for the great amount of killing in Games organised by him, of them booing Pompeius Magnus in the Arena for killing Elephants, which seemed to scream out for the crowd to help them. Parenti covers all the great Popularis leaders like the brothers Gracchi and Marius, and the strict aristocratic opposition to them, which Caesar was to stand so spectacularly against.

While I found the book a really great read, and could not put it down, one is able to see that Parenti is writing from a essentially marxist position. I found I agreed with him on many of the basic contentions contained in "The Assasination of Julius Caesar" but admit that I need to follow up this great read with an equally great read of Cicero, and some of the other "Gentleman Historians". If I am to make up my own mind on this touchy subject, I'll need all the help I can get !

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