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Total War: Shogun 2 Heaven » Forums » Total War History » Caesarian Bias
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Topic Subject:Caesarian Bias
Vasta
Ashigaru
posted 04-03-12 07:19 PM EDT (US)         
Something I think we should be able to agree on without too much controversy is that a pro-Caesarian bias exists through much of the community, and is certainly manifest here.

The question I pose is - why?

For all intents and purposes, we shouldn't necessarily see Caesar as "the good guy." There aren't many supporters of the Republic during the civil war here, but there are a bunch of Celt fans. Furthermore, he did (1) take the action of beginning civil war and (2) rule as a tyrant (benevolent as he might seem).

Is it because of the writings? Is it because fans of military history want to like a guy who was so successful? Is it a need for people to assign "good guys" and "bad guys" to historical narratives and deny that someone can be both good and bad? Is there some conservative-leaning tendency here to support Caesar and later Augustus? Is there some liberal-leaning tendency to support Caesar as populist? Is it because of the amateur fan community that has appeared around Adrian Goldsworthy?

This is something that has been puzzling me for some time. As I've been working on my dissertation on Sallust and reading Lucan, I find myself siding with Caesar in the comparison with Cato, and I roll my eyes when Lucan portrays Caesar as bloodlust personified - but I have no good reason for this.

Thoughts?
AuthorReplies:
Awesome Eagle
Spear of Mars
(id: awesomated88)
posted 04-03-12 08:28 PM EDT (US)     1 / 7       
My guess would be all the pro Caesar Propaganda. Just remember that Caesar was Octavian's adopted father and It was in roman culture to honor and trumpet their achievements to make you look good. It is also not without reason that all later emperors were called Caesar.

Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it- George Santayana
History is a guide to navigation in perilous times. History is who we are and why we are the way we are- David C. McCullough
Wars not make one great- Yoda
Punic Hebil
Centurion
(id: Punic Hoplite)
posted 04-03-12 10:22 PM EDT (US)     2 / 7       
Can't forget the British influence here. When was a monarchy, with a vast empire, it aspired well to Caesar as he was a strong man, that expanded his home, and made away with squabbling nobles, helping the common man. And how influence have the British been on Western culture, in particular English speaking countries? Very.

Personally, I despise Caesar for the simple fact that he is so blindly praised. He wasn't a genius of a commander people make him out to be, the legions won him battles, and his rhetoric kept the people, and politics, on his side. Don't get me wrong, he was an able commander, but people who compare him to Hannibal and Alexander the Great, in my opinion, should go sit in a corner and feel bad for their statement

I am the Carthaginian who became an angel, and surrendered his wings for a life on the sea of battle.

My magic screen is constantly bombarded with nubile young things eager to please these old eyes. This truly is a wonderful period in which to exist! - Terikel the Deflowerer
Terikel Grayhair
Imperator
(id: Terikel706)
posted 04-04-12 02:42 AM EDT (US)     3 / 7       
Speaking strictly for myself, I find Caesar quite a fascinating figure. He certainly outshone the others of his generation, most of whom spent long years trying to suppress Caesar and dog him at every turn instead of doing something useful themselves. They were negatives, while he tried (and often succeeded) to do what he set out to do. That alone- being pro-active instead of destructive, sets him apart in my eyes.

Plus the man was a friking genius as well as a jack of all trades. He learned warfare from Uncle Gaius Marius, finances from Crassus, what popular support can do for you from Pompeius, and what a strong patrician could do from Sulla. He fixed a calendar that thereafter worked for a millennium, fixed the debt situation in Rome, fixed the grain, etc. His policy of clemency helped strip many of his foes of men, and gained him some supporters as well.

He was not all good- he had a terrible temper at times, and had a tendency to seduce his opponent's wives (immensely satisfying, but not couth), and could be meaner than a rattlesnake at times. He conquered the Gauls and destroyed the Nervii, but had lost at Gergovia before pinning Vercingetorix down at Alesia. He lost another battle versus Pompeius in Greece, but ended up winning that war as well. he put his army through hell- marching quickly, eating tuibers and roots at times. Yet his soldiers loved him, and as evidenced by his funeral, the people did too. True, the Cult of Caesar got to his head, but he had earned that cult the hard way. Overall, his good deeds and accomplishments far outstripped his shortcomings and faults. This in a day where those opposing him (and they were many, mostly in the Senate) accomplished very little.

