Caesar, Basic Books, 1997|
Reviewed by PATRICK McNAMARA.
Christian Meier’s Caesar attempts to unravel the mystery of Caesar’s character by looking at the context of the crisis of the Roman republic. Meier painstakingly reconstructs the Roman version of classical Greek paideia in hopes that uncovering the education of the man will reveal his character. But the strategy seems misguided at best and hopeless in fact. While the early history of an individual like Caesar may reveal subtle clues to character what really counts is what Caesar himself determined to make of himself. To understand caesar’s character, talents and actions ask yourself what was his goal? His audacity comes from the fact that he thought ‘big’ and wanted to change the world via changing Rome.
Here Meier helps us as he meticulously lays out for us the political and social forces that Caesar faced and that Caesar ignited. Meier asserts that the civil wars that ensued after Caesar crossed the Rubicon did not necessarily entail the end of the republic. Caesar was not bent on destroying the republic and possessing all power himself. This is a crucial historical fact that Meier demonstrates and that the popular mind has yet to learn as it shows that Caesar was NOT motivated by greed for power alone. Instead he had a strategic vision for what Rome could mean for the world. For Caesar apparently, Rome meant order, the rule of law and flourishing of the human spirit. Meier points out that for Caesar’s vanquished enemies Rome meant nothing but annihilation, genocide, bri=utility and oppression—at least during the gallic wars. Caesar was implacable in war and conquest. But once he conquered he repaired and built up…His ultimate aim was positive.