Michael Parenti is the author of sixteen books including History as Mystery; The Terrorism Trap; Democracy for the Few; Against Empire; Dirty Truths; Blackshirts and Reds; and America Besieged. His work has been translated into twelve languages.
Why did a group of Roman senators gather near Pompey's theater on March 15, 44 B.C., to kill Julius Caesar? Was it their fear of Caesar's tyrannical power? Or were these aristocratic senators worried that Caesar's land reforms and leanings toward democracy would upset their own control over the Roman Republic? Parenti (History as Mystery, etc.) narrates a provocative history of the late republic in Rome (100-33 B.C.) to demonstrate that Caesar's death was the culmination of growing class conflict, economic disparity and political corruption. He reconstructs the history of these crucial years from the perspective of the Roman people, the masses of slaves, plebs and poor farmers who possessed no political power. Roughly 99% of the state's wealth was controlled by 1% of the population, according to Parenti. By the 60s B.C., the poor populace had begun to find spokesmen among such leaders as the tribunes Tiberius Gracchus and his younger brother, Gaius. Although the Gracchi attempted to introduce various reforms, they were eventually murdered, and the reform movements withered. Julius Caesar, says Parenti, took up where they left off, introducing laws to improve the condition of the poor, redistributing land and reducing unemployment. As Parenti points out, such efforts threatened the landed aristocracy's power in the Senate and resulted in Caesar's assassination. Parenti's method of telling history from the "bottom up" will be controversial, but he recreates the struggles of the late republic with such scintillating storytelling and deeply examined historical insight that his book provides an important alternative to the usual views of Caesar and the Roman Empire. (Aug.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
"Scintillating storytelling and deeply examined historical insight.
. . . An important alternative to the usual views of Caesar and the
"A highly accessible and entertaining addition to history. . . .
It breathes contempt for the rich of ancient Rome and their
apologists hiding in classical studies departments today."
--Bookmarks "A novel approach."
Parenti (History as Mystery) presents the assassination of Julius Caesar as a class issue rather than the clash of personalities that is so often portrayed in literature. He takes this angle to accommodate his projected audience and to change the tide of how ancient history has been traditionally written, that is, from the perspective of the wealthy and powerful Roman senators. The author dubs the men responsible for perpetuating that practice "gentlemen historians"-rich and powerful upper-class chaps who were unlikely to question the senators' motives. Instead of viewing Caesar as a demagogue like his predecessors, Parenti in many ways aligns him with the Gracchae, the brothers killed in the late second century B.C.E. for attempting to thwart the senatorial oligarchy that ruled the Roman Republic. While ironically he agrees with Ernst Badian, a premier ancient historian (and something of an anti-Marxist), he breaks with him by complaining that there is a dearth of research on the so-called mob or rabble of Rome. Parenti would posit that the common people, by their actions, demonstrate an understanding of politics and were often artisans and skilled laborers who have long gone unrecognized. A novel approach, this is recommended for large public and academic libraries.-Clay Williams, Hunter Coll. Lib., Bronx, NY Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.