Michael Parenti’s book, “The Assassination of Julius Caesar” discusses the very questions that almost every man, woman, and child has asked ever since. Why was Julius Caesar assassinated? Why a group of Rome’s most respectable men gathered at Pompey’s Theatre and killed the great man on that fateful day? What did Caesar do to suffer such a wrath? Parenti’s book provides a detailed account of the happenings that led up to the events of 15 March, 44 B.C (The Assassination of Julius Caesar, by Michael Parenti – History in Review).
Michael Parenti’s book gives a detailed account of time in the history of ancient Rome (100-33 B.C). The details talked about Rome when the republic was going through hard times. He states that Caesar’s death was the result of some events that became a reason. In those days, there was rampant corruption and growing economic differences which resulted in class conflict. He is probably one of those few writers, who have written history from the perspective of the common man. At that time Rome had a significant number of slaves, poor farmers, and plebs who had absolutely no power. Hence, the top 1% controlled 99% of the republic’s wealth(“The Assassination of Julius Caesar by M. Parenti”).
It was not until 60 B.C., when the local people found spokespeople among the Senate; like Tiberius Gracchus and his brother, Gaius. Both of these prominent people were killed by the upper class(Swans Commentary: Michael Parenti’s “The Assassination of Julius Caesar,” by Gilles d’Aymery – Ga166). After their assassination, Julius Caesar took up their fight and introduced laws for the betterment of the poor, by bringing down the unemployment rate and redistributing land. The redistribution of land was the one thing that threatened the landed aristocracy and reduced their power in the Senate.
The book is written in chapters, each of which complements each other. The discussions on the chapter range from Caesar to Cicero; who is known to have been anti-Caesar. Cicero was comparatively conservative and an outspoken orator. It is Cicero, who has time and again be referred by historians to relate the events of those days(“Nonfiction Book Review”).
The primary argument presented by Parenti revolves around the pre-occupation of historians with Cicero. He claims that most of these historians were patricians themselves. Hence, they would naturally tell the narrative suitable for them. His usage of the term “Gentlemen’s History” shows that there is a substantial difference between the history written by rich, aristocratic historians and the inferior classes of that time. Additionally, later historians continued to accept this distinction matter-of-factly. Parenti considers this as the primary reason behind the vast amount of literature that condemns Caesar as a power hungry and greedy dictator. He says that this is a lie and in reality, Caesar loved the people and respected the institutions more than anything. He says that Caesar would have stepped down if he was given time.
To establish his point of view, Parenti has quoted Cicero some times. He has mentioned Cicero saying, “the artisans and shopkeepers and all that kind of scum.” Parenti has Cicero’s quotes on so many occasions that one would find the book littered with them. It is quite evident that Parenti wants the audience to know clearly, how much the aristocrats hated the general populace of that time, and how much they were hated.
COMPARISON OF PARENTI’S GENTLEMEN’S HISTORY WITH THE MODERN TIMES
Parenti’s book might have been about Julius Caesar, who ruled the greatest empire on Earth, more than two millenniums ago, but it can be related to the current situations as well. The class differences and the events connected to it are still present today. In Parenti’s book, Caesar was assassinated because he spoke for the masses and became popular with it, something that the ruling elite did not like. There are several cases today that are similar to it.
Today, we know that there are nations with rampant poverty, political and bureaucratic corruption and economic disparity. Hundreds of thousands of people live in these countries who go to sleep hungry. Their problems can be connected to unemployment, nepotism, social class differences and unequal distribution of economic resources. Such questions are caused when there is political corruption. Besides, the aristocrats are not willing to share their resources with their fellow countrymen.
In the modern times, the concept of empires has been given a new meaning. The contemporary realm is an economic one, where the more affluent countries rule other countries, by controlling their resources. Thus, the United States entirely fits the definition of an empire. The U.S currently has corporations that have branches all around the world. Through these subsidiaries, they control resources of other nations.
Parenti had used the following words for the aristocrats of his time;
“. . . That policy which pretends to aspire to peace but unerringly generates war, the policy of continual preparation for war, the policy of meddlesome interventionism, there was no corner of the known world where some interest was not alleged to be in danger or under attack. If the interests were not Roman, they were those of Rome’s allies; and if Rome had no allies, then allies would be invented. When it was utterly impossible to contrive such an interest — why then it was the national honor that had been insulted. The fight was always invested with an aura of legality. Rome was always being attacked by evil-minded neighbors, always fighting for a breathing space. The whole world was pervaded by a host of enemies, and it was manifestly Rome’s duty to guard against their indubitably aggressive designs.”
In the above passage, if Rome and Roman are replaced with Washington and American we would understand how this book relates to modern times. Apparently, the current President of the United States is not Julius Caesar, but in fact one of the aristocrats. The rulers of various nations who rule the poverty-stricken nations, under American rule, are part of the aristocratic society. The few who raise their voices in favor of the masses can be considered Julius Caesar.
It is quite evident in the era of Mac Denationalization of America when the food giant pays it sales counter rep around $14, 000 a year, which is below the poverty line and forces its employees to pay their health insurance. Globalization, which has led to multi-national companies, has led to a few wealthy people plundering the resources, while the vast majority strives to survive. These corporations are backed by powerful and well-armed armies that serve them at all times.
Parenti’s writing is an excellent memorabilia which tells that the struggle for justice and equality is still present. The only difference is that today, the very things that were forcefully given to us, are now neatly packaged and marketed. The people who do this are the Gentlemen Historians who work for or with these corporations.
“Nonfiction Book Review.” PublishersWeekly.Com, /978-1-56584-797-2. Accessed 23 Oct. 2017.
Swans Commentary: Michael Parenti’s “The Assassination of Julius Caesar,” by Gilles d’Aymery – Ga166. http://www.swans.com/library/art9/ga166.html. Accessed 23 Oct. 2017.
“The Assassination of Julius Caesar by M. Parenti.” Ancient Roman Empire Forums, http://www.unrv.com/main.html/book-review/the-assassination-of-julius-caesar-by-m-parenti-r24/. Accessed 23 Oct. 2017.
The Assassination of Julius Caesar, by Michael Parenti – History in Review. http://www.historyinreview.org/parenti_caesar.html. Accessed 23 Oct. 2017.