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This review is from: Assassination of Julius Caesar: A People's History of Ancient Rome (Paperback)
We think we know the Julius Caesar story. Numerous films and TV programmes, Shakespeare and so on. What Michael Parenti does is look at the story from a Marxist perspective - Marx doesn't get mentioned at all, but that's not the point.
Parenti asks the simple question: what did Caesar stand for that made the group of extremely wealthy men who ran the Roman world want to kill him? The answer is that he wanted to institute a series of mild reforms that shifted a little bit, but not too much, wealth, land, property, food, housing, tax burden from the tiny number of very rich people to the much larger numbers of urban and rural poor.
In this desire, Caesar stood in the tradition of populares who had gone before him such as the Gracchi brothers. The Gracchi and all the other populares had been murdered for their efforts.
This small redistribution of wealth was too much for the optimates - the small group of wealthy aristocrats. And so they tried to undermine Caesar. And when they failed to undermine him, they murdered him.
And for more than 2,000 years the dominant view of these events has been that the wealthy murderers were really men who loved democracy, liberty and the rule of law, in other words the optimates view of history written by members of that class in the Roman world and accepted uncritically by 'gentlemen' historians down to this day.
Parenti turns that upside down - or, rather, he turns it the right way up. Excellently researched, snappily written, easily read. A joy.