Wednesday, August 19, 2020

What Happens to Democracy?

One of the more intriguing questions about politics today is “What happens after democracy?” Some ask this question out of curiosity; some out of fear. The fearful are concerned that democratic governments have become unstable.

In our 21st Century world, democracies predominate. This is explained by the fact that democracies, and their partner capitalism, have been more efficient at delivering goods and services than other government forms, making them the preferred model in the modern and postmodern world.

Lately, democracy is showing its age, and its governments are less able to “govern.” Tribalism, generated by ideological polarization prevents legislatures from acting for the good of the people. Candidates are selected by the elite class to perpetuate elite control. Lobbyists, under control of the elites, replace the will of the people. The people are less engaged and easily influenced by elite messaging.

How to we fit the current situation into the history of politics? A logical place to start is the work of Polybius.

Polybius was a Greek historian, who lived from 200 BC to 118 BC. He was taken as a hostage by the Romans in 167 BC and was held in Rome for 17 years. Polybius later become an associate of Scipio Aemilius, the Roman general who defeated the Carthaginians in the Third Punic War. As an observer of Rome and Greece, Polybius wrote about political systems: their origin, structure, and stability. He created a cycle of governments to describe the forces that change societies from one form to another.

The cycle is Monarchy – Kingship – Tyranny – Aristocracy – Oligarchy – Democracy.

Monarchies appear by the natural and unaided rise in power of individuals who impress their people with leadership skills. As long as man has lived in groups, they have been led by those who, by intelligence or charisma, rise to the top. Monarchies first appeared after the beginning of agriculture in 3000 BC, because a hierarchical structure was needed to govern large groups of human beings. Monarchies were the government of choice for 4500 years until the Enlightenment. Some monarchies become kingships; a transition that occurred when leaders began to govern by fear rather than the approval of their people.

When kings became tyrants, they fell and were replaced by an aristocracy made up of wealthy and powerful elites, who exerted control to preserve their status. In time, the aristocracy saw its power concentrated in few leaders, and transitioned to an oligarchy (rule of few). The oligarchy fell when the people became tired of unjust rule. To replace the oligarchies, people demanded democracies. Democracies prosper as long as traditions, and commitment to justice, remain strong. When those characteristics die away, the cycle moves back to a monarchy. The people replace an unworkable system with one person they can trust.

If you think these concepts are fanciful and unrealistic, consider the following examples.

In Ancient Greece, the Mycenaean kings were replaced by an aristocracy, which became an oligarchy before it was a democracy. Tyrants popped up a from time to time, during the period of aristocracies, when the aristocracies failed to govern.

Ancient Rome was first ruled by monarchs, who became kings and then tyrants. They were replaced by an aristocracy (the patricians), who transitioned to an oligarchy. Rome never achieved a transition to democracy because dictators took control and created an empire.

The United States, as a child of the Enlightenment, did not have to endure a monarchy. It started as an aristocracy, transitioned to an oligarchy, during the time of the Federalists, and then became a democracy.

Polybius created his theory before the concept of collectivism/socialism developed, so there is no socialist model in the cycle. The most important socialist systems, Russia and China, developed from feudal systems so they don’t fit conveniently there.

Cuba serves as an interesting example. Castro overthrew a dictator (tyrant) to gain power. The step to aristocracy was interrupted by his revolution. At the time, Cuba was weak economically, so one might consider it a feudal state. Castro was propped up by money from the Soviet Union for decades. Without that help, he would not have been able to implement his Communist model.

If we trust Polybius and imagine what would happen if some democracies fail over the next decades, their replacement will feature concentrated power, because concentrated power can govern more efficiently than a democracy. The replacements will authoritarian leaders or dictators.

Monday, March 16, 2020

The Ancient History Hall of Fame

Its fun and interesting to speculate about who would be in the Ancient History Hall of Fame if there were such a place, and I admit that building a list like this is subjective. Fame plays a significant role here, making it difficult to include those who are generally unknown to the public. My sense of antiquity is that individuals whose fame has endured over the millennia were the most important. My list omits the infamous whose misdeeds are their claim to fame.

