The Assassination of Julius Caesar: A People's History of Ancient Rome

The Assassination of Julius Caesar: A People's History of Ancient Rome

Hardback People's History

By (author) Michael Parenti

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Paperback $14.61
  • Publisher: The New Press
  • Format: Hardback | 288 pages
  • Dimensions: 146mm x 219mm x 26mm | 481g
  • Publication date: 1 August 2003
  • Publication City/Country: New York
  • ISBN 10: 1565847970
  • ISBN 13: 9781565847972
  • Sales rank: 1,195,238

Product description

The story of popular resistance to wealth and power in ancient Rome. Most historians, both ancient and modern, have viewed the Late Republic of Rome through the eyes of its rich nobility. They regard Roman commoners as a parasitic mob, a rabble interested only in bread and circuses. They cast Caesar, who took up the popular cause, as a despot and demagogue, and treat his murder as the outcome of a personal feud or constitutional struggle, devoid of social content. In The Assassination of Julius Caesar, the distinguished author Michael Parenti subjects these assertions of "gentlemen historians" to a bracing critique, and presents us with a compelling story of popular resistance against entrenched power and wealth. Parenti shows that Caesar was only the last in a line of reformers, dating back across the better part of a century, who were murdered by opulent conservatives. Caesar's assassination set in motion a protracted civil war, the demise of a five-hundred-year republic, and the emergence of an absolutist rule that would prevail over Western Europe for centuries to come. Parenti reconstructs the social and political context of Caesar's murder, offering fascinating details about Roman society. In these pages we encounter money-driven elections, the struggle for economic democracy, the use of religious augury as an instrument of social control, the sexual abuse of slaves, and the political use of homophobic attacks. Here is a story of empire and corruption, patriarchs and subordinated women, self-enriching capitalists and plundered provinces, slumlords and urban rioters, death squads and political witch-hunts. The Assassination of Julius Caesar offers a compelling new perspective on an ancient era, one that contains many intriguing parallels to our own times.

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Editorial reviews

Populist historian Parenti (To Kill a Nation, 2001, etc.) views ancient Rome's most famous assassination not as a tyrannicide but as a sanguinary scene in the never-ending drama of class warfare. His savagely entertaining brief begins with the Ides of March, 44 b.c., and returns to the details of the murder 170 pages later. The argument in between presents revisionist history at its most provocative. Employing the notion of "gentlemen historians" he advanced in History as Mystery (1999), Parenti writes as much about historiography as he does about historical events. Former and current patricians, the gentlemen historians are concerned with promoting the interests of their class, he contends, not in understanding the past. And so Parenti rips new ones for all those Roman "heroes" celebrated in Latin I and Ancient Civ-and in the GOP. Thus, Cicero is "a self-enriching slaveholder, slumlord, and senator"; Cato the younger, a money-grubbing apologist for political assassination. Julius Caesar, by contrast, despite his well-chronicled failures (he owned slaves and despoiled distant lands), was interested in the public welfare and thus a danger to the fat cats who purred in his presence while privately sharpening their claws. The author, who confesses to having little Latin, girds his argument with numerous examples of Roman populists (e.g., Tiberius Gracchus, Lucius Appuleius Saturninus) whose flesh yielded oh-so-easily to assassins' knives when share-the-wealth proposals made jittery the monied and the propertied. Parenti's account of Caesar's murder and its aftermath is a highlight, and his primer on the political strategies exercised by the Roman rich is sobering; much sounds distressingly contemporary. Meanwhile, Shakespeare himself does not escape Parenti's scalpel: the Bard, he argues, picked the wrong side and forever labeled the naughty Brutus ("a usurer of the worst sort and a spoliator to boot") as noble. This lively, lucid tract reminds us that historians gotta have attitude as well as game. (Kirkus Reviews)