Historians will not need to be told that the Caesar of these poems is not one that can be properly documented. Events and incidents of his life are adhered to, but Caesar's inner motivations, notably the homosexuality or bisexuality, are ones we cannot possibly know. Homosexuality was not a crime in the Roman world —
indeed was practised by many of Caesar's leisured contemporaries, as by the first emperors of Rome, from Augustus to Caligula —
but is shown here as a force driving ambition. Caesar, it is supposed, feared the vulnerability that his homosexual nature exposed him to, and strove to protect himself by affairs with women, by a military career, by vindictiveness when threatened, and by supreme political office. This is not to deny the courage, intelligence or statesmanship that historians from Mommsen have applauded, only to root it in personal needs and difficulties.
The poems are written in stress meter, regularly four beats to the line, generating a drumbeat measure that gradually drowns out the inner emotions as Caesar evolves into a public person. Rome was very different from the picture we have of it through Hollywood or a nineteenth century education —
different despite all that we have gained from it: law, administration, language. Republican Rome lacked Greek refinement or Christian caritas, and its brutality was exacerbated by increasing civil war. A poem of fifty stanzas.
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