Beware the ides of March.
It seems appropriate this day to mention the series of books I have been reading.
Conn Iggulden’s “Emperor” series, historical novels based on the life of Julius Caesar.
When did one become aware of Caesar and the Roman Empire? History lessons? I don’t remember specifically being taught the subject.
Was it movies? Perhaps it was the 1959 “Ben Hur”.
It’s one of those items of information I feel I was born with. It’s unlikely, but DNA memory perhaps?
My parents took me to Rome when I was 10.
Somewhere in my ghastly muddle, I have a photograph of the little dog that was clearly of more interest to me than the ruins. However I do remember seeing the forum and being interested in the catacombs. (You wouldn’t get me down there now!)
Later we went to Egypt and Greece and by then I had become fascinated.
When I gained travel benefits as an airline employee I was drawn to more distant destinations and while I visited some memorable Roman ruins, it surprises me now that I let so much escape me.
There is so much to be learned from history and particularly the Roman Empire. The parallels with our own society are frightening.
The Romans were a very sophisticated people. One wonders how the world would look today if the empire had not fallen.
Then you look at why it fell and you see an all too familiar story playing out.
Corruption, greed and degeneracy.
The Romans had such barbaric practices.
Yes. And don’t we?
How many savage ways does modern society have of torturing and killing each other?
Julius Caesar made himself a dictator and was slain for it, but his adopted son Octavian became the first emperor and founded a dynasty.
Would Rome have fared better as the republic she had been? No? Then, does that say that human society works better under a dictatorship?
It’s not something I can or wish to debate, but it’s food for thought.
Mr Iggulden’s wonderfully told story is based on historical fact and it is powerful.
No one can possibly know, two millennia later, what may have motivated men but I think we have not changed so much. There is much to admire about the Romans and much that should be abhorrent.
But that would be the ultimate hypocrisy. We are no better. We have not evolved.
The details of Julius Caesar’s story first registered with me when I had returned to school in England and studied Shakespeare….
“Yon Cassius hath a lean and hungry look: he thinks too much.”
Why did I not pursue Shakespeare? Or, for that matter Greek and Roman history?
Is it strange, I wonder, that I always had sympathy for Brutus? Iggulden paints his motives as less than altruistic.
Yet I still hold the same view.
Maybe it’s that I always side with the down trodden.
There are always at least two sides to any story.
Who we side with no doubt says a lot about who we are ourselves.
Mother Nature, though, is impartial.