Beyond the Boundaries of Fantasia: An ancient imagining of the future of leadership

Born to Run

Caesar the General

In this module we consider Julius Caesar primarily as a commander in battle and secondarily as a leader in Roman politics -- a distinction that Romans drew much less firmly than do virtually all modern states. We approach Caesar's generalship through two influential and roughly antithetical European takes on the art of war (Clausewitz and Jomini) and corresponding styles of military history (Keegan and Kagan).

The theme of this module is Caesar's self-presentation as leader of men. Caesar's military exploits are known in unusual detail because the detailed accounts he wrote for the Senate -- his Commentarii -- have been (mostly) preserved. He wrote two Commentarii: one about his conquest of the barbarians in Gaul (the so-called Bellum Gallicum) and another about his defeat of his friend-turned-enemy Pompey (the Bellum Civile). As we read passages from these texts, we'll consider not only how Caesar led armies in battle, but also how he depicted himself as leading armies in and out of battle -- a distinction always important to make, when considering any historical narrative, but much more obviously so to make when the subject and the author are the same.

Along the way we look at modern comparanda and consider how post-WWII war narratives construct and depict organized killing and the men (in these narratives, if not quite as much in reality, almost always males) who orchestrate it.

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