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Review: Julius Caesar: Rome’s Greatest Warlord

Simon Elliott

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Julius Caesar: Rome's Greatest Warlord

“Julius Caesar: Rome’s Greatest Warlord” by Simon Elliott is a book, as the title suggests, about the life and achievements of Julius Caesar, a great figure in the history of the ancient world, and above all an outstanding leader and politician.

Simon Elliott is a Roman historian, who have already written several books on the history of the Roman Empire. This time the author aimed at Julius Caesar, whose biography and life had a huge impact on the fate of the world.

The book begins with an introduction in which the author briefly introduces Julius Caesar and some key facts from his private life and political career. Then in the position, we find a chronology of more important events in Caesar’s life (100-44 BCE).

The actual content of the book begins on page 15 (chapter one) when the author presents the Roman army, the legion and its evolution, and the everyday life of the legionnaires. The second chapter is, in turn, an outline of the history of Rome from the mythical foundation of Rome, through the period of the kingdom, the fall of the monarchy and subsequent political events of the Republic and the war struggles of the Romans. The third chapter presents the life of young Caesar and shaping his character, who as a young boy had to lead the family after his father’s death. Chapter four focuses on one of the most important periods in Caesar’s life – the governorship of Gaul and his memorable conquests. The last chapter, the fifth, presents the civil war and the end of Caesar’s life, who in March 44 BCE dies from the blows of conspirators.

In the Conclusions, the author emphasizes the great influence Caesar had on the fate of the world. It highlights, among others that the nickname “Caesar”, after his death, becomes the title of the ruler in Rome and other European countries. In turn, the calendar reform carried out by Caesar will survive until the 16th century. Caesar’s victorious conquests caused the spread of Roman culture and law and Latin to new territories. Caesar’s life was studied by great European personalities, such as Napoleon Bonaparte following his military tactics.
In the Conclusions, the author also allows himself to quickly outline the political events after Caesar’s death – a funeral, the formation of the second triumvirate, rivalry with conspirators, or Octavian’s rise to power. Additionally, at the end of the book, you will find an index of entries, ancient sources, bibliography and acknowledgements.

Due to the fact that I received an electronic version for the review, it is difficult for me to comment on the print. Certainly, the book is small in size (160 pages). The content, apart from the sections described above, has illustrations that diversify it in an interesting way. In addition, in some places, additional information was specially separated, which the author wanted to emphasize, even though it was of a secondary nature.

Moving on to the content – I am a bit disappointed. I am completely aware that the book belongs to the “Casemate Short History” series, which aims to present certain historical topics in a more concise manner, and I did not expect a long biography with bold theses and a lot of detailed information from the life of the dictator. In my opinion, however, there is simply little information about Caesar. The actual content of the work is about 140 pages, while chapters 3, 4 and 5 deal with the main character (only 90 pages). Considering that the 1st century BCE is one of the better documented and described periods of Roman history, sometimes it is hard to read simple descriptions of battles or political events; especially without any footnotes.

The author set himself the goal of an easy and pleasant presentation of Caesar’s life, first outlining the history of the state and the legions; in my opinion, however, this makes it a very simple item, which unfortunately only briefly touches on the extremely interesting life of Caesar. Personally, I do not like such a brief description of history.

Naturally, it will be a fascinating journey for people who do not know this period of history; however, I still think that there is a lack of “flavours” here that could move/interest the reader. There are many books about Caesar on the market that present his life in a much more interesting and thorough manner. Of course, if someone is looking for a quick and neat description of the history of Rome up to the time of Caesar, his biography and a description of the Roman war machine, he can be satisfied.

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