Caesar pp. 41-79

Chapter two introduces Caesar into Gaul and nearly extraordinary military success. Caesar was sent to Gaul with a larger army. The war at Gaul was brutal. Women and children were slaughtered, often by strategic design.  Over a million were captured and sold into slavery. Caesar himself is only discussed in this chapter at the beginning and end. Most of the chapter is taken up with a good account of the Roman ideology of war and victory, covering the role of warfare in the social structures of the ancient state (43), the complex of gloria, virtus and honor (glory, courage and reward) which drove Roman aristocrats towards military exploits, the idea of ‘just war’ (48), and especially Roman militarism and imperialism.

Chapter 3 explores the Roman religious system: its reciprocality (do ut des), the Roman dedication to conserving the pax deorum (the state of affairs which kept the gods favorable to Rome), the question of belief and practice, and the difficulties inherent in understanding a religion which is no longer lived.The chapter concludes with a discussion of the political ramifications of religious actions, citing as examples the intricate legalities of Bibulus’ spectio of 59 B.C., and, several years later, of Caesar’s divine honors. Although there are many insights here into the interaction of politics and religion, and especially into the vividness of Roman ritual, what is lacking is a sense of the underlying mechanisms of the state religion, and especially of Caesar’s function as pontifex maximus — a role which surely had greater resonance and responsibilities than the extra clout it lent Caesar in the senate and assemblies.

Chapter 4 engages with the semantics of privately-funded public construction at Rome. Tatum begins with the “mechanisms of public building in Rome” (85), noting the political, symbolic, and didactic functions of dedicatory inscriptions, but the highlight of the chapter is a discussion of Pompey’s temple/theater complex as an example of the sort of statement available to Roman leaders, and of the ripple effect such statements inevitably had: Pompey’s theater not only showed off his considerable resources, but through its deviation from a cultural norm (it was Rome’s first permanent stone theater) demonstrated and enhanced his authority in society.

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