From what I have read of the man, he was simply an amazing man. And such energy! He was a man ho did things, as opposed to most of the others of his time who either sat back on their already-won laurels (Pompeius), or used their time and resources against a single man, who trounced the lot of them.

That is why I am pro-Caesar. The other side of the coin simply sucked.

EDIT: Plus Caesar's Luck was legendary. Who can't like such a lucky man?

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[This message has been edited by Terikel Grayhair (edited 04-04-2012 @ 04:31 AM).]

Thompsoncs
Ashigaru
posted 04-04-12 06:06 AM EDT (US)     4 / 7       
For all intents and purposes, we shouldn't necessarily see Caesar as "the good guy." There aren't many supporters of the Republic during the civil war here, but there are a bunch of Celt fans. Furthermore, he did (1) take the action of beginning civil war and (2) rule as a tyrant (benevolent as he might seem).
His war of conquest on the Gauls might in modern eyes seem wrong, but in that time, in roman eyes, the Gallic war wasn't much different from most wars in the timeframe. It would be wrong to judge him with modern views.

He did indeed make the first offensive move in the civil war, but Caesar can't be denied having tried almost everything to avoid it. He was willing to lay down his command, if pompey would do the same. He was willing to give up everything except 1 province and 2 legions, a force unable to wage a civil war. But his enemies were too much blinded by hatred and too stubborn to see that they left him with two options: Destruction or civil war.

He was strictly speaking only dictator, in the roman sense, not the modern sense. He was clement to most of his enemies and his rule was beneficial to rome. His rule wasn't oppressing. Perhaps some of his most radical opponents were put down, but Sulla, Marius, Augustus and all nearly other emperors were far worse in that perspective.
Is it because of the writings? Is it because fans of military history want to like a guy who was so successful? Is it a need for people to assign "good guys" and "bad guys" to historical narratives and deny that someone can be both good and bad? Is there some conservative-leaning tendency here to support Caesar and later Augustus? Is there some liberal-leaning tendency to support Caesar as populist? Is it because of the amateur fan community that has appeared around Adrian Goldsworthy?
His writings are a brilliant story, but of course slightly propagandic. I personally don't care if was a populist or not, but at least he tried to get things done, something seriously lacking in the senate at the time.

Adrian Goldsworthy's acount of Caesar's life is actually quite neutral. It recognises his brilliance in battle, his charisma, his rhetorical and political skills, but Caesar is not described as a "good" man. In fact he calls him immoral. He also says that Caesar tended to be clement, but when it suited him he could also be merciless. He killed al the leaders of the Veneti tribe and sold thousands as slaves. He massacred some cities. But his overall tendency was to show mercy to gain the alliance of his enemies.

And Goldsworthy also wrote about Carthage, Scipio and many others of the roman period. But it is an impressive biography, worth reading. In fact I'm reading it again atm, having just arrived at the start of the Spanish campaign.
This is something that has been puzzling me for some time. As I've been working on my dissertation on Sallust and reading Lucan, I find myself siding with Caesar in the comparison with Cato, and I roll my eyes when Lucan portrays Caesar as bloodlust personified - but I have no good reason for this.
Cato was in my opinion primarily responsible for the civil war. Cato did not know the middle ground, he always kept to the extremes. His stubborness and extreme views where one of the main causes of the Civil war, as mentioned by Cicero himself.

One problem I have with many later historians is that they wrote after the facts had happened. Goldsworthy specifically tries to forget that Caesar fought a civil war, because if you don't you'll be biased to the early period of his life. Most historians thought he wanted to destroy the republic, whereas in reality it seemed more like he wanted to change it, which was badly needed.
My guess would be all the pro Caesar Propaganda. Just remember that Caesar was Octavian's adopted father and It was in roman culture to honor and trumpet their achievements to make you look good. It is also not without reason that all later emperors were called Caesar.
Augustus is probably guilty of having slightly turned history in favor of Caesar, but we still have a lot of Cicero's accounts/letters, who was at best neutral to Caesar. Not all emperors were called Caesar by the way. The later emperors were only called Augustus. In the late-empire the main emperor was called Augustus whereas his 2nd was called Caesar.
Personally, I despise Caesar for the simple fact that he is so blindly praised. He wasn't a genius of a commander people make him out to be, the legions won him battles, and his rhetoric kept the people, and politics, on his side. Don't get me wrong, he was an able commander, but people who compare him to Hannibal and Alexander the Great, in my opinion, should go sit in a corner and feel bad for their statement
Caesar was a great commander, with speed as his main weapon. He wasn't a perfect commander, but neither were alexander, hannibal, Pompey or any other. His expeditions to Britannia were badly planned, at the Sambre he was surprised, he lost a lot of men to Ambiorix ambush (not under his personal command, but it was his responsibility), he was defeated at Gergovia and lost at Dyrachium.

