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Topic: Some Thoughts On the Political "Caesarism" Phenomenon  (Read 2352 times)
Seneca
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« on: October 21, 2006, 08:57:49 AM »

Caesar came about at the right time in Roman History when politics of Rome were ripening to the point of increasing hopelessness and eventual uselessness of constitutional forms, because the field of Roman politics was gradually landing into the lap of force-men. Marius, Sulla, Caesar, Crassus, Pompey, Anthony, Octavian were most of these men of that turbulent century of Classical civilization's history that in the point of form corresponds to our (Western) 21th century that lays before us.

Among the many personal greatnesses of Caesar, is the one with which he saw things as they were and was guided in the exercise of his rulership by definite and unsentimental practical considerations. From this perspective, DE BELLO GALLICO is the highest achievement by Caesar as far as the revealing nature of his writing is concerned. In it, not only does he delve deep into all sorts of aspects of life, customs and thinking of the Gauls, but he also brings them into meaningful practical relationships with each other and, most importantly, vis-a-vis his own side.
A man of such high perspective must be the master of life in his own world in order to give his practical analysis of foreign life a firm foundation.

Caesar speaks like a master of things, which is why all the administrative measures he undertakes in Gaul (as the consul) are transitional provisions, none intended to be permanent, save in rare instances when he legislated for the Gauls (during some gatherings in Bibracte), but also in Rome itself towards the end of his life. This is because his far-reaching political aims could not be satisfied by measures that were momentarily necessary and of this he was fully conscious! Roman administrators were almost never of this mindset. They focused on the here and now, without regard as to how their actions might affect the farther future.

In Gaul however, Caesar achieved a colonial war's victory in roughly 10 years (colonial in the sense of a one-sided war).

For now, I will just limit my preliminary commentary on the readings, centered on the chapters of Caesar's military diary of the Gallic campaign, to the fact that Caesar belonged to those great FACT-MEN gifted with immense understanding who invariably arise in the final centuries of any civilization's evolution (be that Ramses of Egypt, Wang-Cheng (1st Emperor of China), and Alp Arslan (first of the Sultans), etc.) to lead the way into the politically formless age of force-men, men who sacrifice wealth for the sake of power and private political aims with the world as their spoil.

Thus, it is clear why nothing else ever quoted about Caesar captures his character better than "VENI, VIDI, VICI."


I do not understand where you are coming from with this critique of Caesar (unless you are judging the book by its cover), perhaps it comes from the narrow picture of Caesar, his life and times and a lack of knowledge of all the facts about Caesar (perhaps this poorely translated excerpt of De Bello Gallico is your first encounter with Caesar's writing). Certainly, the fact remains that most translations of Caesar's work suffer from the deep incompatibility between the Latin and English (and also Slavic) sentence-constructions and thought-patterns, making it excruciatingly difficult to translate a voluminous work of ancient Latin.

Even in German - it would be hard - but - still easier to understand a translation of late Republican Latin that Caesar employed, due to the different German sentence-construction.

He did not write this for the purposes of impressing the Senate, Senate was under his control through his political allies in Rome (and you should see how differently his wording of messages to Senate were). The fact is that he needed not make substantial embellishments in his accounts of the war simply because he was so successful in this 10-year campaign! Out of so many opportunities, only once, at Gergovia, did his opponents kill "substantial" numbers of his troops, even then doubtfully due to his errors. One need only remember the affair at Alesia to understand the technical and leadership skills involved on the Roman side, even when vastly outnumbered.

Caesarism (named after Caesar) as a political-epochal movement was certainly the final testament to the power of this man, the reformer and the one who was about to abandon Rome as the seat of a new empire (before the assassins took his life in an outburst of Classical anti-duration feeling), after the would-be Parthian war.

Our overall epoch or age should not be too devoid of the historic Caesar-types, for one, Dr. Oswald Spengler considered an echo of such a type (a shy prototype) to have been the great Victorian adventurer, political and business engineer, Sir Cecil Rhodes, the conqueror and founder of Rhodesia (today's despicable barbarian pariahdom of Zimbabwe), including the De Beers Mining Company which became the De Beers Diamond Corporation, in the South African War he commanded troops at Kimberley.
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