Thursday, 24 September, 2020

Ides Of March, Caesarism And World Politics


Nabin Khanal


Ides of March, or 15th of March, according to the ancient Roman calendar had a significant importance for various religious observance and deadline for debt settling. However, this date is significantly remembered for the assassination of Julius Caesar, one of the most powerful human being that ever lived. He rose from military ranks to become Emperor of greatest and most powerful Roman Empire at around 44 BC.

Caeser's Heroics
Julius Caeser was brutally assassinated by the Senate members on the very date. Born as Gaius Julius Caesar to a noble family, he started his carrier as a Roman soldier and later became the most powerful and influential Emperor of the Mighty Roman Empire. Julius Caesar is mainly remembered for his war heroics, memorably, the invasion of Gaul (present day France and Belgium), which can be taken as highlight of Caesar’s career to make him powerful Emperor along with his superior war strategy to suppress Slave rebellion uprising led by Spartacus, who threatened to shake the root of Roman republic.
Rome was a republic then which had just surpassed major civil wars. Problems of unemployment, poverty, dissatisfaction among war veterans was common. Public dissatisfaction was at the pinnacle. During those days, Rome was controlled by Senate comprising of aristocrats from only rich and noble family. Caesar belonged to a noble rich family but lost everything by joining the wrong side of the civil war but was eligible to become Senator due to his noble roots.
He was very ambitious person and wanted to become powerful man in Rome. In those days, the Counselor of Rome was the most powerful position politically. So, to become counselor, he needed support. So, he made alliance with other powerful men in Rome, a rich Senator and also a military General called Marcus Crassus with whom Caesar had worked earlier and another Fierce retired former General Pompey Magnus to form the ‘triumvirate’ which made these men the powerful rulers of the Rome.
In those times, majority of aristocrats were conservatives and favoured status-quo but Caesar, who was termed as “Man of the People” had reformist agenda regarding common rights of the people. Knowing that the other Senators would resist his reformist agenda, Caesar used the bullying tactics using fear and bribe and mobilising mobs to get his agenda passed by the Senate.
This bullying tactic made him unpopular among the senators who had plans of prosecuting him after end of Caesar’s tenure as the Counselor. However, Senate was corrupt too and Cesar knew it very well which encouraged him to use dark arts of politics against his rivals. In a way, dark arts of modern-day world and domestic politics can be rooted to the ancient Roman political system.
Political assassination, treachery, groupism and nepotism all were evident during then too which still exist today. Checks and balances of the power relied on the virtue and rationality of the senate, which believed that power cannot be concentrated on a singular person and those who wanted to become a supreme leader was considered as “the enemy of the Rome”.

Caesarism In Politics
However, the crowd loved Caesar becasue he had made various reforms including the resettlement, extension of senate for the representing common people too, improved tax system and emphasised religious tolerance during his tenure as the counselor. He even challenged the Senate to whistleblow their deeds to public. Around 44 BC, Caesar transformed Roman republic to an authoritative regime and became the Emperor of Rome.
There is a huge a debate among the scholars on the personality of Julius Caesar. Some historians consider him as cold blooded, ruthless, power hungry militant responsible for genocide of millions of people and enslaving them. But there is also a common understanding among the scholars on him being a farsighted politician, people’s man. excellent orator, writer and powerful leader of the powerful Roman Empire.
In a way, Caesar was a controversial figure. He wrote his own history which can be accounted by his writing on “Gaelic war” and his other writings of successful military quest to glory. His affair with Cleopatra also made him unpopular among the senators. Caesar adopted authoritative regime by taking power in his hands to control the politics which was later termed as “Caesarism”.
The term was first used by 19th century historians such as Broumer and Romieu to describe the rule of Church and military warlords. It is said that Napoleon Bonaparte, a dictator himself, was a great admirer of Julius Caesar and was inspired by his leadership traits. Later, infamous dictators such as Hitler and Mussolini tried to copy similar leadership styles, which, however, only made them unpopular as they were nowhere nearer Caesar’s popularity.
There is a scholarly division on Caesarism on whether it was a way to concentrate power to oneself to become a power-slave or was the need of time to introduce reforms that had backlashed democratic system and the idea of power sharing. According to Democracy Index 2019, major powers such as Russia, China and a few others are leading the way to authoritative regimes followed by small states like Cuba including some middle eastern and African countries.

Personal Traits
Authoritative regimes in countries such as China, Russia and Cuba have been popular among the citizens whereas in most of other countries such regimes seem to have failed as civil wars and political unrests have taken place there. Other major and middle powers exercising ‘flawed democracy” haven’t also been able to fulfill the needs of the democracy and civil unrest and dissatisfaction among the citizens. Therefore, not only regimes but personality also plays a vital role in making the regime successful. Whatever the regime might be, if the ruler fails to deliver, any kind of regime can falter.
From ancient to modern historical timeline, world politics has seen many leaders with different leadership traits with different personality. Some have left remarkable footprints in the world politics while others were known for their notorious deeds. Julius Caesar was among those influential leaders who challenged the traditional political system and tried to change the fate of Roman Civilization through his leadership traits and changed the history forever.

(Khanal is pursuing Masters in International Relations and Diplomacy) 

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