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83 of 86 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant biography of Caesar that aims to cover all his facets
Adrian Goldsworthy is known to me as a writer of exceptional ability, especially when covering complex subjects. In this biography, he ambitiously attempts to cover Caesar the politician, Caesar the General and as much of Caesar the man that's available to history (sadly, very little). Many biographies concentrate on his military campaigns at the expense of his political...
Published on 9 Sept. 2006 by J. L. Ashurst

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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars good craft no creativity
Praise for the other works of this author induced me to buy this book. Caesar here does not come across as a colossus, but as a busy man moving from A to B, sometimes willy-nilly. Generally sympathetic to his hero, Goldsworthy demonstates knowledge of the basic primary sources without showing major reflective/critical powers. That is to say, I was disappointed by a lack...
Published on 23 Oct. 2008 by arbiter


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A superb biography, 28 May 2010
By 
John Lambeth - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Caesar (Paperback)
This book gives an excellent background to the life and times of Caesar, from his beginnings, through the military campaigns, to his poltical career ending in the dictatorship. Written objectively, Goldsworthy brings one of the giants of history to life, yet no prior reading is necessary to enjoy this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars the life and times of Julius Ceasar, 28 Dec. 2014
By 
markr - See all my reviews
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This is a well written, superbly researched, and for the most part very entertaining account of the life and times of Julius Caesar. The writing conveys some sense of what life must have been like as a Roman with ambition over 2000 years ago, and explains why Caesar's life and death continue to capture the imagination to this day.

Adrian Goldsworthy has presented here a broadly positive case for Caesar and his accomplishments as a military leader and as a successful politician of his times. It is said that all political careers end in failure, and to be murdered by one's own side can hardly, ultimately, be seen as anything else...but the legend lives on and this book goes a long way to explaining why.

Well worth reading
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What's There Not To Like About This Caesar?, 5 Sept. 2010
This review is from: Caesar (Paperback)
What's there not to like about Adrian Goldsworthy's Caesar? First, it's too long and his editor should have been a tad more liberal with the Delete button. A bit too much waffle as Goldsworthy debates the whys and wherefores of Caesar's many decisions. Secondly, the writing style appeared to me dumbed down as if aimed at your average teen. My preference is for something more literary than the average novel. This is however about personal style and other readers may well like the book just the way it is.

Now that the "bad" stuff is out of the way what about the good stuff? First, this is a terrific biography. It really is. You get more the measure of the MAN rather than the villain. Goldsworthy does a superb job of painting a picture of what it was like to grow up in pre-Augustan Rome as part of the aristocracy - the pressure to emulate one's illustrious forebears, the necessity of preserving and enhancing one's dignitas and auctoritas, the hunger for wealth and fame, the corruption to get elected, the race for high office from a young age, the treachery of politics and so on. By the end of the book you accept that Caesar was neither more ambitious nor more of a villain than the best of his contemporaries. He was just more successful and perhaps luckier at the game. He played his cards supremely well and his genius did the rest. There's no doubt, of course, that the man was a genius.

The second thing I gelled with was the idea that there was nothing foreordained about Caesar's rise to Dictator. Since I do not believe in God or Fate or Destiny this is more in keeping with my philosophy. That definitely made me a sympathetic reader and won me round to Caesar's side. Like he (was supposed to have) said before he crossed the Rubicon, "The die is cast". In other words, let the future take its course. That's all we can do.

Next thing I liked was the attention given to Caesar's near misses. He could have been executed by Sulla. He could have been killed in more than ten years of war. He could have been assassinated by his many well-connected mistresses. He could have been sidelined because of his epileptic fits. His closest generals could have mutinied and killed him. He had his share of war-time blunders. Yet, the man kept his nerve. He didn't rush to the nearest Starbucks and sulk over a cup of coffee. He learnt from his mistakes, adjusted his strategy and moved on. True, he exploited people using intimidation, influence and money to coerce and cajole and he was also a gifted orator and had charisma in his arsenal. But then he wasn't a prophet and you don't get to heaven by playing for power.

Before this book I did not even know the man was a respected writer and wrote very highly regarded commentaries of his wars. Those I've since bought. All in all I much enjoyed reading Goldsworthy's book. Am I in love with "Caesar"? You can say that, at least with the hero. With the man, who knows? Perhaps if I'd been one of his victorious soldiers I would have been. There's something special about that Caesar.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The biography of Caesar, 22 Feb. 2015
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This review is from: Caesar (Paperback)
Gaius Julius Caesar is a complex and controversial figure, who stands out like virtually no other in history (with only Alexander and Napoleon standing with him). From one of Rome's oldest and noble families, great things were expected of him, and great things he achieved, though not in the way that people thought.

Born in tumultuous times of the Republic, with Rome having massively expanded, yet her institutions and social structure not grown to meet these new challenges, the Roman people were becoming more divided and fractured over those who saw the need for change and those that did not. Caesar soon identified that his greatest chance for power and prestige and also from a general desire to make Rome stronger and better was to align with the People. Once started down this path though, there could be no turning back, the stakes grew to be far too high on all sides with fear and distrust abound.

