Caesar in Review III

Disappointment

After reading T.A. Dodge’s “Hannibal,” and P. Green’s “Alexander of Macedon,” this book struck me by its poor organization, needless wordiness, and author’s persistent use of guesswork. ………………………………………………… …………………………………………………………………… The book’s poor organization is displayed in several ways. First, and the most frustrating to a reader like me, is frequent and lengthy discussions of topics that are related to the title of the book, but are not necessary for the reader to understand the main subject Lack of organization is also seen in the lack of continuity in the book. The book jumps back and forth from descriptions of psychological profiles of various people, to descriptions of events in Rome, to descriptions of Rome’s political structure, and Caesar himself often takes a back seat to whatever preoccupies the author’s attention at the moment. ……………………………………… …………………………………………………………………… Needless wordiness is best described by example. Below is a paragraph from a chapter that discusses people’s fascination with Caesar throughout history. I will not comment on the fact that an entire chapter is dedicated to expressing an opinion on other people’s opinion of Caesar. Here’s the quote (Page 20): “Can this fascination, whatever its source, still enthrall us? Can we – after Hitler – continue to speak of great men in accordance with time-honoured European tradition, above all when their spheres of activity were war and politics? Can we still be captivated by a man who launched a civil war – after a war of conquest in Gaul – for his own sake?” Such paragraphs, consisting of nothing but questions are frequent, and the questions are generally not answered in a satisfactory manner. ………………………………………………………… ………………………………………………… Also, author constantly, throughout the book, attempts to guess what people’s thoughts and feelings were during the time of the events he is describing. Be it Caesar, Pompey, a number of other politicians or generals, or even the Roman people as a whole. Given that it is often very hard to guess what a person is thinking or feeling even when you are having a conversation with the person, that politicians are particularly good at concealing their emotions and thoughts, and that Caesar lived over two thousand years ago, was a very skillful politician, I become very skeptical when author attempts to ascribe various states of mind to him. My skepticism becomes only greater when, as a proof of his opinion, the author offers not facts, but opinions of other historians, philosophers, or generals. None of them Caesar’s contemporaries but lived during Renaissance era or later. The proof appears to take shape of “If their opinion is the same as my opinion – our opinion must be true.”………………………………………………… ……………………………………………………. Lastly, due to everything I have listed above, the author appears to have not had time to put detailed descriptions of Caesar’s campaigns, battles, and political maneuvers into the book. This has indeed been the biggest disappointment for me.

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