5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
into the mind of a genius of antiquity,
This review is from: The Conquest of Gaul (Classics) (Paperback)
This is a remarkable document. It is at once a manual on military strategy, on effective management of his troops, and on the psychology of the enemy. But it is also a history, with smatterings of anthropology, sometimes our only source on a vanished pre-Roman way of life in what became France. Finally, and most difficult to grasp, there is a political subtext, in which Caesar is communicating with both allies and rivals in Rome, advancing his career while advising future leaders on proper conduct. Why did he mention certain things? What did he omit? What political image (or self-consciously enduring myth) was he creating for himself? There are few antique documents as fascinating and to boot it is a literary masterpiece of clear exposition and rapidly moving narrative. Once you read it - and it must be read carefully and with references to other sources - you will have no doubt that Caesar was one of the greatest leaders of all time: afterall, his name is the basis for Tzar as well as Kaiser!
Then there are the details. What stick out in my mind are individual tales of bravery as well as foolishness, rendered in detail as vivid as a novel, and the ever-present possibility of failure or even disaster from which Caesar always manages to pull victory at the decisive moment; of course, there are the many instances of brutality in a time of different standards of military conduct. Then there is the siege of Alesia. To protect his troops and starve out the enemy (and the charismatic Gaul, Vercingetorix), Caesar at Alesia had in a matter of days not only to build a surrounding rampart facing in, but also one facing outwards (14 miles in curcumference!), to ward off the last-stand of the bravest of the Gauls. Finally, to break the spirit of small revolts after Alesia, Caesar cut off the hands of all the Bellevoci who took up arms in a desperate, last gambit that Caesar feared would repeat itself in innumerable city-tribes as his consulship ended. It worked.
And there are many characters who figure later in the great civil wars that destroyed the last remnant of the Republic: Brutus, Labienus, Mark Antony, and Cicero's brother Quintus Tullius. You get glimpses of them as men as well as military leaders who later opposed Caesar.
As with much in Classical Civilization, the more you know the more you love it. And the more this period of diversity looks like a metaphor, or example, for the present. There is a good reason why the educations of scholars in the humanities (as well as in the sicneces) and diplomates began with the Classical era - read this and see how relevant it still is, in light of the War in Irak. This is one of the most important documents from the period.
Warmly recommended. If you are predispoosed, it will influence the way you think of contemporary events.