So Caesar in due course became Consul of Rome, became a governor of a province, from which he conquered Gaul and in the process became so rich and powerful that many feared he would use that strength to become king. This then led to the Civil War and him becoming Dictator (a position in Roman politics) and then finally his assassination.

Adrian Goldsworthy writes an incredible biography about Caesar. His style has evolved since some of his earlier works, and he is able to bring to life the great man, both the good and the bad (for example Caesar cuckolded many of the men of Rome's leading circles). He goes in detail not just about what is happening to Caesar, but also many of the other leading lights and the wider Roman world, yet he does so in an easy to read style which does not become slow or boring. We get plenty of maps to show key places and battles in the many campaign's, and also some nice pictures such as busts of various Romans.

All in all a must read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling, 11 Jan. 2008
By 
G. Alexander (North Yorkshire, UK) - See all my reviews
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I have read a number of books about Julius Caesar, the first being Boney Fuller's work in the 1970s, but this may be the last as it was certainly the best. Goldsworthy's clear writing style runs logically and throughly through Caesar's life. (Unlike the work of Fuller, and others, this book is no thematic cesspool!) It illuminates Caesar's failings and qualities, especially his ability to conquer by blending ruthless force with pragmatic politics and his great skill in resonating through the layers of Roman society. Compelling!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing book without a doubt, 2 April 2011
This review is from: Caesar (Paperback)
I love this book, it is absolutely brilliant and a very big help to me! as a roman boffin and author this book is great.
luckily i found this selling for 30p at my library so without a second thought i grabbed it and am nearlly half way through. It's givern me so much insight into the roman world i didnt know existed and some handy names for my future chracters in my own series!
this is perfect.

All those who like Caesar should definitly by it. Its well worth the price. especially at 30p! lol

have fun now
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not to be missed, 2 Jan. 2011
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This review is from: Caesar (Paperback)
The author presents not only a comprehensive and balanced view of Julius Caesar, but also draws us into daily life within the Roman Empire. The book is not so much a catalogue of historical facts, rather a video of what it was to live then, and if you are looking for insight into Roman life in the first century BC then look no further, this book has it all. Easy to read, yet never patronizing. Highly recommendable!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars absolutely first rate critical bio, in full context, from the evidence, 12 April 2011
By 
rob crawford "Rob Crawford" (Balmette Talloires, France) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Caesar (Paperback)
This is one of the best biographies I have ever read, from the first Roman period that offered the richest assortment of literary sources and archeological evidence. It covers all of the things that Caesar did, from his political career to his military exploits. Every single page is fresh and engaging, never bogged down in academic trivia or obscure scholarly disputes, but always sticking to the essence of what we can know and indicating what we can't due to lack of evidence. It is dense and utterly fascinating, bringing to life a time but also an exceptional career and life.

First, we get the context of the republic, which is in decline due to the unwieldliness of its procedures and the fatuous intrigues of its Senators and aristocracy; the issues (of empire) it is facing are also increasingly diverse and complex, requiring a steadier hand from an executive. Due to the amount of access points that could be used to block actions, from the auguries of Caesar's mortal enemy Bibilus that were judged "bad" and hence should block all political activity to vetos from Tribunes. The intricacies are all explained with clarity as well as in vivid stories of various incidents. In particular, it became clear to me how important individuals were, rather than parties: alliances were ephemeral, a function of each person's pursuit of personal glory rather than a reflection of any coherent ideology.

Second, there is the particular Roman politico-cultural context. After a series of increasingly brutal civil wars, the ruling class had been decimated, denuded of both high quality politicians and, perhaps worse, the accepted traditions that used to limit their exercise of power (checks and balances via ostracism, but there is much more). In addition, there was the traditional importance of family honor, which went back several generations. While it was a constraint on behavior, it also created an obligation to live up to past glories and offices, both increasing responsibility but also nakedly ruthless ambition. The republic was akin to a religion, to avoid too much control by a king, which was associated with autocratic repression. It is similar to American respect for democracy and alternation of power via parties.

Third, we get to know the unique personality that was Caius Julius Caesar, an aristocrat from a long-declining family that lacked honor (in highest office) for nearly a century. From an early age, he was precocious in astonishing ways. For example, he was captured by pirates while barely older than a student adolescent, but he laughingly partied with them while telling them he would return to crucify them and sell their families into slavery. Once ransomed, he did - at enormous profit from slave and booty revenues.

Nonetheless, as a tribute to Goldsworthy's art as biographer, we see Caesar as only one of the typical kind of brilliant aristocrat of his time, just another ambitious youth willing to risk his life to advance. Throughout his entire career, he was one step ahead of utterly ruinous catastrophe. Yet though his innermost thoughts and drives remain a complete mystery, he was always thinking ahead, to the long-term prospects of his pursuit of glory and power. It is as intimate a portrait as possible, subtle, and just this perspective is worth the price of admission.

