History in Review
The Assassination of Julius Caesar
A People's History of Ancient Rome
By Michael Parenti
The New Press (2004)
Reviewed by Herbert White - March 18, 2011
The Assassination of Julius Caesar: A People's History of Ancient Rome is a wonderfully accessible book on the pivotal Late Republic period of Ancient Roman history. This book was written by the prolific author and political analyst, Michael Parenti. The focus of this book is the assassination of Julius Caesar and the pressing question, "Exactly why was Julius Caesar assassinated, and what did the assassins hope to gain?" If you are familiar with this period of history, you will find that Parenti's answer to this question differs from that taken by most historians. In brief, he feels that the assassination was motivated by avarice and fears that the Senators had that they were losing power, rather than from political motives. Parenti's thesis is well presented and he provides ample evidence to back up his assertions.
Parenti's writing is riveting and he provides insights into not only the political life of the period, but also what life was like for both ordinary and high-ranking Romans during the period of the Late Republic. He also illustrates how power and wealth were controlled by less than 1% of the population, and the role that this inequality had on Roman history and politics.
More of a popular history than a scholarly text, most scholars of this period will find little new in this book. Parenti's interpretation of the data is at odds, in places, with current conventions, and as such may provoke some debate. However, if you are looking for new information on this period or on Julius Caesar, you will not find any. However, if you are not well versed in Roman history, you will find that The Assassination of Julius Caesar will provide you with a solid introduction to this period, and that Parenti's thesis is both understandable and thought-provoking.
Overall, whether or not you accept Parenti's theories after reading this book, you will find your time well spent. This book is informative, well written, and entertaining - you cannot ask more from a popular history. For those interested in delving into Parenti's sources, the text concludes with detailed endnotes, which can also be used as a resource list for those looking for suggestions on further readings on the events described in The Assassination of Julius Caesar.
Julius Caesar: The Life and Times of the People's Dictator, by Luciano Canfora.
A detailed, authoritative, and vibrant biography of Julius Caesar.
Conspiracy Narratives in Roman History, by Victoria Emma Pagán.
A literary analysis of how conspiracies and counter conspiracies were portrayed in Roman literature and historical accounts.
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