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

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

3.8 8
by Michael Parenti

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Most historians, both ancient and modern, have viewed the Late Republic of Rome through the eyes of its rich nobility. In The Assassination of Julius Caesar, Michael Parenti presents us with a story of popular resistance against entrenched power and wealth. As he carefully weighs the evidence concerning the murder of Caesar, Parenti sketches in the background


Most historians, both ancient and modern, have viewed the Late Republic of Rome through the eyes of its rich nobility. In The Assassination of Julius Caesar, Michael Parenti presents us with a story of popular resistance against entrenched power and wealth. As he carefully weighs the evidence concerning the murder of Caesar, Parenti sketches in the background to the crime with fascinating detail about wider Roman society. In these pages we find reflections on the democratic struggle waged by Roman commoners, religious augury as an instrument of social control, the patriarchal oppression of women, and the political use of homophobic attacks. The Assassination of Julius Caesar offers a whole new perspective on an era we thought we knew well.

Editorial Reviews

A highly accessible and entertaining addition to history.
Publishers Weekly
Why did a group of Roman senators gather near Pompey's theater on March 15, 44 B.C., to kill Julius Caesar? Was it their fear of Caesar's tyrannical power? Or were these aristocratic senators worried that Caesar's land reforms and leanings toward democracy would upset their own control over the Roman Republic? Parenti (History as Mystery, etc.) narrates a provocative history of the late republic in Rome (100-33 B.C.) to demonstrate that Caesar's death was the culmination of growing class conflict, economic disparity and political corruption. He reconstructs the history of these crucial years from the perspective of the Roman people, the masses of slaves, plebs and poor farmers who possessed no political power. Roughly 99% of the state's wealth was controlled by 1% of the population, according to Parenti. By the 60s B.C., the poor populace had begun to find spokesmen among such leaders as the tribunes Tiberius Gracchus and his younger brother, Gaius. Although the Gracchi attempted to introduce various reforms, they were eventually murdered, and the reform movements withered. Julius Caesar, says Parenti, took up where they left off, introducing laws to improve the condition of the poor, redistributing land and reducing unemployment. As Parenti points out, such efforts threatened the landed aristocracy's power in the Senate and resulted in Caesar's assassination. Parenti's method of telling history from the "bottom up" will be controversial, but he recreates the struggles of the late republic with such scintillating storytelling and deeply examined historical insight that his book provides an important alternative to the usual views of Caesar and the Roman Empire. (Aug.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Parenti (History as Mystery) presents the assassination of Julius Caesar as a class issue rather than the clash of personalities that is so often portrayed in literature. He takes this angle to accommodate his projected audience and to change the tide of how ancient history has been traditionally written, that is, from the perspective of the wealthy and powerful Roman senators. The author dubs the men responsible for perpetuating that practice "gentlemen historians"-rich and powerful upper-class chaps who were unlikely to question the senators' motives. Instead of viewing Caesar as a demagogue like his predecessors, Parenti in many ways aligns him with the Gracchae, the brothers killed in the late second century B.C.E. for attempting to thwart the senatorial oligarchy that ruled the Roman Republic. While ironically he agrees with Ernst Badian, a premier ancient historian (and something of an anti-Marxist), he breaks with him by complaining that there is a dearth of research on the so-called mob or rabble of Rome. Parenti would posit that the common people, by their actions, demonstrate an understanding of politics and were often artisans and skilled laborers who have long gone unrecognized. A novel approach, this is recommended for large public and academic libraries.-Clay Williams, Hunter Coll. Lib., Bronx, NY Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus 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 distressinglycontemporary. 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.

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New Press, The
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New Press People's History
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Meet the Author

Michael Parenti is the author of sixteen books including History as Mystery, The Terrorism Trap, Democracy for the Few, Against Empire, Dirty Truths, Blackshirts and Reds, and America Besieged. His work has been translated into twelve languages. He lives in Berkeley, California.

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Assassination of Julius Caesar: A People's History of Ancient Rome 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
So many history books are just so boring. After reading Michael Parenti's interpretation you understand why. They are mostly distortions and half truths which leave a lot of questions about how things were back then. Parenti fills in the blanks here with explanations that ring of truth. Very engaging and compelling, especially when applying history to present day events.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is a page turner. While provocative in its tone, by showing that history is usually written by members of the ruling elite, with their biases intact, I found it to be very enlightening, and educational. It appears that Caesar was taken down, due in part to his desires for economic and social reform. This book is a definite must read. It will provide you with a whole new way to look at Caesar, history books and modern politics. In the end, you'll come to realize that 2000 years later, some things never change.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Not so much a 'lefty history' as another point of view. The author does make a good point in his thesis that you have be careful of what historians write because most came from money and what to protect their status. He is also correct to say that throughout history the people with money write history because they can. When you're poor and worrying about where your next meal is coming from, you certainly are not sitting down to write a scholarly history text. After reading most histories on Rome (contemporary and historical) as well as teaching ancient history he seems to be on target and its nice to see the differing viewpoints because alot of it is just the same material rehashed in a different voice.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I REALLY enjoyed this book. This is my first Parenti book, and I am looking forward to diving further into his writings. This is a very clearly written, and down-right interesting book. I've studied Roman history for a little while now and this offers a fresh, relatable outlook. This is Ancient Rome (mostly just the Republic and the reign of Julius Caesar) not told by the rich, not told by Seutonius, Pliny, Cassius Dio, or any of the aristocratic elements of Rome or today, but told from the point of view of the people. Forget what you've learned about Brutus and Cassius being "honorable Republicans", this book argues that the assassination of Julius Caesar (as well as close to a score of earlier popular reformers) was almost entirely class/wealth related. The Senate feared Caesar's reforms because it would take from the rich and give to the poor. It proves that issues that took place in the Roman Republic are still issues today. Backed up by a plethora of resources, Parenti's book is amazing. It will surely leave you thinking. It showed me how much the republican value system of our own country resembles that of Rome. In all of its glory and its downfalls. Definitely offers insight into the past as well as the present. It is a refreshing, short, and spellbinding book of Roman history. Highly Recommended.
Guest More than 1 year ago
M. Parenti conveniently leaves out facts, which do not agree with his 'progressive' theories. Like Marius' massacre of his former comrades in arms. Or the facts about Clodius, who convinced the mob, that they should annex faraway kingdom of Cyprus, so that they can get free grain. The ruler of Cyprus committed suicide. Or the fact, that subsidized grain was a fact of Roman life long before the Gracchi (see play by Plautus 'Pot of Gold'), and get it for their voters even cheaper, their agents plundered Pergamum, province of Asia. Or that Athens 'pure democracy' without independent juduciary, merged executive and legislative powers, lasted only 50 years, because of vagaries and changing moods of the 'common people', swayed under demagogues like reeds in the wind. Roman Republic was definitely not perfect, but which state is? Benign dictatorship (which seems to me here to be promoted) changes in to bad dictatorship overnight. Of course, Mr. Parenti's website promotes the likes of Engles, and other discredited luminaries. I think he would like to promote Khmer Rouge, because they were all for the 'common people', even so far that they killed all the uncommon people. Intellectuals, like Mr. Parenti, would be the first at the execution wall. However, he takes advantage of good salary, safe life, and free press to promote a system, where he would himself not like to live.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Left-wing perspective on the Roman Republic and Julius Caesar. Senatorial party bad. Popular party good. By a man whose other writing includes an essay that calls George Bush 'the almost elected President.'