Fourth, Goldsworthy follows the trajectory of Caesar's career. As a struggling politician to the age of 40, with occasional military missions, he built a client base by providing services and cultivating an image as a "popularis", i.e. champion of the working class. In this time, we see his friendships with Pompey, Cicero, and many others, in addition to his implacable enemies, such as Cato (a rigid fool, if you ask me) and Bibilus. He also gained an impressive array of lovers, including Sevilia, the mother of Brutus, which was also a political act.

Caesar was a poltical genius, rarely making mistakes and always planning his next accomplishment, which always advanced his prospects. Though born relatively poor, he became immensely rich, risking everything with his debts - incurred to entertain the masses, then finding military opportunity to exploit in Spain. To run for highest office, he also gave up a triumph, one of the greatest honors possible, which has been denied through administrative procedure by his enemies.

Fifth, Caesar's military genius is microscopically examined, which is utterly fascinating and a good half of the book. You get his strategy and tactics, but most interestingly his leadership style. In this respect, Pompey, his great competitor, comes off as an unimaginative master of mass confrontation (overwhelming adversaries by superior force and organization), whereas Caesar is a creative underdog, often badly outnumbered, seeking advantage in terrain, tactics, and by understanding the assumptions behind his adversaries behavior; there are so many leadership lessons that I cannot do them justice here.

Regarding his leadership, Caesar cultivated good subordinates that could never equal his fundamental creativity; this required him to make most of the big decsions, of which they were consistently incapable. In this regard, you witness Cicero's brother, Marc Anthony, Labienus, etc. He also respected his adversaries to recognize their own self-interest, which explains his clemency and lack of cruelty, but also his ability to entice enemies to give up without fighting to the death as they expected mercy. Again, very subtle stuff, which nonetheless led to his assassination.

Sixth, with the civil war, the reader learns of Caesar's immense egotism. To preserve his dignitas, which his senatorial adveraries threatened via trivial lawsuits in my view, he was prepared to plunge the empire into civil war, resulting in untold thousands of deaths: rather than humiliation, exile and the end of his career, he used military force to smash his adversaries.

Seventh, once all his adversaries were subject to his rule, we see his governance, all the while campaigning in such disparate locations as SPain and Egypt. Here, Caesar may have been a reformer of genius, riding rough shod over problems that had festered for decades under the immobile republic. While Goldsworthy continually reminds us of how little we can actually know, he gives a balanced view of what we know Caesar to have stood for. Once again, we feel awe at the depth of his genius, in particular surpassing Alexander the Great in this domain.

Eighth, we get a glimpse of his literary genius. While traveling, he would dictate correspondence and his book-length commentaries to three full-time secretaries. In the process, he created both a new level in the art of political propaganda and refined the accepted style of written Latin, challenging Cicero as the premier writer of his time. Again, unbelievable accomplishment.

Finally, as Caesar had flouted so many conventions and mortally offended so many, we see his assassination. Interestingly, throughout the entire book, the author always demonstrates that Caesar could have lost everything with a single misstep, most obviously in the military domain. In the last instance, he took one risk too many, in trusting those he pardoned.

I was astonished to see how much more of a gambler he was than I had imagined, after reading more than a dozen histories of Rome. This in my view is the true art of biography: you feel you are seeing the life as people did at the time, even if you know what happened in the end.

This is absolutely brilliant popular history. I will have to read more by this gifted author, one of the best I have ever read on the Classical era. Recommended with the greatest enthusiasm.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The tale of the greatest man of any age told by the greatest historian of the modern age!, 3 Jan. 2008
This review is from: Caesar (Paperback)
Frankly, I don't think that any historian can rival Adrian Goldsworthy in his extraodinary mix of scholarship and verve.

This is a majestic biography of Caesar's life, involving all of the aspects of the life of the man who broke the Roman Republic: politician, general and human.

Adrian Goldsworthy has a rare talent for balancing a simple text with wonderful intelligence, whereas Christian Meier clearly has the intelligence, but manages to hide it behind an impenetrable text. You really feel like you're dealing with a man who knows his stuff and has vigorously researched his material, unlike - as a previous reviewer said - Tom Holland, whose narrative reads more like a novel than a piece of historical writing.

I have read all of Goldsworthy's books and I would advise anybody interested in the topics of ancient or military history to do the same.

(Also looking forward to his next book 'How Rome Fell').
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars an excellent, well written and researched biography, 22 May 2007
By 
Scott Miller "scott_miller_13" (Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Caesar (Paperback)
Anyone who is looking for an excellent introduction to Caesar and the times he lived in would be well advised to buy this well written and absorbing biography of the man and the intrigues of the Roman world during these very interesting times. A real case of fact being better than fiction...
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Caesar
Caesar by Adrian Goldsworthy (Paperback - 3 May 2007)
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