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Julius Caesar is one of the most celebrated and remembered Roman in modern-day history, and not without reason. Julius Caesar’s life marked the end of a 482-year long republic and the beginning of a 503 long empire. Although Caesar’s life was certainly filled with many great accomplishments, one must ask the question. To be able to answer this, one must examine his life and test it against the virtues which mark what truly makes a man good.
Firstly, to begin to ponder the question of if Caesar is a good man, one must first define the word good.
Something is good when it does what it is intended to do well. So in the case of man, being good translates to the possession of the virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance. Secondly, one must be careful with what standard they use to judge if a man is good or not. In other words, the Prophet Daniel should not be judged in the same way Caesar is in regards to being a good man.
Otherwise, no man would be capable of being labeled good other than the saints.
To begin examining Julius Caesar’s ability to be classified as good, one must observe moments of his life that show the virtues required of being termed good or lack thereof. Starting with his virtues, at the beginning of Caesar’s political career, he proved to be a favorable leader among the masses, winning their hearts with gladiator fights and theatrical performances.
From a political standpoint this was a very intelligent move, showing prudence, and from any other view, it seems to show justice through kindness. Additionally, Caesar was known to be very merciful to his conquered enemies, even going as far as to make them Roman citizens, showing justice. On another occasion, he welcomed Pompeii’s soldiers, his former enemies, into his army, displaying no ill contempt or passive aggression. Later, upon being offered a crown by Mark Antony, Caesar refused it, exhibiting an ample amount of temperance. Caesar further displayed temperance when
he was driven by a storm into a poor man’s cottage, where he found but one room . . . and therefore told his companions places of honor should be given up to the greater men, and necessary accommodations to the weaker, and accordingly ordered that Oppius, who was in bad health, should lodge within whilst he and the rest slept under a shed at the door(Plutarch 211).
Yet another indication that Caesar possesses the virtue of temperance is within his day-to-day life. This is because of “his enduring so much hardship, which he did to all appearance beyond his natural strength, very much astonished them. For he was a spare man, had soft and white skin, was distempered in the head and subject to epilepsy”(210).
Having covered Julius Caesar’s possession of virtues, one must also cover his lack of virtue. To begin, while using gifts to please the public is a good political decision, it can be argued that it lacks virtue and shows both a lack of temperance and justice. This is because it shows his lack of control of his desire for power, even being willing to drain the public money and spend “a great sum out of his private purse”(202). Furthermore, his desire for power overcame both his love for his wife and his loyalty for Rome, having divorced his wife when she was cast under the suspicion of having an affair and saying, “For my part, I had rather be the first man among these fellows, than the second man in Rome” when responding to his friends who had been mocking the barbarians of a small village who were “wretchedly poor”(206). Although ambition can be seen as good, ambition to the extent of being willing to abandon your country shows a lack of prudence.
In conclusion, Caesar’s overall value seems to lean more towards that of good. While many of his political decisions were most likely to put him at a strategic advantage, they were still kind. Additionally, his actions, although possibly greedy, were made out of love for his people and a desire for peace. This can be seen when upon his death, the Romans read his will and found that he had divided his wealth amongst the people of Rome (Shakespeare 133). In the end, judging Caesar by the standard pre-chosen to be just for a man of making, Caesar can be called good.
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