Julius Caesar is in the news!

Julius Caesar has been dead for 2000 years, give or take a bit. How can he make headlines today? Because the latest BBC2 dramatised documentary has caused controversy. How? It likens him to Trump, Boris and even Putin. It tries to show that he turned a democracy into a dictatorship and suggests we need to be on our guard. You may be aware that William Shakespeare’s play about that great Roman was not altogether complimentary!

Julius Caesar
The Tusculum portrait, a marble sculpture of Julius Caesar

The Tusculum portrait, possibly the only surviving sculpture of Caesar made during his lifetime, now housed at the Archaeological Museum in Turin, Italy
Born 12 July 100 BC[1]

Did Julius Caesar do it by force?

I haven’t seen the whole series yet, but Episode One showed how he discredited the Establishment and appealed to the common people. He also appealed to the army by campaigning for a better arrangement for pensions for veterans. Therefore, when he did resort to force, a lot of people didn’t object until it was too late.

Why is this programme controversial?

Some people say it is left-wing biased because it doesn’t show the negative side of all that Caesar overthrew. I don’t know how true that is. I know little about his early career. It seems like a suitable subject for study and debate. Critics don’t like the way it likens Caesar to modern living politicians. Surely, it is reasonable to point out similarities. We all know that the match cannot be perfect, as all human beings are different, especially when living in different cultures.  It is good for us to see that history is often relevant to our times. We forget its lessons at our peril.

Is the warning justified?

Donald Trump encouraged his supporters to try to overthrow the government when he lost the election. Boris played fast and loose with our unwritten constitution. Both claimed to be defending the People from the Establishment and were dismissive of experts and judges. Therefore, there are parallels. If anyone wants to prove the BBC wrong, they should make sure nobody manages to weaken  democracy or undermine human rights  on either side of the Atlantic. The point the programme seems to be making is that the Romans were largely complacent until it was too late. Is vigilance a bad thing?

What can we do to be safe?

I have posted before about the need to reform our constitution in various ways. Nobody has said anything that would make me change my mind. If you have any suggestions, I would love to hear them.