Seven Commentaries on the Gallic War

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Oxford University Press, 1996 - Europe - 260 pages
Gaius Julius Caesar (?100-44 BC) was born into the senatorial aristocracy which controlled the operations of the Roman empire. Always a supporter of popular measures in the politics of the city, he became consul in 59 with the support of Pompey ('the Great'), but the alliance did not last, and the two men became first political and then military rivals. A ten-year proconsular command in the Roman province of Gaul brought him immense wealth as well as control of a huge and devoted army, both of which factors in 49 BC enabled him to challenge Pompey for supremacy at Rome. The civil war which resulted left him, after Pompey's defeat at Pharsalus and death in Egypt, in sole control of Rome's affairs; the perpetual dictatorship and extraordinary honours which followed marked a shift in the structures of Roman politics which, despite his assassination on the Ides of March 44, was to prove permanent, and which played its part in the change from Republic to Principate. The accounts which he wrote of his campaigns against the peoples of Gaul, Britain, and Germany (The Gallic War) and against Pompey (The Civil War) have been valued for centuries as classics of military practice and literary excellence.

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About the author (1996)

Born into a noble family that had fallen from influence, Gaius Julius Caesar secured his future by allying himself early in his life with the popular general and senator, Gaius Marius. Although Caesar's refusal to divorce his wife Cordelia led him to flee Rome for a period, the political and military campaigns he conducted upon his return both renewed and increased his prominence. With Senators Crassus and Pompey, he formed the First Triumvirate in 60 and 59 B.C., and for the next 10 years served as governor of several Roman provinces. His decision to assume the position of Roman consul led to war, to an encounter in Egypt with Cleopatra, and ultimately to his position as dictator of Rome. His increasing popularity and power, brought about by the numerous reforms he initiated, led to his assassination by a group of conspirators who feared he would try to make himself king. Caesar left posterity his accounts of his campaigns in Gaul (modern France) and against his rival Pompey. Although the campaigns were self-serving in the extreme, they nevertheless provide an immensely valuable historical source for the last years of the Republic. His works mirror his character. He was an individual of outstanding genius and versatility: a brilliant soldier, a stylist whose lucidity reflects his clarity of vision, an inspiring leader, and a personality of hypnotically attractive charm. But the verdict of antiquity rests upon his single, altogether Roman, flaw-he could not bear to be the second man in the state. To preserve his position, he made war on his political enemies and brought down the Republic. Then, as he was incapable of restoring the republican regime, which had furnished his political contemporaries with a sense of freedom, power, and self-respect, he was stabbed to death by his own friends.

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