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Customer Review

on 4 October 2011
Parenti's book is written in a compelling and highly readable style. It's essentially a polemical counter narrative, a challenge to the conservative view of Caesar as an opportunistic demagogue and ambitous tyrant. Parenti strips away the ancient patina of nobility and legitimacy from the Roman Republic, revealing the naked self interest of a predatory oligarchy behind the classical facade of the constitution. Brutus, Cato and Cicero emerge as cynical and violent statesmen; the Senate is exposed as the corrupt centre of a dictatorship by reactionary aristocrats, military adventurists and predatory speculators. Parenti's work is a welcome relief from the conventional 'Gentlemen's histories' that have long dominated scholarship.

However, I think this work has some serious weaknesses. In my view the evidence presented is unable to bear even a fraction of the weight of Parenti's central thesis: that Caesar was a principled republican and heroic advocate of social justice. The history of the twentieth century is littered with ambitious leaders extolling justice while exploiting popular movements to gain state power, prestige and wealth. It seems highly unlikely that Caesar was any different in this regard from a Napoleon or a Lenin. In my view Parenti does not produce serious evidence to the contrary, and his narrative is fatally weakened by special pleading when he tries.
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