julius caesar

Join Dr. Kathryn Welch on this fascinating walk through the life of Julius Caesar. In this 5-hour course, Kathryn will examine the historical writing on Caesar from academic and popular writing; it will examine the ancient biographies of Caesar by Plutarch and Suetonius and then Caesar’s commentaries on himself in the Gallic War and Civil War. Finally, Kathryn will examine what it meant to be a Roman dictator – and what that meant for Caesar. This course is not to be missed.

$360 (+GST)

In this course you will learn

Part 1: Caesar and the History of Writing about Caesar

The syllabus for an evaluation of Caesar in the context of the impact of any influence he possessed at the time as well as “ancient and modern images and interpretations”. Given Caesar’s huge presence in the narratives of Roman history (ancient and modern) this presents a huge challenge for teachers and students alike. This presentation will trace the various views of professional scholars as well as popular writers over time. It will offer examples of where in the ancient sources their views come from. In the end, it will offer an explanation as to why commentators are still passionate in defending or demolishing Caesar’s reputation and why we should always be careful to question our own presuppositions about this towering but divisive historical personality.

Part 2: Caesar’s Background and Rise to Prominence

The ancient biographies of Caesar by Plutarch and Suetonius trace his story to prominence in carefully curated accounts that call out for scrutiny. So too do the ways that other authors introduce him, both for what they tell us and what they don’t. This presentation will outline Caesar’s family and political background and especially dwell on what it meant to be a “Marian” in Rome in the 60s BCE. To what extent did Caesar himself construct the concept? To what extent did later accounts impose an order on his story that in all probability cannot have been the case? Can they, even so, reveal a very different story despite the agenda that is so apparent to the careful reader.

Part 3: Caesar on Himself

Lucid and cinematographic, Caesar’s Commentaries are a classic of ancient literature. Their deceptively simple Latin prose made them a prime candidate for senior school syllabuses in the past, with the result that generations of school students (mostly boys) drank early from the well of their seductive power.

This presentation will outline the role that Caesar’s Gallic War and Civil War commentaries played in promoting his reputation both with his armies and with the urban population of Rome. It will examine their structure to suggest that they were written serially with the aim that an increasingly adoring public could gain quick access to them. We will then chart their impact on later accounts, especially obvious in the case of Plutarch’s account of the Gallic campaigns but also on some modern authors who read them all too uncritically.

Part 4: Dictatorship

What did it mean to be a Roman dictator? What did it mean for Caesar to be Dictator? What did it mean for there to be no specific end to Caesar’s hold on the office? And how did the administration work once the full impact of his stranglehold on politics was felt. The large group of senators who conspired to kill him on the Ides of March are more often than not depicted as selfish conservatives, false friends, ungrateful recipients of his famous clementia. They could have been any or all these things, but a closer focus on the intersection between what they (and many other people) saw as normal politics allows us to add at least one more layer to the story of his assassination.

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About dr kathryn

A/Prof Kathryn Welch is an honorary associate professor from the University of Sydney where she taught Ancient History between 1991 and 2021 with an emphasis on the Roman Republic and the early empire. Before that, she spent six years as an Ancient History teacher at Kogarah High School, but she has never lost her connection with students and teachers as a popular presenter at conferences and professional learning days. Dr Kathryn is also co-director of the Pompeii Cast Project with Dr. Estelle Lazer. Her current research interest is in constructing syllabuses and modes of study in order to test the assumptions embedded in the minds of ancients and in our own time.