The civil war : together with The Alexandrian war, The African war and The Spanish war by other hands

by Caius Iulius Caesar

Other authorsJane F. Gardner (Translator)
Paper Book, 1967




Harmondsworth : Penguin Books Ltd, 1967


Describes the years of turmoil between 50 and 48 B.C. when Pompey the Great and Caesar fought for the dictatorship of Rome.

User reviews

LibraryThing member Joycepa
Julius Caesar's 3 books of commentaries on the Civil War between his forces and those of Gnaius Pompeius (Pompey) for control of Rome.

Caesar, of course, had no idea that he would have an audience 2000 years later who would be unfamiliar with the cast of characters. As a result, the opening pages of The Civil Wars are populated with names that, to those unfamiliar with the politicians and military personages of the day, will slow down reading. Nevertheless, the prose is clear, straightforward, and never boring.
There are quite a few complicated sentences with numerous dependent clauses; most are clear in their meaning. But at times it's difficult to determine the referent of a "he" or "him"; the sentence structure necessitates 2 or more close readings.

Other than that and the vast cast of characters, the prose is easy to follow and maintains a better pace and tension than most contemporary action-adventure books. Caesar faced enormous obstacles in bringing Pompey to bay, which he accomplished finally in the batttle of Pharsalus. As the reader, you never get a sense that he is bragging or exaggerating, although undoubtedly he played down some of his reverses. Yet it all appears remarkably even-handed.

One of the more fascinating sections describes the seige of Massilia (Marseilles). Caesar describes in detail the construction of a particular type of seige tower that allowed his soldiers, with no danger to themselves, to destroy a fortification of the city's walls, ensuring its capture. The story of the treachery of the leaders of Massilia is told without comment but is fascinating nonetheless for the clemency that he shows Massilia.

Caesar was famous for his clemency towards his enemies, and his campaigns show him to be that rarity in classical history, a commander who did his best to win vicotries and pacify conquered peoples with as little bloodshed as possible. None of his Roman enemies in the Civil Wars would have done the same had the roles been reversed; Caesar makes that clear by describing the cold-blooded execution of his soldiers captured after promises of safety were given to entice them to surrender. Time after time, however, Caesar pardons those of his opponents he captures. Some join him; others promptly return to fight him again.

Caesar's writing is concise. He covers long time periods, sieges, marches and battles with a minimum of words but sufficient detail to give a clear picture of the events.
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LibraryThing member Lukerik
Four fascinating documents. When compared to the others you see just how good a writer Caesar is.
LibraryThing member alexanme
People tend to emphasize the importance/novelty of Caesar's "De Bello Gallico," but I think a reading of The Civil War is much more revealing re: the relationship between Caesar and the state, between the military and the people, between popular acclaim and divine calling, etc.
LibraryThing member Meggo
One of the best works of propoganda of all time, The Civil War is Caesar's justification for seizing power and assuming the mantle of dictator. Fascinating for its historical value, and for the fact of what was written - and what was *not* written, and by whom. Recommended.


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