To invoke a baseball analogy, there are a group of ancients that I will label first ballot hall of famers. That is individuals who would be on everyone’s list and would never have their selection questioned. That list includes,

Alexander the Great, Aristotle, Caesar Augustus, Cleopatra, Confucius, Constantine the Great, Hannibal, Herodotus, Homer, Jesus, Julius Caesar, Moses, Saul (Paul) of Tarsus, Pericles, Plato, Siddhartha Gautama, Socrates, Solon, and Thucydides. That’s nineteen.

In the second tier I would place Aeschylus, Aristophanes, Attila the Hun, St. Augustine, Demosthenes, Euclid, Euripides, Hammurabi, Hippocrates, Nebuchadnezzar II, Pindar, Sappho, Scipio Africanus, Sophocles, Thales, Virgil, Xerxes, and Zoroaster. Another eighteen.

My third tier would contain Archimedes, Cato, Empedocles, Galen, Justinian I Mithridates VI, Ovid, Plutarch, Ramses II, and Spartacus, making the list total 47.

Do we add more and, if so, by what criteria? A structured approach would dictate selection by category of accomplishment. For example, the Greeks made significant contributions in philosophy, science, drama, and poetry, so we should choose one or more from each of these. Right? But, trying to build a list like this, and limiting its size, gets one into trouble quickly.

It is generally thought that the four greatest dramatists of all time were Shakespeare, Aristophanes, Aeschylus, and Euripides. If all three Greeks are in a class with the Bard, shouldn’t that make them hall of famers?

Philosophy is tougher still. You start with Plato and Aristotle and then it makes sense to add Socrates and Thales. Who else? There are so many candidates – Zeno, Epicurus, Anaximander, Heraclitus, etc.

There are two groups I have not selected from: those too obscure to be eligible and those who didn’t quite make the grade for a short list. In the first group I include Ashkoka (Indian emperor of the Maurya Dynasty), Hashesput (fifth Pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty of Egypt), Inhotep (a Polymath circa 2650 B.C.), and Sargon the Great (Akkadian king of 2300 B.C.).

The second group contains Agrippa (important as Augustus right hand man) but not quite good enough, Thermistocles (admiral of the Athenian Navy), Anaximander, Anaximenes, and Tacitus.

Now let’s move on to a few more who are worthy. There are seven in this group: Trajan, Marcus Aurelius, Livy, Leonidas, Lysander, Isocrates, and Cicero. The Golden Age of the empire is an important period and Trajan and Marcus are its bookends. Trajan reigned from 98-117 A.D, stabilizing the empire and initiating a period of calm lasting 82 years. Marcus Aurelius was the last of the dynasty and is important for his reflective personality and stoic philosophy. It was a sad irony that Marcus hated wars and yet was fated to fight in them for almost his entire reign.

If you have Herodotus and Thucydides on the list you have to have Livy -- Rome’s greatest historian. We are all the poorer because so many of his books were lost.

In my view, you can’t construct an Ancient’s Hall of Fame without Spartans, so I have included two: Leonidas and Lysander. Leonidas is famous for one single event, his defense at Thermopylae. That story has resonated around the world ever since as an example of courage, honor, and devotion to the cause. Leonidas has a unique place on the list because his contribution occurred during a single event that cost him his life, rather than contributions over a lifetime. Lysander was Sparta’s greatest admiral, largely responsible for ending the Peloponnesean War in Sparta’s favor.

I thought of including Lycurgus, architect of the Spartan political system, but we’re not sure a single person with that name existed.

I include Isocrates, at risk, because some would call him obscure. He labored under the shadow of Plato but his contribution to the development of educational systems that followed him is unequalled. He was Athens’ greatest orator and had a great influence over the politics of is day.

So now we reach the end with Cicero, who as a philosopher, orator, statesman, lawyer, and political theorist had a significant impact on late Republican Rome. Cicero’s Latin prose was unequalled as he built a Latin philosophical vocabulary by translating the Greek. His letters, when discovered during the 14th century, helped launch the renaissance, through an emerging interest in the writings of antiquity. Cicero’s humanist philosophy influenced the renaissance, while his republicanism influenced the founders of the United States.

We could add more women and make the list longer. Perhaps someone will want to provide some names. We have Cleopatra and Sappho on the list. Others, including Augustus’ wife Luvilla And Leonidas’ wife Gorgo come to mind. Unfortunately, women didn’t receive the publicity in the ancient world that men did and their lack of access to power and status made it much harder for them to become famous.

