HISTORY FORUM: Michael Parenti's "The Assassination of Julius Caesar"

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HISTORY FORUM: Michael Parenti's "The Assassination of Julius Caesar"
by Darius Kadivar
27-Nov-2009
 
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.
 

Talk by Michael Parenti author of "The Assassination of Julius Caesar: A People's History of Ancient Rome" given April 5, 1998 at the University of Seattle, Washington.


 

Joseph L. Mankiewicz's Julius Caesar 1953 Theatrical Trailer:
 
 
 

Marlon Brando's breathtaking performance as Marc Anthony delivering his famous speach:
 
 

 

Most historians, both ancient and modern, have viewed the Late Republic of Rome through the eyes of its rich nobility. They regard Roman commoners as a parasitic mob, a rabble interested only in bread and circuses. They cast Caesar, who took up the popular cause, as a despot and demagogue, and treat his murder as the outcome of a personal feud or constitutional struggle, devoid of social content. In The Assassination of Julius Caesar, the distinguished author Michael Parenti subjects these assertions of “gentlemen historians” to a bracing critique, and presents us with a compelling story of popular resistance against entrenched power and wealth. Parenti shows that Caesar was only the last in a line of reformers, dating back across the better part of a century, who were murdered by opulent conservatives. Caesar’s assassination set in motion a protracted civil war, the demise of a five-hundred-year Republic, and the emergence of an absolutist rule that would prevail over Western Europe for centuries to come.

Parenti reconstructs the social and political context of Caesar’s murder, offering fascinating details about Roman society. In these pages we encounter money-driven elections, the struggle for economic democracy, the use of religion as an instrument of social control, the sexual abuse of slaves, and the political use of homophobic attacks. Here is a story of empire and corruption, patriarchs and subordinated women, self-enriching capitalists and plundered provinces, slumlords and urban rioters, death squads and political witchhunts.

The Assassination of Julius Caesar offers a compelling new perspective on an ancient era, one that contains many intriguing parallels to our own times.

Book Can be purchased at amazon.com 


Official Website of Michael Parenti :
 
http://www.michaelparenti.org/

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