This is the story of the last century of the Roman Republic - why and how did the Republic succeed and why did it ultimately fail? Was the destruction of the Republic attributable to one man a?? Julius Caesar a?? or was he perhaps the most visionary of his colleagues in realising that the Rome of the past had changed? Are the actions of men like Brutus and Cassius in assassinating Caesar worthy of admiration, or were they the final gasp of a fallen world? Pamela Marin begins by examining the ideals underpinning the Roman Republic, and relates the legendary story of Cincinnatus. In the year 458 and again in 439 BCE, Cincinnatus was approached to assume the dictatorship in order to lead a military struggle against a rebellious tribe in central Italy. After resolving the threat he stepped down from the dictatorship after fifteen days. This almost immediate resignation was viewed as the ultimate example of civic duty, modesty, good leadership, and above all, service to the res publica.
This near-mythic story of the small farmer leaving his crops to tend to the political crisis of the early Republic found resonance as the centuries passed, and Cincinnatus became the exemplar of Republican virtue. By the first century BCE, many were bemoaning the decline of integrity and Republican values: the Roman historian Sallust commented "in these degenerate days...who is there that does not vie with his ancestors in riches and extravagance rather than in uprightness and diligence?" In her illuminating book Pamela Marin anatomises the drama of the final days of the Roman Republic, untangles the shifting alliances and betrayals that led ultimately to the assassination of Caesar on the Ides of March in 44 BCE, and reveals the backdrop to the rise of Octavian, Romea??s first Emperor, Augustus.
Dr Pamela Marin lectures in the School of Classics at University College, Dublin.