Now we have a complete list of 54 – an odd number and no more than an arbitrary stopping point based on subjective criteria. It’s too bad we have so few Hall of Famers like them today. In this modern age, power and money have subverted wisdom and knowledge.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Crossing the Rubicon

Crossing the Rubicon is a piece of history that made its way into American popular culture --the saying describing a situation where there is no turning back.

The historical event that created the saying occurred on January 10th, 49 BC, when Julius Caesar led a single Roman legion across the Rubicon River in Northern Italy.

The Rubicon River in Eastern Italy and the Arno River in Western Italy formed the northern boundary of Republican Italy in the 1st Century BC, separating it from Cisalpine Gaul. Roman law required that that only city magistrates from Rome lead an army south of the two rivers and Pro-consuls who had military control of the provinces were not allowed to enter with an army. Violation of this law, meant the loss of Imperium to command troops and was an act of treason.

Caesar, through his agents in the Senate, which included the Tribune Antony, tried to negotiate an accommodation with Pompey and the Senate. Caesar requested a new provincial assignment in order to retain Imperium and avoid prosecution for bribery and theft in office. The Senate was unwilling to meet his demand and circumstances began to move toward a confrontation.

A resolution was introduced on the Senate requiring that both Caesar and Pompey give up their commands as an attempt to satisfy both factions. Caesar was in favor, but a small group of Senators vetoed the resolution because they suspected a trap. The Senate then introduced a resolution proposing that two of Caesar’s legions be sent to Syria. Pompey favored this attempt to declaw Caesar and Caesar complied.

In December 50 BC a second resignation resolution was proposed in the Senate, requiring Caesar to give up his command without requiring Pompey to do so. This was later amended, requiring both men to give up their posts simultaneously. The vote was 370 for and 22 against.

This action by the Senate was immediately rendered useless when a panic followed. Rumors started that Caesar was already matching on Rome, so the Senate granted Pompey command for the defense of the city. A resolution was introduced placing a fixed date on Caesar’s resignation, but this was vetoed by Antony. Then, on January 7th 49 BC, an emergency decree was passed, legalizing Pompey’s authority and requested that all major officials move to protect the state. Antony was forced to flee Rome or suffer penalties under this martial law. The Senate’s final act in this drama was to assign new governors for Gaul, replacing Caesar.

The Senate’s behavior convinced Caesar that diplomatic efforts were no longer possible and a show of force was necessary, so he crossed the Rubicon on January 10th. He divided his legion into two columns: one headed for Arretium and the other Ariminum.

The speed with which Caesar advanced astonished the Senate and Pompey, who were not convinced he would try to press an attack with one legion. By day three, Arretium had already fallen. Rather than resisting Caesar, the locals along his route opened their doors to him and even expelled Pompey’s garrisons from their territory. Surprised at this, Pompey retreated south to Capua, leaving Rome unprotected and forcing his allies in the Senate to abandon the city and join him.

Caesar arrived in Rome the first week of March with six legions. He had accumulated additional troops on his way south based on loyalty to his cause. There was some resistance, on the way, but little bloodshed because his enemies had melted away. Caesar impressed all with his leniency toward those who opposed him by setting them free.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Sorry about going Dark

The blog has been down for most of July and all of August until today. The reason was that my site license did not get renewed correctly and the site was suspended. All is well now.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Capitalism in the Roman Republic

Capitalism is an economic system in which wealth, and the means of producing wealth, are privately owned and controlled rather than state-owned and controlled. Through capitalism, the land, labor, and capital are owned, operated, and traded by private individuals or corporations and investments, distribution, income, production, pricing and supply of goods, commodities and services are determined by voluntary private decision in a market economy.

A division of labor has always existed in human society. As a population grows, demand for goods and services forces the development of new skills. Capitalists show up in societies as salesmen or entrepreneurs who are clever at buying and selling, so they take opportunities for profit when they present themselves.

To hear modern historians tell it, capitalism began with the Enlightenment in the late 16th century. The break from the Catholic Church and authoritarian monarchs allowed people to exert their individual rights and take control of their lives. This new freedom, allowed citizens to form their own businesses, go to market, and make a profit.

The focus for today’s scholars may be on this new-found freedom of the Enlightenment, but that was not the origin of capitalism.

When Rome began it was strictly an agrarian society. The only asset considered valuable was land. In Roman society, wealthy patricians controlled the land and those without wealth or land were the Plebeians. Patricians considered mercantilism beneath their dignity and refused to engage in such low enterprise. Cicero once referred to all salesmen as liars.

