I picked up this book because it’s a “people’s history” as Parenti rightfully calls it and I wanted to read something that isn’t theory but still somewhat related to MLism.
Also, I had to study the play Julius Caesar by Shakespeare in school. The play portrayed the characters are noble Roman men. Apparently, Julius Caesar was becoming a favourite of the masses and was therefore getting too ambitious. So, a posse of other Romans hatch out a plot to assassinate him to preserve the democracy. Sounds familiar? I forgot what happens after. I barely passed that class.
But, from reading Parenti’s book, turns out that every Roman nobleman sucked big time. They were feudal-bourgeoisie who extracted massive rents from poor people. They lent money with high interest rates. They cheated people out of public land. They lived lavish lives while the masses were forced to live in asymal conditions. They traded their women as political pawns. All of them owned slaves.
Julius Caesar (also a slaveowner) was assassinated not because he was becoming too “ambitious”, but because he won a civil war against the ruling class and wanted to enact equitable changes like land reforms, debt forgiveness etc.
As you can see, the reality is quite different from the rosy tragedy depicted in the play, in which the common people are portrayed as a fickle crowd that are swayed by any display of oratorship. Although just a play, IMO it’s fair to expect it to do reality some justice, but we know why it is the way it is. But this weird fixation with depicting upper-class wretched men as “noble” is not limited only to Shakespeare but is also exhibited by historians, but old and recent, as shown by Parenti in the way he quotes them.
Parenti is a treasure. Thank you for coming to my TED talk.
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