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View Diary: The Rules of the Game: Crossing Your Rubicon (242 comments)

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  •  Caesar? Coy about power? (none)
    Are your kidding?  Critognatus, a Celtic chieftain defending the Mandubian hill-fort of Alesia in 52 BCE, suggested that his people resort to cannibalism rather than surrendering to the Roman general who had laid siege to what had become the last Celtic stronghold in Gaul. Here's what Critognatus had to say about Caesar's difficulty in expressing his intentions:

    "The Romans, we know, have a very different purpose.  Envy is the motive that inspires them.  They know that we have won renown by our military strength, and so they mean to install themselves in our lands and our towns and fasten the yoke of slavery on us for ever.  That is how they have always treated conquered enemies.  You do not know much, perhaps, of the condition of distant peoples; but you need only look at that part of Gaul on your own borders that has been made into a Roman province, with new laws and institutions imposed upon it, ground beneath the conqueror's iron heel in perpetual servitude."

    The Celts decided to send out of the beseiged city 100,000 or so civilians.  They approached the inner wall of the Roman fortifications and implored Caesar to let them surrender themselves into slavery, as they were noncombant refugees - women, children, and the eldery, mostly.  Caesar himself, writing as usual in the third person, describes the scene:

    At the conclusion of the debate it was decided (by the Gauls) to send out of the town those who age or infirmity incapacitated for fighting.  Critognatus' proposal was to be adopted only as a last resort - if the reinforcements still failed to arrive and things got so bad that it was a choice between that and surrendering, or accepting dictated peace terms.  So the Mandubian population, who had received the other Gauls in their town, were compelled to leave it with their wives and children.  They came up to the Roman fortifications and with tears besought the soldiers to take them as slaves and relieve their hunger; but Caesar posted guards on the ramparts with orders to refuse them admission.

    both citations from The Conquest of Gaul by Julius Caesar (tr. S.A. Handford), Penguin Classics, London, 1982

    While Caesar was a lot of things - meglomanical bastard, diabolical genius, political animal of the highest order - his manipulation and use of power were anything but "mixed."

    Sorry about the longish post in a reply, but I feel strongly that while history can be a powerful weapon in a debate of the magnitude being dicussed in this thread, its value as an authority diminishes if its metaphors and analogies are used in a wanton manner.  
    Yes, the filibuster is a Rubicon.  Let's make sure we all understand what that means...and then let's swim the bastard and march on the walls of Rome.  

    You may fire when you are ready, Gridley

    by Unitary Moonbat on Sat Jan 28, 2006 at 11:56:47 AM PST

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    •  talking about in Rome (none)
      in relation to the Senate. He had a dicator's power but was reluctant to cast himself as such. Augustus was too but by then the issue was more cosmetic.

      What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail? unknown

      by moon in the house of moe on Sat Jan 28, 2006 at 12:23:03 PM PST

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      •  He was a master politician (none)
        until his own arrogance blinded him to the aristocratic dissent his methods bred. I think you're mistaking expediency and political guile for coyness.  Both of the guys you mention waged actual war on fellow Senators or triumvirs.  Caesar, in addition, understood how to play to the mob, while Augustus perfected the art of stifling dissent and mercilessly wearing his enemies down - see Tacitus' description of the funeral of Augustus:

        Members clamored that the body of Augustus should be carried to the pyre on the shoulders of senators.  Tiberius, with such condescending leniency, excused them.  He also published an edict requesting the populace not to repeat the disturbances - due to over-enthusiasm - at the funeral of Julius Caesar, by pressing for Augustus to be cremated in the Forum instead of the Field of Mars, his appointed place of rest.  On the day of the funeral the troops were out, apparently for protective purposes.  This caused much jeering from people who had witnessed, or heard from their parents, about the day (when the nation's enslavement was still rudimentary) of the ill-starred attempt to recover Republican freedom by murdering the dictator Caesar - a fearful crime?  Or a conspicuously glorious achievement?  Now, they said, this aged autocrat Augustus seems to need a military guard to ensure his undisturbed burial, in spite of his lengthy domination and the foresight with which his heirs, too, have been allocated resources for the suppression of the old order.

        The Annals of Imperial Rome, Publius Cornelius Tacitus (tr. Michael Grant), Penguin Classics, London, 1996.

        You may fire when you are ready, Gridley

        by Unitary Moonbat on Sat Jan 28, 2006 at 12:45:51 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  His coyness was (none)
          of course expediency and political guile. I suggest the same games are being played here by markos and friends. The best kind of power is given not taken. Thus the emphasis on 'it's not me, it's you.' They seek to define their power as given to them not taken by them.

          What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail? unknown

          by moon in the house of moe on Sat Jan 28, 2006 at 01:01:24 PM PST

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