Julius Caesar and his public image

Yavetz, Zvi Julius Caesar and his public image. London: Thames and Hudson, 1983.

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Author Yavetz, Zvi
Title Julius Caesar and his public image
Language of Title eng
Place of Publication London
Publisher Thames and Hudson
Publication year 1983
Sub-type Other
Series Reading the past
ISBN 0500400431
Language eng
Total number of pages 286
Subjects 2101 Archaeology
Formatted Abstract/Summary
In 194$ I attended a course on the Late Roman Republic at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. My teacher, Victor Tcherikover, was a graduate of the University of Berlin, a pupil of Eduard Meyer and Ulrich Wilcken. When he spoke about Caesar's aims, his words left scarcely any room for doubt: in his opinion, Caesar was endeavouring to found an absolute monarchy based on divine kingship. He was aware that Sir Ronald Syme's book, The Roman Revolution, had been published in 1939, but regretted that a copy was unobtainable because of the war.

In 1955, while participating in Syme's seminars at Oxford, I realized that none of my English tutors shared Meyer's views. At that time, I was not particularly interested in Caesar, and in my early days as a university teacher I recommended that my students read Matthias Gelzer's carefully written book, but did not take sides in this particular argument. I was more interested in the social and economic problems of ancient Rome than in Caesar's ambitions. But, in the course of time, it proved impossible to avoid fundamental issues when teaching ancient history. In 1970 I gave a seminar on Caesar at Queen's College in New York, and in 1973 I returned to the subject at the University of Tel-Aviv. However, it was not until I read Hermann Strasburger's fascinating book, Caesar im Urteil der Zeitgenossen, that I felt compelled to study the sources from A to Z. I present my conclusions to the reader but a few words of explanation must be added.

I am not of the school that considers it unnecessary to immerse oneself in the modem literature on the subject, and which holds that we should be exclusively concerned with primary sources. To disregard the modem literature o f the nineteenth and twentieth centuries is to make the study of ancient history intellectually unprofitable, whereas it is precisely the interplay of modem controversies that helps one to read the same source from new and fresh points of view. Unfortunately, the number of students of the subject who read German is continually dwindling in Great Britain and the United States as well as in Israel. The problem of Caesar's final aims cannot be fully understood without an understanding of the German scholarly literature. That is why a historiographical survey forms the first chapter of this book.

I do not want to go into the question of divine kingship in detail once again; this subject has been explored and treated out of all proportion to its real significance. In my opinion, no one can make a substantial contribution to the present state of the argument. Everyone can form his own judgment on the basis of material published in the comprehensive works of Alfoldi, Weinstock, Dobesch, Gesche and Rawson. But the question arises: is it possible to understand the Ides of March without providing a definitive answer to the problem of divine kingship: I have attempted to do so by means of a thorough analysis of the sources concerned with Caesar's legislation, and have taken pains, in the last chapter, to make a general judgment of Caesar's public image, pointing out that this image might have been of greater political importance than Caesar's true character, which bewildered not only modem scholars but also Caesar's contemporaries: Caecina once expressed his doubts and said that he was far from knowing Caesar (' . . . totum enim Caesarem non novi' , Cic., ad fam. VI, 7, 4).

For practical reasons I have avoided lengthy Greek and Latin quotations, and made use of them only in the appendix, which constitutes the first part of an article published in Harvard Studies in Classical Philology in 1974.       ........................
Keyword Caesar, Julius, 100-44 B.C. -- Personality
Public opinion -- Rome
Rome -- Historiography
Q-Index Code AX
Q-Index Status Provisional Code
Institutional Status Unknown

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Created: Thu, 22 Oct 2015, 10:33:14 EST by Ms Christine Heslehurst on behalf of Scholarly Communication and Digitisation Service