critical reading for the rude

parenti’s rome

Assassination of Julius Caesar : a people’s history of ancient Rome / Michael Parenti

Here’s a little quickie review I did for an on-campus library promotion thing. Was a good book. Tell you what — it was that HBO show Rome that got me interested again. Now I’m wanting to go back to I, Claudius and the rest. Still resistant to reading that Gibbons history (see below)… but I’ll get to it, I reckon. All viewpoints and all that.

Michael Parenti presents a challenging and unorthodox view of Roman society and politics in the Late Republic. He challenges the view that has been handed down to us by aristocrats, that Roman commoners were a just a stupid and blood-thirsty mob. Indeed, in light of Julius Caesar’s rise to power against the likes of Pompey, Cato, and Cicero, he paints the aristocrats controlling the Senate as blood-thirsty and elitist, abusing their Constitution whenever it suited their needs. Cicero is shown as a right-wing opponent to popular reform, and a shameless self-aggrandizer. It was in this environment that Caesar, a bulldog for the rights of farmers and peasants, was murdered by the elite. Parenti’s book is very lively, though sometimes long-winded. He brings real energy to the story of Rome, enlivening even the details of parliamentary procedure with the outrageous personalities of these historical figures. Even though Caesar’s sins are held to light alongside his virtues, I come away endeared to Caesar. After all, I’m left saddened that the Roman citizenry were so terribly squeezed by their powerful overlords, and reminded that we must all be vigilant if our fate isn’t to be the same as Rome’s.

April 2, 2007 - Posted by | books

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