3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
A much welcomed unique view,
This review is from: Assassination of Julius Caesar: A People's History of Ancient Rome (Paperback)
The assassination of Gaius Julius Caesar has attracted a wide range of writings. Indeed any historian of Rome or classicist was not worthy of the title lest they even at least go over it. And yet, despite all the many thousands of hours and words devoted to it, why? Why was Caesar assassinated? This is what Parenti sets out to do.
He argues that contrary to previous and often poplular notions, Caesar was not assassinated due to his establishing of a dictatorship (dictators before him such as Sulla had been tolerated by the senate and the emperors after also with a few exceptions) nor that it was simply a clash of egos. No instead Caesar was assassinated as a result of his modest reform agenda. Caesar gave peasants land, reduced debts and brought in laws for it, increased the grain dole and done other popular measures. The aristocratic optimates had different plans. Wishing to preserve their way of life since the second punic war, as the heads of the western world living in parasitic luxury spounged off of by slaves and workers, the optimates had a socio-economic motive behind the infamous murder(or famous if you belong to the brand of 'gentlemen historians' whom Parenti rightfuly critiques.)
And so this book isnot just about the assassination of Julius Caesar, indeed the act itself only receives a few pages and Caesar himself doesn't appear on stage until a hundred or so pages in. No this book is instead about the Roman empire, but through the view of the masses, the people, and not the 'gentlemen historians' and leaders whom have a disorted contempt for the masses. Here is pure iconoclasm at its best. He presents Cicero not as the liberal diffender of liberty, but as he truly was: a hypocritical snob, slumlord, cowardly turncoat and reactionary. Caesar on the other hand he presents as a reformer with a genuine interest in helping the poor. However selective he is not. He mentions Caesar's brutality in the Gallic wars, his using of women and his foreign conquests and continual wars which killed thousands.
So even if you hate Caesar or are not interested in ancient Rome, here is a great book about class struggle, the presentation of history and how history ultimately never changes.