Top Ten Books on Julius Caesar

Julius Caesar has cast a shadow over western history for two millennia. He was a remarkable general, a people's champion, the destroyer of the Roman Republic and the creator of the Roman Empire. Each of these books not only try to tell Caesar's story but attempt to understand his impact on the world.

Goldsworthy, Adrian, Caesar: Life of a Colossus (Yale University Press, 2008)

In the introduction to his biography of the great Roman emperor, Adrian Goldsworthy writes, “Caesar was at times many things, including a fugitive, prisoner, rising politician, army leader, legal advocate, rebel, dictator . . . as well as husband, father, lover, and adulterer.” In this landmark biography, Goldsworthy examines Caesar as a military leader, all of these roles and places his subject firmly within the context of Roman society in the first century B.C.

"Adrian Goldsworthy is one of our most promising young military historians today."—Sir John Keegan, author of The Iraq War

Freeman, Philip. Julius Caesar. Simon and Schuster, 2008)

In this splendid biography, Freeman presents Caesar in all his dimensions and contradictions. With remarkable clarity and brevity, Freeman shows how Caesar dominated a newly mighty Rome and shaped its destiny. This book will captivate readers discovering Caesar and ancient Rome for the first time as well as those who have a deep interest in the classical world.

"Can Alexander Hamilton possibly have been right that Julius Caesar was 'the greatest man who ever lived'? Reading Philip Freeman's pacy and panoptic narrative of Caesar's life from unpromising early beginnings to the fateful Ides is one very rewarding approach to answering that perennially fascinating question." -- Paul Cartledge, Professor of Greek History, University of Cambridge

Suetonis, Grant, Robert, trans. The Twelve Caesars (New York: Penguin Books, 1979)

As private secretary to Emperor Hadrian, the scholar Suetonius had access to the imperial archives and used them (along with eyewitness accounts) to produce one of the most colorful biographical works in history. The Twelve Caesars chronicles the public careers and private lives of the men who wielded absolute power over Rome, from the foundation of the empire under Julius Caesar and Augustus to the decline into depravity and civil war under Nero and the recovery that came with his successors.

Osgood, Josiah. Caesar's Legacy: Civil War and the Emergence of the Roman Empire (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2006)

In April 44 BC the eighteen-year-old Gaius Octavius landed in Italy and launched his take-over of the Roman world. Defeating first Caesar's assassins, then the son of Pompey the Great, and finally Antony and the Egyptian queen Cleopatra, he dismantled the old Republic, took on the new name 'Augustus', and ruled forty years more with his equally remarkable wife Livia. Caesar's Legacy grippingly retells the story of Augustus' rise to power by focusing on how the bloody civil wars which he and his soldiers fought transformed the lives of men and women throughout the Mediterranean world and beyond. During this violent period, citizens of Rome and provincials came to accept a new form of government and found ways to celebrate it. Yet they also mourned, in literary masterpieces and stories passed on to their children, the terrible losses they endured throughout the long years of fighting.

'… a fine achievement … A vision of the remarkable period now exists where none existed before. In his first book, Mr. Osgood provides an admirable demonstration of original scholarship, and he is to be warmly congratulated.' Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Holland, Tom. Rubicon: The Last Years of the Roman Republic (London, Anchor Press, 2003)

Rubicon is vivid historical account of the social world of Rome as it moved from republic to empire. In 49 B.C., the seven hundred fifth year since the founding of Rome, Julius Caesar crossed a small border river called the Rubicon and plunged Rome into cataclysmic civil war. Tom Holland’s enthralling account tells the story of Caesar’s generation, witness to the twilight of the Republic and its bloody transformation into an empire. From Cicero, Spartacus, and Brutus, to Cleopatra, Virgil, and Augustus, here are some of the most legendary figures in history brought thrillingly to life.

Combining verve and freshness with scrupulous scholarship, Rubicon is not only an engrossing history of this pivotal era but a uniquely resonant portrait of a great civilization in all its extremes of self-sacrifice and rivalry, decadence and catastrophe, intrigue, war, and world-shaking ambition.

Goodman, Rob. Rome's Last Citizen: The Life and Legacy of Cato: Mortal Enemy of Caesar (St. Martin's Griffen, 2014)

Marcus Porcius Cato: an aristocrat who walked barefoot and slept on the ground with his troops, political heavyweight who cultivated the image of a Stoic philosopher, a hardnosed defender of tradition who presented himself as a man out of the sacred Roman past—and the last man standing when Rome's Republic fell to tyranny. His blood feud with Caesar began in the chamber of the Senate, played out on the battlefields of a world war, and ended when he took his own life rather than live under a dictator.

Syme, Ronald, The Roman Revolution (Oxford, Oxford University, 2002).

The Roman Revolution is a profound and unconventional treatment of a great theme - the fall of the Republic and the decline of freedom in Rome between 60 BC and AD 14, and the rise to power of the greatest of the Roman Emperors, Augustus. The transformation of state and society, the violent transference of power and property, and the establishment of Augustus' rule are presented in an unconventional narrative, which quotes from ancient evidence, rarely refers to modern authorities, and states controversial opinions quite openly. The result is a book which is both fresh and compelling.

`the most complete and the most challenging history of its subject which has appeared for many years, in England perhaps at any time ... Nor is this book only for the specialist, for the subject is of prime importance, the information is the best which modern research can provide.' Oxford Magazine

Jiménez, Ramon L., Caesar Against Rome: The Great Roman Civil War (New York, Praeger, 2006).

Caesar Against Rome is an absorbing narrative of the four-year Roman Civil War that began with Caesar's crossing of the Rubicon in 49 BCE. Focusing always on Caesar, the book sketches a panorama of Roman society―the first society to display the ambition, greed, and intrigue of modern politics―in the last century before Christ. Caesar was a complex and contradictory figure, extraordinarily talented and extremely ambitious, but at the same time vain, careless, and inclined to be forgiving. While Caesar's unusual show of mercy was a significant factor in winning popular support, soldiers, and towns to his side, it allowed all enemy leaders to return to the battlefield against him.

Kurt A. Raalaab, trans., The Landmark Julius Caesar: The Complete Works: Gallic War, Civil War, Alexandrian War, African War, and Spanish War (Anchor Books, 2019)

The Landmark Julius Caesar is the definitive edition of the five works that chronicle the mil­itary campaigns of Julius Caesar. Together, these five narratives present a comprehensive picture of military and political developments leading to the collapse of the Roman Republic and the advent of the Roman Empire.

The Gallic War is Caesar’s account of his two invasions of Britain and of conquering most of what is today France, Belgium, and Switzerland. The Civil War describes the conflict in the following year which, after the death of his chief rival, Pompey, and the defeat of Pompey’s heirs and supporters, resulted in Caesar’s emergence as the sole power in Rome. Accompanying Caesar’s commentaries are three short but essential additional works, known to us as the Alexandrian War, the African War, and the Spanish War. These were written by three unknown authors who were eyewitnesses and probably Roman officers.

Jonathan P. Roth, Roman Warfare (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009)

Roman Warfare surveys the history of Rome's fighting forces from their inception in the 7th century BCE to the fall of the Western Empire in the 5th century CE. In non-technical, lively language, Jonathan Roth examines the evolution of Roman war over its thousand-year history. He highlights the changing arms and equipment of the soldiers, unit organization and command structure, and the wars and battles of each era. The military narrative is used as a context for Rome's changing tactics and strategy and to discuss combat techniques, logistics, and other elements of Roman war. Political, social, and economic factors are also considered.