Saturday, January 23, 2021

Review: Michael Parenti's The Assassination of Julius Caesar: A People's History of Ancient Rome

 Rating: 5/5

This book is the overview of the Late Roman Republic that politically conscious social justice advocates didn't know they needed to read. It was at times frustrating to learn how old the ways the wealthy wield and accumulate power and fight for their class interests are.

The prevailing opinion among historians, ancient and modern alike, is that the senatorial assassins were intent upon restoring republican liberties by doing away with a despotic usurper. This is the justification proffered by the assassins themselves. In this book I present an altnerative explanation: The Senate aristocrats killed Caesar because they perceived him to be a popular leader who threatened their privileged interests.

Despite the cliché that "history is written by the victors", our popular view of history remains largely unquestioned. I really appreciated the emphasis in this book to point out how our narrative of Caesar has been constructed for us by a lineage of white, upper-class, male historians, and sorts through these biases.

The chapters are well organized, to the point, and not overly long. The language isn't dumbed down but nor is it overly academic (a welcome change of pace after my last read, Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny). The author's passion for what he writes about comes through; at times he is drily humorous, sometimes he is a little snide, sometimes he incites compassionate feelings of injustice. It's a very readable book.

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