Saying that the legions won his battle, could be true if he had only fought non-romans. But his victories over very able Pompeyan commanders, including Pompey himself, prove he was a great general.

Comparing generals of different time-frames is hard, near impossible actually, but whereas most of the other great generals were great commanders, Caesar was more than just a great commander, he was also a brilliant politician. That combination is what makes him so mighty and admirable. Hannibal failed to unite Carthage behind him and lost the battle of Zama. Scipio was a great tactician, but failed as a politician, same for Pompey. Alexander made reckless decisions and not only endangered himself, but also his men at many occasions.


So my conclusion is:
Why is Caesar so popular?
-His life is one of the best documented periods of the roman period
-He was a great general, conquered Gaul, was first to visit Britain, defeated his civil enemies and reconquered the roman empire
-He was a charming man, that seduced the women of other men (which modern politician would do that )
-He had great oration skills and usually (some exceptions) a good political instinct
-His life and death are full of drama and action.

In my opinion he was a great man, but not a good man. In our modern view he would even be a war-criminal and tyrant.
ShieldWall
Ashigaru
posted 04-06-12 04:42 AM EDT (US)     5 / 7       
I've been away for a few days so missed all of this. There seems to be a lot of anger in the modern era towards Caesar for breaking up the Republic, but it was creaking so badly at this time that a change of government was inevitable. I think we tend to look overly fondly at the Roman Republic by making superficial comparisons between it and modern republics like that in the US, and assuming it to be a fair and democratic system. The systems share a name, but little more. Sooner or later someone would have had to come along and "do a Caesar", he just happened to be the guy who was there at the time and had the guts to do it.

Still though, you do have to wonder about a bloke who is so full of himself that he had a day of the month named after him. July. The month of my birth...

I don't see Caesar as being one of history's great military commanders though. He had a skill, no question of that, but I wouldn't put him on a par with the best. His success in Gaul to me seems to have had less to do with tactics than marching his men with incredible speed to break up rebellions before they could properly form.

Today we would look at Caesar's invasion of Gaul and be horrified. Here's a self-determining set of tribes being attacked by an outside force, killed and sold into slavery by the million, then utterly dominated by the Roman system. But these were different times, and we today have a tendency to judge history with the moral standards of our day. A great mistake because morals are not set in stone, they can change about face in a matter of decades, never mind 2000 years. There was nothing particularly untoward in what Caesar did by the standards of the time. We look fondly to the Greeks and their democratic systems, but they would think nothing of attacking a city that had caused great offence, killing all the men and selling the women and children into slavery. These were civilised values as they existed at the time. A far greater crime of Rome is when Trajan invaded Dacia and to all intents and purposes exterminated an entire nation. As Terry Jones said of Trajan's Column, there can't be many monuments in the world which celebrate an act of genocide, but this one does!
Alex_the_Bold
Ashigaru
posted 04-06-12 06:42 AM EDT (US)     6 / 7       
Hi, I've recently found this site and have just registered.
I agree with my fellow forumers and I'd like to add that there is also another reason why Caesar was so popular among the people of Rome.



Many romans saw Caesar's campaigns against the Gauls as campaigns of vengeance against their primordial enemies ,the Gauls.In addition, Caesar seemed to be revenging the gaulic capture and sack of Rome some four-hundred years ago.

I hope I didn't waste your time with my mumbling

Invincibility lies in defence, while the possibility of victory in the attack -Sun Tzu
Akouson me, pataxon de (hit me, but first listen to me)-Themistocles to Euribiadis prior to the battle of Salamis.
Punic Hebil
Centurion
(id: Punic Hoplite)
posted 04-06-12 12:21 PM EDT (US)     7 / 7       
Welcome to our hallowed halls! And one can never waste our time, unless you start advertising stuff that makes babies learn better or some crap.

We are a history oriented forum. Any historical knowledge you bring is valuable.

I am the Carthaginian who became an angel, and surrendered his wings for a life on the sea of battle.

My magic screen is constantly bombarded with nubile young things eager to please these old eyes. This truly is a wonderful period in which to exist! - Terikel the Deflowerer
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