The Empire Builders

Reviewed by Tracy Lee Simmons
Sunday, December 24, 2006

CAESAR

Life of a Colossus

By Adrian Goldsworthy

Yale Univ. 583 pp. $35

AUGUSTUS

The Life of Rome's

First Emperor

By Anthony Everitt

Random House. 377 pp. $26.95

O nce, when writing an essay on Roman generals, I asked a teacher why we couldn't refer to perhaps the greatest of them as "the late Julius Caesar." That's the way people customarily talked about the dead. Why not Caesar? "Because he is too dead," came the amused reply. It wasn't only the gap of two millennia since Caesar's death that rendered the word "late" unnecessary. To call a man of such greatness and fame "the late Julius Caesar" would be laughably pedestrian. Caesar remains too dead.

Few majestic figures of the classical world will be more familiar than those two Roman mega-men, Julius Caesar and the Emperor Augustus. The die of their biographies, it would seem, is cast. Barring any stupendous, revision-making discoveries in newly unearthed papyri or archeological digs, one would think we've known for centuries pretty much all there is to know about them. But somehow, there is always more to say.


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