Book Review (sort of): Julius Caesar -The Gallic Wars

Caesar’s Gallic Wars are a series of eight books that Caesar either wrote or had written detailing his actions during the eight years he was the Roman governor in Gaul.   They are best understood as an exercise in propaganda because during the time he was away from Rome the books were an excellent way to keep his name in front of the people in Rome and to enhance his reputation and prestige.   That being said, they are still invaluable as an account of his time there and as a look into the mind of one of the best politicians of the most powerful polity of his age.

 It is important to read the books always keeping in mind that they are works of propaganda and while generally factual they are deliberately written to make Caesar look good.   What makes the Gallic Wars most impressive to me is that it is one of the few accounts from antiquity we have that relates the story of events from the commander’s perspective.   The only other account similar that comes to my mind is the Anabasis of Thucydides.

 You can read all the traditional histories such as Gibbon, Hanson, Baker, or Turney.   However, nothing can be as riveting as reading the story of events written by the man who was there himself.

 I highly encourage anybody interested in Roman history to begin by reading the ancients themselves.   Start with Tacitus, Josephus, Marcus Aurelius, Livy, Plutarch, and of course, Caesar Himself before delving into modern scholarship.   Hearing what the ancients have to say puts all subsequent interpretations into the proper perspective in my view.