As Roman trade evolved, laws were passed that prohibited senators from investing in shipping. That left the Plebeians to control that market. The same story happened with the Roman civil service. As it grew, the new positions were given to the lower class, and the resulting economic environment fostered the growth of a new middle class (the Knights). The first “businessmen” were called Publicans. They were employed by the state to manage public contracts: to collect taxes, manage mining companies, and oversee road construction. Contracts were awarded to bidders at auction and their duration was five years.

During the Punic Wars Publicans built ships for the Roman Navy and equipped the Roman Army. In 215 BC, three Publican contractors were censured because they provided financing to Spanish tribes, who were Rome’s enemy at the time. They scuttled their ships and sued the Republic for reimbursement.

The Senate chose to utilize the Knights commercially, instead of creating a civil service, but the power of the Knights grew, and they were able to exert great influence as a class. In 169 BC, the censor Tiberius Gracchus cancelled all Publican contracts because of corruption, but the Knights rebelled and accused him of treason against the state. Tiberius was acquitted, but all Rome now understood the power of the middle class.

By the fall of the Republic there were hundreds of corporations selling shares to investors. Manufacturing and trades flourished: including furniture making, leatherwork, weaving, metalworking, stone working, and food processing.

Many of the business terms we are familiar with today were in use in Roman times, including insurance, banks making loans, individuals owning shares in companies, competition, hoarding commodities to influence prices, investments, lawsuits, and monetary speculation.

There is one major difference, worth noting, between capitalism in the time of Rome and the Enlightenment Period. There was no industrial revolution in Roman times because there were no machines available for mass production. Those machines gave the Enlightenment a black eye because they led to worker exploitation and harsh working conditions. As a direct result, socialism was developed as an alternative to the evil capitalistic model.

This story suggests that capitalism is the default behavior in human society. The combination of a large and diverse population and the need for skill differentiation to efficiently supply goods and services to people, generates a market model.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Review of Hannibal by Patrick N. Hunt

My usual reference for Hannibal’s campaign against the Romans (218-202) is The Punic Wars by Brian Caven, published in 1992. Of course, we also have Polybius and Livy who were closer to the action, but not contemporary to it. Polybius was born in 200 BC and was brought the Rome in 167 BC as a hostage. He lived there 17 years and was an eyewitness to the Third Punic War (149-146 BC). Polybius eventually published a history of all three Punic Wars, but most of his work is lost. Livy, starting in 30 BC, used Polybius and others in his own his own account of the time of Hannibal, looking backward 200 years.

Now we have a new biography of Hannibal by Patrick Hunt, archaeologist and historian from Stanford University. Dr. Hunt’s book equals and exceeds previous work on the subject. His scholarship is meticulous and thorough, and the story of Hannibal’s life is told as a straightforward narrative without unnecessary decoration.

Hannibal Barca was one of the greatest military commanders of all time, so his story is essential reading for anyone interested in military history. Son of one of the leaders of Carthage, and born after the Carthaginian defeat in the First Punic War, Hannibal came to power quickly. Accompanying his father Hamilcar and brother-in-law Hasdrubal on an expedition to Spain, he had to tolerate the drowning of his father and the assassination of Hasdrubal. Now commander and chief of the Punic Army at 26, Hannibal took control his own destiny and became the central player in the Second Punic War.

Most of us have heard the story of Hannibal’s crossing of the Alps in the fall of 218 BC which was a prelude to his attack on the Italian Peninsula. He defeated the Roman Army so soundly, in a series of battles, that the Romans were forced to fight a war of attrition instead of trying to defeat him head on head. Hannibal was loose in the Italian Peninsula for 15 years until he was recalled to Carthage in 203. He lost the Battle of Zama to a Roman army under the command of Scipio Africanus in 202 BC, and this defeat ended the second Punic War.

Professor Hunt documents Hannibal’s later years after he was exiled from Carthage in 195 BC. Hannibal acted as a military adviser to some heads of state in Asia Minor, but when betrayed to the Romans in 183 BC, he took poison to avoid captivity. The author goes to some length to lay our Hannibal’s legacy and influence, showing us why the general is one of the most significant figures during the age of the Roman Republic.

