Julius Caesar

Highlighting the name origin of this month, our Review of the Week provides a comprehensive overview of Julius Caesar's political career

Julius Caesar and the transformation of the Roman Republic

Stevenson, Tom. Routledge, 2015
212p bibl indexes, 9781138808225 $145.00, 9781138808218 $44.95

Stevenson (Univ. of Queensland, Australia) intended his book as an introduction to the career and legacy of Julius Caesar for general readers and undergraduates, but he achieved much more. His concise, well informed review of the sources on and issues about the most famous Roman is well organized, and his review of the scholarship is excellent. Stevenson’s analysis of Caesar’s political career is on target. He rightly stresses that Caesar long pursued a conventional political career, so his sudden leap into the ranks of the leading senators in 63 BCE was both unexpected and decisive. Caesar possessed a sense of his own destiny as well as uncanny political skills that ensured his success after he brokered the First Triumvirate, the pact with Pompey and Crassus. Most judicious is Stevenson’s discussion of why Caesar precipitated the civil war in 49 BCE, and why he pursued a policy of clemency to his defeated political foes. Most convincing is that Caesar had no grand design for monarchy, so as dictator he was a most reluctant monarch. Stevenson adopts a critical revisionist approach to Caesar’s generalship, a debatable view that this reviewer does not share, but his position is well argued. This book is the best introduction to Julius Caesar for scholars and students.

Summing Up: Essential. All levels/libraries.
Reviewer: K. W. Harl, Tulane University
Recommendation: Essential
Subject: Social & Behavioral Sciences – History, Geography & Area Studies – Ancient History
Choice Issue: Aug 2015