|4 out of 5 stars|
In this inventive narrative, the Caesar of history becomes Caesar the human being. Wilder also resurrects the controversial figures surrounding Caesar -- Cleopatra, Catullus, Cicero, and others. All Rome comes crowding through these pages -- the Rome of villas and slums, beautiful women and brawling youths, spies and assassins.
I can’t believe that this was published in 1948! It truly has not aged, possibly because it was dealing with much older history. It still felt fresh and I was intrigued.
I began reading this on the Ides of March (I live in hope that my local Shakespeare Company will perform Julius Caesar in March one year, so that I can attend it on the Ides). I adore books that are written in letter format, so I was predisposed to appreciate this one.
It is surprising how well people can be characterized through their written documents. I felt I came to know the main players remarkably well. I came to love the scheming Roman women and found Cleopatra to be quite fascinating. Wilder included quite a number of female characters, recognizing their political and religious significance.
My studies of classical history took place in my distant past and are hazy in my recollections now. Some courses, I know, were done in summer school, where one tries to distill a whole term’s worth of work and learning into 6 weeks. As a result, I knew it well enough to write the exam, but it has not retained its place in my memory as most other subjects have. I would be most curious now to read some Roman history and refresh my memory concerning Caesar.