Julius Caesar Review

Julius Caesar by Philip Freeman is the historical biography of one of the most important figure in ancient history. Similar to Alexander the Great, which I have just read previously by the very same author, many people today will undoubtedly have heard of the name Julius Caesar and more famously of his tragic ending but sadly, not much else. I loved how the author began the book with this very thought as he was teaching his class which I presume lead him to write this biography. This book surprised me just a bit simply because I hadn’t expected for Julius Caesar to have accomplished so much. At just under 400 pages or so, it is by no means a short read but due to how smooth each chapter of his life flows into the next, the pages gets turned pretty quickly! The writing is concise and straight to the point. Rarely have I found the author to have wasted his time and effort on speculating on certain events and giving his personal opinion only to then having to justify for doing so. This felt to me very important when reading history and biography books such as these.

Veni, Vedi, Vici. (I came, I saw, I conquered.)

Julius Caesar

My personal recommendation if you’re a novice like me regarding knowledge of ancient figures is to search and understand the timeline of the world first and foremost before reading any of these biographies. There are a lot of websites that document many of the most important events and historical figures to ever grace this planet in chronological order. When I did this only after having finished Julius Caesar, I found that it made me appreciate things that much more. Not only that but it also help put things into perspective. For example, I hadn’t even known that Alexander the Great came before Julius Caesar! Sad but true I must admit.

Going back to Julius Caesar, I just can’t help but compare him to Alexander the Great not in who accomplished the most and outdid the other but more like how events of Julius Caesar, even after three centuries or so later are no different than Alexander. It was to be honest quite mind blowing. Conquering land and enemies, check. Winning battles while heavily outnumbered in troops, check. Laying siege to towns, check. Murder of innocent women and children, check. Multiple betrayals from pardoned enemies, definitely check. What strikes me as most profound when comparing the two is how they both could technically be considered as ‘merciful’ rulers of their days. Julius Caesar was smart enough to know that it isn’t usually wise to destroy a place you’ve just spent countless hours and days defeating. It was amusing to learn of Caesar’s whole ‘fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me’ rule where it describes the limits of his mercy. If anything, I’m starting to even think that Adolf Hitler might have taken a page right out of Caesar’s playbook! Although both grew up from relatively middle class families, both men knew that two crucial things were needed to rise in power: good oratory skills and equally important, winning the support of the common people. Tidbits such as these are what makes reading these biographies of ancient figureheads so exciting as you’ll begin to learn that men and women thousands of years ago are really not that much different than today!

I’ve always wondered why Julius Caesar and the whole Roman Empire thing is considered one of the most important and studied piece when it comes to ancient history. Surely there were many other important figures and events elsewhere during his timeline that could earn just as much attention. And I’m sure there is. However, when you start to realize just how big of an influence Roman culture had centuries later, it’s hardly a wonder why they are still so heavily studied yet today. This is something I’m just beginning to understand in my journey to learn more about ancient history and civilization. This book on Julius Caesar is definitely something you should read to get a quick sneak peak into his life. The author does recommend other books on Julius Caesar that goes into other specific areas but if you want the overall picture, this book should be as good as any.


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