In what ways was Caesar both courageous and a coward?

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Adrian Goldsworthy portrays Caesar as a complex man of his times, not necessarily heroic or cowardly. According to Goldsworthy, the Roman Republic, often lionized by historians, was completely corrupt, basically run by strongmen and venal politicians. Caesar was a product of this environment, and he played the game better than anyone. Goldsworthy points to Caesar's unquestionable bravery in battle, which was in many ways the foundation of his fame and power. He also suggests that Caesar could be merciful and generous or completely ruthless:

His attitude was coldly pragmatic, deciding on clemency or atrocity according to which seemed to offer him the greatest advantage. He was an active and energetic imperialist, but having said that, he was not the creator of Roman imperialism, merely one of its many agents. 

To be a successful leader and politician in Caesar's world, one had to be conniving, corrupt, ambitious, and above all extremely talented. If he could be accused of cowardice, it might be because he avoided taking political positions, at least until he had determined whether it was to his advantage to do so. But again, in this, he was only typical of the rough-and-tumble politics of the late Republic. Goldsworthy is not interested in labelling Caesar as courageous or cowardly, but more in trying to understand him in his own context.

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