Imatge de l'autor

Christian Meier

Autor/a de Caesar

25+ obres 1,186 Membres 13 Ressenyes

Sobre l'autor

Crèdit de la imatge: Deutsch: Akademietag 2015 an der Berlin-Brandenburgischen Akademie der Wissenschaften im Akademiegebäude am Gendarmenmarkt. Thema: "Alte Welt heute: Perspektiven und Gefährdungen". Bild: Althistoriker Professor Christian Meier. English: Academyday 2015 at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Science in Berlin; Theme: "Old world today: Perspectives and threats". Image: Historian of ancient history Professor Christian Meier.

Obres de Christian Meier

Caesar (1982) — Autor — 813 exemplars
The Greek Discovery of Politics (1980) 34 exemplars
Politik und Anmut (1985) 8 exemplars
O conceito de História (2013) 4 exemplars
Il mondo della storia (1989) 3 exemplars

Obres associades

Rulers of the Ancient World (1995) 46 exemplars
Athenian Democracy (Edinburgh Readings on the Ancient World) (2004) — Col·laborador — 15 exemplars
The Origins and Diversity of Axial Age Civilizations (1986) — Col·laborador — 11 exemplars
Don't Tell Anyone [1998 film] (1999) — Actor — 10 exemplars
The Ancients and the Moderns (1996) — Col·laborador — 7 exemplars


Coneixement comú

Data de naixement
País (per posar en el mapa)
Lloc de naixement
Stolp, Pomerania, Germany [now Słupsk, Poland]
scholar of ancient history
Deutsche Akademie für Sprache und Dichtung



Christian Meier approaches his subject with characteristic German Gründlichkeit. This book could well have been shortened, and it would not have suffered from it - on the contrary. It doesn’t quite take off until you’ve gone through a quarter of the pages. - Meier doesn’t seem to be really in his element until he gets to the start of Caesar’s political career, and that is more than 100 pages into the book. I almost gave up before I got there – I was ready to fling the book against the wall when Meier, writing about the Spartacus rebellion, launches into a description of the historical background of the gladiatorial games. It’s really odd that he would have thought it pertinent information also, as in other instances he seems to expect the reader to be well informed about the Roman politics of this period – and (by Jove!) it sure has nothing to do with Caesar. His descriptions of e.g. the Gracchi, the Catiline conspiracy and even Sulla are rather sketchy, though to Meier I suppose they are mostly of interest as "outsiders" – among which he includes Caesar; one of his main arguments - and he does a good job of delineating the dynamics of this (relative) "outsider" status. - Pompey as well is described rather one-dimensionally, only Cato is given more substance.

Meier writes in the Afterword that his book is meant as a "scholarly biography." So - not quite a regular biography then; it might have been better to have put some of that information in a Foreword instead (there isn't one). Within its scope it is a great and valuable achievement. He develops his main argument of Caesar as an "outsider" persistenly throughout the pages of his book, and provides a many-faceted picture of this, by any standard, exceptional man – and leader of men. - "Against any questions and objections Caesar sets himself and his actions. It is through these that he hopes to convince. It is these that are at issue, and ultimately the subject of his book [Commentarii de Bello Gallico]. And by speaking of them in his own way he imposes his own perspective. He never thought to convince his opponents." (259)

It took me a while to get used to Meier’s style of writing; he occasionally poses a whole series of rhetorical questions; he builds up his argument(s) slowly and persistently (again that aforementioned Gründlichkeit), though when I first got used to it, I found it an engaging approach. It reads a bit like a Greek drama, where everything moves ahead in the way it does simply because it must happen that way – not so entirely Greek as to include the involvement of the Gods (though just that aspect certainly would have held meaning to Caesar himself, and Meier acknowledges that), but because of the dynamics "on the ground". – But also: "Even in politics much is decided not by the actors, but through them. The total effect of their interaction always far exceeds what they settle between themselves." (348) Meier then goes on to quote Montesquieu: "If Caesar and Pompey had thought like Cato, others would have thought like Caesar and Pompey", and continues: "The roles were ready to be filled, as it were, and to play them was not only a matter of personal guilt, but at the same time a recognition of the structure of the age." Meier speaks of what he calls the "crisis without alternative": "How is it possible for an order to collapse when all who have a share in it regard it as the proper order? To put it more precisely: how is it possible for it to be destroyed by those who have a share in it, in the absence of any extraneous influence – to be destroyed when no one wishes to attack it, to be annihilated when no one repudiates it?" (349) - This is both an example of Meier’s rhetorical style as well as one of his main areas of discussion. He stresses repeatedly that the developments can only be understood when viewed within the concepts of that specific time in history. He is undoubtedly right, and this is one of the definitive strengths of his analysis.