I enthusiastically recommend this book to anyone who wants to examine Hannibal’s life and his battles with the Romans. You will come away with a thorough perspective on the man and the general.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Review: The Landmark Julius Caesar

This is a review of a new book on Julius Caesar, published in The Wall Street Journal December 1, 2017. My bolded sections.

By James Romm

It’s astounding that so few fans of martial sagas like “The Lord of the Rings” and “Game of Thrones” have found their way to the narratives of the Greek and Roman historians. In these works, too, one finds apocalyptic battles, ruthless political struggles and bizarre twists of fortune. They may lack dragons, but their intensity is amplified by the knowledge that the events they describe really happened. The story of Julius Caesar’s rise to power in the 50s and 40s B.C., first through the conquest of Gaul (modern France) and then by whirlwind campaigns throughout the Mediterranean, is as compelling as any televised drama, and indeed HBO and the BBC built the first season of their series “Rome” around exactly these events.

Who would prefer modern-day dilutions and screen adaptations to the surviving firsthand accounts of such episodes, narrated by great writers? Just about everyone, it seems, and perhaps the reasons are not so hard to find after all. The chronological gulf that separates us from the Roman world, and even more from the Greeks, can render the primary narratives blurry and indistinct. Opacities of nomenclature, geography, units of currency, measurements of distance and a dozen other pitfalls stand in the modern reader’s path. As a teacher I am always dismayed when undergraduates declare themselves bored by the Greek historian Thucydides, whose vividness as a reporter of the catastrophic Peloponnesian War ought to quicken their pulse. Despite my best efforts, some are simply unable to part the veil of time.

