The lure of leadership : lessons from Plutarch on the nature of an exceptional statesman

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Davis, Emily Anne

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In this paper, I show that Julius Caesar’s character, appeal, and motivations (as seen in Plutarch’s Life) were much more complex than most scholars believe. It is true that Plutarch’s Caesar felt an irresistible ambition for power and that he often drew on his strategic brilliance to serve his own political interests. Yet power for power’s sake was far from enough for him. Plutarch demonstrates, in fact, that Caesar’s drive to become an absolute ruler stemmed not only from his longings for power and glory, but also from his desire to distribute benefits and justice to his subjects and to deserve the honor and gratitude they gave him in return. Caesar’s overweening confidence in his ability to establish new, just orders was hugely attractive to the Roman people, who felt unfairly oppressed by the existing laws. Though Plutarch indicates that Caesar’s self-assessment was unsupported by serious examination of questions regarding justice, he also suggests that Caesar’s (and his people’s) deep concern for justice played a key role in his rise to the throne.




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