Reviewed by BY following up his excellent 1-0 biography of Alexander the • Great with this work on Julius Caesar, General Fuller has placed us once more in his debt, for this volume is thoroughly comparable with its predecessor even if the author would not agree that the Roman was cornparable with the Macedonian.
Not least of the merits of this book is the skill with which the author paints in both the political and military background against which Caesar's career was set. Behind a facade of strength, the Roman Republic was in reality on the brink of dissolution, for constituted as a city council the Senate was incapable of discharging its imperial functions, and although antagonistic to the idea of autocracy, its incapacity to grasp the meaning of the world-wide problems by which it was faced at once sterilised its imagination and palsied its will.
As for the populace, rarely has a people sunk so low, for bereft of religion, morality, and all the social virtues, the dole-fed mases wallowed in vice. To all this the author draws his readers' attention by way of
showing the basic hollowness of the regime to which Caesar put an end.
Yet, as a statesman, General Fuller will not allow that Julius was in the same class as his nephew, Augustus, and it is difficult to disagree with his conclusion that the older man overplayed his hand, which may have had something to du with his murder.
"What would we think today," the author asks, "if at the conclusion of the second world war Sir Winston Churchill had accepted at the handy of his Cabinet the appointments of Prime Minister for life, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Lord Chief Justice, Chancellor of the Exchequer etc., and on top of these extravagances had been addressed as 'Jehovah Churchill'?"
It is even suggested, on good evidence, that absolute power may have gone to his head, and that at the end of his life he was not completely sane.
A comparison which the author will allow is one between Caesar and Cromwell, both men in his eyes being opportunists and autocrats, with no settled
SIR CHARLES PETRIE plan or policy. Of Caesar it is remarked in these pages that "the truth would appear to be that he was too much of a general to be a creative statesman".
All the same, further research would seem to have induced General Fuller to rate Caesar rather lower as a soldier than he did when he wrote the first volume of his Decisive Battles of the Western World 11 years ago. He admits, however, that Caesar "stood head and shoulders above the generals of his day," but what is strange is that he made no effort, as his uncle Marius had done, to reform the Roman Army. As a man, we are told that his self-control was remarkable. Sentiment and mysticism were not in his composition at all, while routine and tradition were to him but means to an end. never an end in themselves, It is true that he was on occasion generous, but his generosity had a purpose behind it.
On the field of Pharsalus he called out to his soldiers to spare the lives of their fellow-citizens, not, one suspects, out of humanity but because it suited his policy, as also did his wholesale donations of corn and of money. All was grist to his mill: the rabble he won by bribery, the middle classes by debt remission, and the cultured by fostering the arts and sciences.
Yet when all is said and done. Caesar's greatest feat was that, having seized power from the palsied hands of the Senate, he transformed Rome from a municipality into a world kingdom and extended it in idea until the hub was swallowed by the circumference, to quote a particularly felicitous phrase of the present author.
He breathed into the Republic a new life, and thereby not only prepared the ground for the democratic royale of his nephew, but also blazed the trail for a still higher conception—that of unity in concord—which became the idea of the universal Church.