Edited by Kurt A. Raaflaub
Pantheon, 793 pages, $50
Similar frustrations in teaching ancient history to disengaged students led independent scholar and businessman Robert Strassler to conceive the Landmark Ancient Histories. Beginning with “The Landmark Thucydides,” published by the Free Press in 1996, Mr. Strassler showed his determination to leave no reader behind. He supplied detailed maps on nearly every third page of text and clear, full annotation that removed potential stumbling blocks. Headings kept readers oriented in time and space, as did brief summaries, running down the book’s generously wide margins, of each stage of the action. Well-curated photographs of objects and sites turned a mere encounter with the Peloponnesian War into an immersion in classical Greece. Appendix essays set new standards for readability and point. An opening chronology laid out the events of the text in sequence, and a closing index, done in unprecedented detail, provided a precise means of finding whatever item one might be looking for.
Subsequent installments in the Landmark series added new features and enriched the old, as Mr. Strassler, with the help of the editors for each volume (this writer among them), tackled the major Greek historians in turn: Herodotus, Arrian and Xenophon. Now, with “The Landmark Julius Caesar, ” the series arrives for the first time at the gates of Rome and deals with a figure who is far better known—in part through his own writings—than any Greek or Macedonian. The huge volume of evidence surviving from this book’s time span, the years 58 to 45 B.C., posed a challenge for the Landmark series. Under the expert guidance of volume editor Kurt Raaflaub, with oversight from Mr. Strassler (who remains series editor), the challenge has been met with stunning success.
The tireless devotion of both Mr. Strassler and Mr. Raaflaub, professor emeritus of classics at Brown University, is evident right from this book’s table of contents. Caesar’s best-known work, the “Gallic War,” would by itself have made up a full and satisfying volume, but “The Landmark Julius Caesar” also gives us four other narratives, descriptions of subsequent campaigns, to make up the whole of what scholars term the Corpus Caesarianum, the body of contemporaneous accounts of Caesar’s wars. These five works, only two of which are Caesar’s own compositions, have not appeared together, in English, since the early 18th century, even though their dovetailing time frames makes the set a continuous whole. To see them here between one set of covers is truly inspiring.
We begin in Gaul, with perhaps the most famous sentence in Latin literature, Caesar’s marvelously low-key “All Gaul is divided into three parts.” The “Gallic War” relates, in Caesar’s own words, the series of campaigns (58-52 B.C.) by which Gallic tribes were either brought over to Rome’s cause or defeated, one by one, then finally smashed in the decisive siege of a collective resistance at Alesia (See my post on this)... Aulus Hirtius, one of Caesar’s officers, composed a final segment to the “Gallic War” that covers some mopping-up operations in 51 and 50 B.C., bringing us to the next work, the “Civil War,” also written by Caesar himself.
The “Civil War” begins at the start of 49 B.C. with attempts by the Roman senate to strip away Caesar’s power and position, by which they felt increasingly threatened. In response, Caesar crossed the Rubicon River with his army, declaring his intention to march on Rome. The senate opposition fled across the Adriatic with their champion, Pompey Magnus, Caesar’s great rival in military brilliance. At Pharsalus (I also have a post on this), in northern Greece, Caesar put them to rout. The “Civil War” closes with a cliffhanger as Caesar, pursuing the defeated Pompey to Egypt, becomes enmeshed in a local civil war and besieged in Alexandria with his new ally and lover, Cleopatra.
That event marks the endpoint of Caesar’s own writings, but members of his staff, their names unknown to us (and their styles recognizably poorer), took up the tale. The “Alexandrian War” describes the daring moves by which Caesar broke the Egyptian siege, then swept through the eastern Mediterranean, Greece and Italy in late 48 and 47 B.C., chasing opponents and firming control. After spending only a few weeks in Rome, at the end of 47 B.C., Caesar left for North Africa to deal with the unreconciled Pompeians Scipio and Cato, and the narrator of the “African War” follows him there. Despite the opposition of a local potentate, Caesar was again victorious and returned to Rome in the summer of 46 B.C. to a hero’s welcome and a grant, by a now compliant senate, of unprecedented power.
A final campaign, described in the “Spanish War,” brought Caesar to Spain to deal with new foes, Pompey’s sons Gnaeus and Sextus, in late 46 and 45 B.C. The Corpus Caesarianum ends abruptly in April of 45 B.C., with the text of the “Spanish War” breaking off in mid-sentence. But the Pompeys had by then been defeated and Caesar’s invincibility made plain to all.
The denouement of Caesar’s story was not recounted by any surviving chronicler, but it is well known today, thanks to Plutarch and Shakespeare. Once he had returned to Rome with his fiercely loyal army, Caesar’s political future posed a dilemma to what was still, in name at least, a republic. Some wanted him made king, but monarchy stood in ill repute in Rome, so he was instead appointed dictator for life, a marginally constitutional office. Senatorial foes, defeated once in Caesar’s war against Pompey but pardoned and restored to office, disliked the appointment and also feared the power that Caesar might accrue from a planned attack on the Parthians (based in modern Iran). Just before the launching of that campaign, in the spring of 44 B.C., they assassinated him.
To edit and annotate such a diverse collection of narratives, produced by several different hands, describing intricate military maneuvers and spanning three continents in their ambit, was, by any measure, a Herculean task. Mr. Raaflaub has surpassed even the previous high standards of the Landmark series by supplying full, expert and wide-ranging notes, almost all containing his own elucidations rather than showy scholarly references. This achievement is amplified by more than 40 appendix essays, all commissioned by Mr. Raaflaub and several written by him, addressing all sorts of literary, military and biographical questions. The amplitude of these essays is such that the volume prints only four essential ones and directs the reader to a website for the others. The dimensions of the book simply could not accommodate all the knowledge it seeks to convey.
It’s rare for a scholar of Mr. Raaflaub’s standing to annotate an ancient text translated for Latinless readers, and still more rare for him to translate it himself, as Mr. Raaflaub has done here. As its holiday-season debut implies, “The Landmark Julius Caesar” is his gift, and Mr. Strassler’s, to history readers everywhere and even to professional historians, who will find much original research between its covers. Among his other devoted efforts, Mr. Raaflaub, together with University of Illinois classicist John Ramsey, has made painstaking calculations of the distances and rates of travel involved in Caesar’s movements, such that the dates accompanying the narrative could be given not just by season (as in Caesar’s own reportage) but by month and, in some cases, by day. Such precision, if not something that readers would demand, adds to the steadying sense of authority and factuality that is the trademark virtue of the Landmark series.
History buffs, classicists, fans of television’s “Rome”: Do not pass up this gift. Whether you revere Caesar as a military genius or despise him as a butcher and a tyrant, “The Landmark Julius Caesar” is an indispensable way to read his writings and understand his rise to power.
—Mr. Romm is the editor of “The Landmark Arrian: The Campaigns of Alexander” and the editor and translator of “How to Die: An Ancient Guide to the End of Life,” to be published next month.
I own the Landmark Xenophon and can testify to the quality of the series.