Julius Caesar was one of the most versatile of great men. Not only was he a deadly general, he was also a brilliant politician, a distinguished orator, and a superb literary stylist. He wrote poetry, letters, rhetorical analysis, speeches, and a political pamphlet. With the exception of a few letters and a few tidbits preserved as quotations in other writers, none of it survives except his two famous war commentaries: the Gallic War and the Civil War.

Commentaries were a general’s report from the field. In republican Rome, generals were also politicians, and Caesar was the most ambitious man of his generation. It is no surprise, then, that Caesar’s commentaries are highly self-serving. Though based on fact, they are not history. Caesar wrote them to justify himself to the citizens of Rome and to posterity. He wrote them...


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