Form and Content

In The Caesars, Allan Massie presents a history of Rome in the first century b.c. and the first century a.d. through a chronologically arranged account of the lives of the rulers of the era. He begins with a chapter devoted to a brief history of the Roman Republic up to its uneasy state in the first century b.c. At that time, it was becoming clear that the long-standing republican city-state government was no longer able to manage the empire that Rome had acquired and was continuing to expand. As the structure of the Republic changed, the need for a strong central government led to a struggle for supremacy among ambitious leaders. Rome was plunged into a period of civil war, with Julius Caesar ultimately establishing himself as dictator. In the subsequent ten chapters of the book, the author examines the lives of Julius Caesar and the twelve rulers who succeeded him, and he traces Rome’s transition from a republic to a military monarchy.

Massie explains that the title “caesar” had its origin in a Roman family name, that of Gaius Julius Caesar and his successor, Gaius Octavius Caesar, later known as Augustus Caesar. These two men laid the groundwork for imperial rule, so it was not surprising that their family name became the term of respect for their successors. A brief note on Roman family names helps the young adult reader to understand the confusing...

(The entire section is 461 words.)