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Caesar: Hero Or Villain

Caesar: Hero or Villain?  

31 members have voted

  1. 1. Do you think Caesar was

    • 100% Hero
      2
    • 100% Villain
      3
    • More Hero than Villain
      21
    • More Villain than Hero
      5


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Lets not forget that Vercingetorix was a 'barbarian' who had the audacity to stand against the might of Rome, he was responsible for the death of many Roman soldiers, so Rome would expect or even demand that he be captured and brought back to Rome to be shown off to the people and then executed. Ok Caesar would keep him imprisoned for 5 years so he could show him of in his triumph but again Caesar is just playing the game, the mob loved a triumph and with Vercingetorix on show it makes the people love Caesar even more. Caesar wasn't the first or the last general to use this method of gaining popularity with the people of Rome.

 

During the civil war Caesar regularly showed his humane character by releasing and forgiving those who had chosen to stand against him, he could have quite easily put them to the sword but instead he either gave them the opportunity to join his ranks or let them walk away right back into the arms of Pompey to fight against him another day. Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus springs to mind here. Also his sadness upon recieving the head of Pompey and then his reaction afterwards shows that the bloodshed of fellow Romans wasn't what he wanted.

 

Ultimately Caesars leniency probably played a big part in his assassination. A good portion of the 'liberators' had at some time been forgiven by Caesar against the wishes of his close confidants. Who knows if Caesar had been a bit more ruthless in his climb to the top then...................... enough, I'm sick of what if's!! :D

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All of which means we're getting into the detail and complexity of his character as described by our sources. Humanity is an interesting aspect of Roman culture because it's so ambguous. On the one hand, displays of civilisation like civic benefice or manumission were applauded (and exploited to the point of legal restrictions), whereas a slave was 'not human', a 'talking tool', where entertainment was as I mentioned before heavily reliant on bloodsports or at least in the case ofg chariot racing, prone to extreme risk of death or injury.

 

The problem here of course is that we have modern ideals of humanity that we often unconciously apply to ancient civilisations that simply didn't think that way. At any rate, if we can say that the phrase 'humane' is potentially misapplied, then the question revolves around how ruthless Caesar was at achieving his political or military ambition.

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I struggle with Caesar.

 

On the one hand, he was a sublimely gifted man.

 

On the other hand, he embodies the arrogance of Rome. He conquered Gaul and invaded Britain not because they were a threat (they weren't) or that they had done anything (they hadn't) but simply for his own political glory.

 

I know that was typical of the time, and most of history for that matter. But I have to wonder how a guy could stand over a corpse strewn battlefield, watch a city being sacked and hear the screams of the raped and the dying, and not question his motives.

 

We tend to glorify Rome, but the fact is, the Pax Romana, to the extent that it even existed, was bloodily imposed over many peoples who would have preferred otherwise, and was basically a system of theft on the grandest scale.

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Must we hold rome fully accountable for the excess of a wiley ambitious caesar? Expanding frontiers tend to attract those with inner demons, and caesar feared death on the return from gaul and eventually rome meted that righteously out. Think of other border situations, like where the outsiders yearned to trade with rome or sign up for their army. Or when they would join with rome to defend against common enemy invaders.

 

Maybe rome gets blamed too much for things out of their control. Similar smearing happens today. Some u.s. armed incursions into canada were done by local militias to the horror of the federal govt, which had no troops to stop them yet got the blame. The trail of tears forced march of eastern u.s. indians to the west was forbidden by the supreme court, but president jackson brazenly and illegally did it anyway... he, rather than the country is to blame.

Edited by caesar novus

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I think that Caesar was a product of his time and his class.

That being said, I think he was remarkable gifted and far-sighted.  There is no doubt that the was a hero to the common working class Romans.

I think that cruelty was always his last choice and clemency his first.  To me that makes him more hero than villain.

That being said, when the situation called for ruthlessness, he could be ruthless with the best of them!!!

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Caesar was very quick to be cruel if he felt it necessary. He used Vercingetorix for propaganda before he had him executed. He tried the same with Assinoe, Cleopatra's younger sister who had tried to grab power briefly. The crowd didn't like seeing a young girl treated like a display piece and so Caesar had to abort his plans to prevent him being seen as cruel.

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His treatment of Vercingetorix was pretty standard by Roman law and tradition.  The man was too dangerous to be trusted as a client king, so he marched in Caesar's triumph, and then was taken to the Temple of Mars and strangled, as King Juba and many other before him had been.  Arsinoe is an interesting case - I think that it was Cleopatra who wanted her dead and Caesar who decided to spare her for political and PR reasons.  Interestingly, Antony had no such compunction and had her killed at Cleopatra's request.

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To digress.  It's a linguistic curosity that Caldrail (from the UK) named her 'Ass-inoe', and Indianasmith (from the good ol' US of A) named her 'Ars-inoe'.  I would've thought it'd be the other way round. :naughty:

 

NB For the record, Caldrail's entry was a trypo - he knows his stuff, and is well aware of the proper spelling of her name.  For those interested in her story, she was Arsinoe IV

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Arsinoe is an interesting case - I think that it was Cleopatra who wanted her dead and Caesar who decided to spare her for political and PR reasons.


It is true that Cleopatra wanted her dead for dynastic reasons. Caesar also wanted to despatch her, both to secure Cleopatra's favour and also to punish Arsinoe for attempting to grab power from under the noses of the Romans (You could also argue that he wanted to reduce the number of potential power rivals, secure divine favour in true Roman martial manner, or that having her killed would be a propaganda victory for his political career). Unfortunately the crowd rather sympathised with her so Caesar had her incarcertaed at the Temple of Artemis until Antony sent soldiers to desptach her for much the same reasons, although in Antony's case he was committed to a Roman/Egyptian dynasty and thus was less concerned about public opinion, but I suspect he wasn't so politically astute as Caesar anyway.

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