I would have wished that Meier had included more about the military part of Caesar's education; and certainly within the specific focus of this biography this could have been useful. He touches on his relation to religion on several occasions, and how he felt especially favored by fortune, as well as his claim to have Venus in his ancestry. "Why did he so often invoke the immortals?” ... Was it part of his down-to-earth attitude that he could ignore superstitions and attend to the matter in hand? ... Was it part of his fortune that he saw in the hand of the friendly gods, to whom he rendered what was due to them?" (400) "Perhaps his religion was totally rational, based on what he had learned from experience? Seel speaks of Caesar's 'direct affinity to the numinous, to the demonic, to fortune, daring and high risk'. Indeed, there is much to suggest that Caesar had a highly personal religion. May it not be that the more isolated he became, the closer he felt to the gods?" (401) Indeed. (Though he was also appointed pontifex in 73 and pontifex maximus in 63. These sure were not just political posts.)
And on his sense of right and wrong: "We, obsessed with legitimacy, may find Caesar's self-absorption monstrous, however mild, humane, and generous it really was. And even in ancient times such legitimacy was claimed by Sulla, who justified the terrible murders resulting from his proscriptions by reference to the good of the republic. Caesar was incapable of such action. - Caesar may have acted immorally, but what was much more important was that he was different from the Romans of his age – alien, inscrutable, and then at once repellent and fascinating. This was what made him guilty vis-à-vis the republic. (...) The combination of brilliance – personal, not institutional brilliance – and power that we find in Caesar is probably almost unique in the whole of history. Yet it made him strong in relation to the republic only while he had to win victories within it. Afterwards it became evident that his strength was also his weakness, and in the end a certain melancholy of fulfilment – and a sense of futility – may have descended on him." (484) - It may, though he was also energetically preparing for the Parthian campaign up until the day of his assassination.

In several ways, Meier’s book is as much a character analysis as it is a biography of Caesar, but it is also more than that because it includes a thorough discussion of the specific historical situation and background. It cannot be read without gaining some added insight. Meier puts forth a lot of questions; he does not necessarily answer them all. And for sure, there are no easy answers. But what he does provide is an intriguing discussion of one of the most fascinating rulers in history. Meier doesn’t include references; he says in the Afterword that "it would have been incompatible with the purpose of the book" – he does however usually state his sources whenever he quotes them directly. The translation seems to be a bit lacking in parts – at least occasionally the meaning of a sentence appeared to be somehow "lost in translation" – though with Meier’s rhetorical style it is also hard to be certain about just what is what in this respect. It didn’t bother me too much however. To a degree this book reads a bit like an essay. If you want a simple and straightforward biography, look elsewhere. This book has to be read on its own premises, and it is excellent in parts, less so in others, but it is definitely engaging once it gets under way. I would have given Meier's book a higher rating had it been shortened - this is also because he has tendency to repeat himself with different words; it is of course a reader’s prerogative to simply skim through parts, though that is another matter entirely.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
… (més)
saltr | Hi ha 7 ressenyes més | Feb 15, 2023 |
Wonderful context on Caesar up until the civil war then it kind of accelerates to the end and seems to gloss over important events.
jcvogan1 | Hi ha 7 ressenyes més | Dec 22, 2022 |
At first I thought A Culture of Freedom wouldn't tell me anything I didn't already know, although by focusing on the early Greek history it focused on the period I've read less about. But by the end, it had succeeded in making me understand how the way Greek city states evolved into having more ordinary men participating in the decision making and running of the city was an unusual line of development, not an obvious road to take.
mari_reads | Oct 13, 2021 |
The main value of this biography is that it emphasizes Caesar’s role as an outsider as regards Roman politics, and how that perception led to his ultimate clash with the senatorial ranks in the Civil War.

Although this book is approximately 500 pages, it contained many digressions on political and social theory which unfortunately required the author address the Gallic and Civil wars in a cursory fashion. Ultimately, this book could have been shorter and yet contained more facts on one of the most compelling figures from antiquity.… (més)
la2bkk | Hi ha 7 ressenyes més | Aug 26, 2020 |



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