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View Poll Results: Caesar or Alexander
Caesar 43 61.43%
Alexander 27 38.57%
Voters: 70. You may not vote on this poll

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Old March 21st, 2009, 04:01 AM   #1

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Caesar vs Alexander


If there is something that almost all history forums seem to have in common, it is the presence of a Julius Caesar vs Alexander the great thread. The Alexander vs Ashoka thread failed to gather much steam, likely because not so many people here are knowledgable about it. With numerous Roman and Greek history buffs floating around here, I anticipate a better response to a debate about these two giants of history.

Having read extensivly about both of them, I think that it can be said Caesar stands head and shoulders above Alexander as a politician and statesman, administrator, and ruler, not to mention as a writer, orator, engineer, astronomer, etc (this list could go on for while), all the things that Alexander of course was not.

So the argument will almost certainly be about which of them was the greater military genius, an argument in which I will likely be in the minority view by putting Caesar as superior to Alexander in this aspect as well. I find I'm something of a rarity in being one of the few to be somewhat less than overawed by the achievements of the Macedonian general. I certainly don't deny that he was a brilliant general, but his accomplishments, I feel, were either matched or surpassed by other greats of military history, Caesar being foremost among them (Napoleon and Subotai being the two others I rank above him.

As tacticians, I'd put them as about equal. Caesar's brilliant sieges of or at Alesia, Avaricum, Uxelledorum, Alexandria, and even Gergovia and Dyracchium are every bit as impressive as Alexander's siege of Tyre, and the battles of Pharsalus, Thapsus, Ilerda, Ruspina, his amphibious landing in Britain, and his relief of Cicero from Ambiorix's siege are just as brilliant as the battles of Issus, Guagamela, and Hydaspes. Caesar's forte was as a strategist, and in this I put him as superior to Alexander, his conquest of gaul being his strategic masterpiece. In terms of pure leadership I also give Caesar a slight up. Both of them were capable of inspiring tremendous loyalty in the men under their command (although in the end Alexander could not persuade his men to keep following him into India), but what decided this aspect for me was Caesar's well-documented ability, which Napoleon also had, to not only inspire tremendous loyalty in his men, but also to bring out the best in them; just as it was said that Napoleon's mere presence on the battlefield was worth 40,000 men, it was said of Caesar that soldiers who previously shown themselves to be only average became "irresistable and invincible" when fighting under his command, and this applied not just to the common soldier, but to the higher officers too.

Other factors in Caesar's superiority are that unlike Alexander he fought naval actions, and his campaigns often depended on his ability to manage a fleet as well as an army. His greatest achievement as a naval commander; his landing at Britain, was just as brilliant tactically as his greatest land battles. Caesar's engineering genius is another point of note: it could be said that he was the first commander to incorporate field fortifications as a tactical device, and other feats such as the bridge he built to invade Germany also count for him. Perhaps most critically, in the end his conquests proved to be by far the more enduring. Alexander's Empire, by and large, already had a solid foundation in the Persian Empire upon which it was largely built, and yet within a few years of his death large chunks of it had seceded altogether, and the rest was divided up amongst his squabbling generals. By contrast, in conquering Gaul Caesar had to unite some 300 tribes into a single submissive entity, and he did it so well that there would be no major uprising in Gaul for some 400 years after his death. Not even during the Civil War between Marc Antony and Octavian, when other provinces made (partially successful) bids for freedom did the Gauls make any further attempts to regain their independance.

Let the dice fly high!

Last edited by DIVUS IVLIVS; March 24th, 2009 at 05:24 AM.
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Old March 21st, 2009, 07:43 PM   #2

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Re: Caesar vs Alexander


To add; there is one type of conquest in which Caesar most suredly surpassed Alexander - the conquest of women
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Old March 24th, 2009, 01:06 AM   #3

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Re: Caesar vs Alexander



It was Plutarch, who had the funny idea to match the biographies of a bunch of Romans agsinst Greeks having braved some three centuries earlier (again! - arrgh!), allowing the reader to speculate about the differences.


dev.yrs. Greek .......... Roman
_________________________________________
393 Cimon 449 ........ Lucullus 56
360 Nicias 413 ....... Crassus 53
355 Agis Cleomenes 488 Tib.+ Gaj. Gracchus 133
324 Pelopidas 364 .... Marcellus 40
319 Aristides 468 .... Cato d. . 149
317 Lysander 395 ..... Sulla 78
297 Timoleon 337 ..... Paullus ~40
282 Agesilaus 330 .... Pompeius 48
279 Alexander 323 .... Caesar 44
279 Demosthenes 322 .. Cicero 43
272 Phocion 318 ...... Cato t. Y. 46
253 Demetrius 283 .... Antonius 30
244 Eumenes 316 ...... Sertorius 72
226 Perikles 429 ..... Fabius Maximus 203
194 Pyrrhus 272 ...... Marius 78


To continue this scheme:
How should we compare the achievements of a man who marched through the Red Sea against one who walked over the Sea of Galilee?

A more recent example: Who was the better leader?
George Washington or George Doubleyou?
(Don't forget who has rescued the world from Saddam's mass destruction weapons )

Ex falso quod libet...

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Old March 24th, 2009, 04:27 AM   #4

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Re: Caesar vs Alexander


It is a shame that Plutarch's comparison between Caesar and Alexander, if he made one, is lost.

But lets run with that: Who was the better leader?

I say Caesar. Alexander loses out heavily on respect I have for him as a figure of history but such actions as wiping out towns simpy as a means of mourning for a recently deceased friend, not to mention his frequency to kill said friends for trivial causes. When Caesar's enemies wrote entire books that were in effect criticism of him, he had a tendancy to praise said books as literary masterpieces (or, as in the case of Brutus, condemn his book simply for atrocious grammar). Caesar's friends could be confident that they would not suddenly be impulsively murdered by him (there goes the saying: no good deed goes unpunished).

But what really puts Alexander behind Caesar for me is his losing of some 3/4 of his army by crossing the Gedrosian Desert, for no other reason than that Cyrus the Great had lost his entire army doing the same thing, and Alexander wanted to better him.

Not exactly the mark of a "good leader" - murdering your friends for trivial causes, wiping out innocent town because you were upset and wanted to take out your feelings on someone/something, and getting most of the men who trusted and loved you killed through pointless glory-hunting.
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Old March 24th, 2009, 04:41 AM   #5

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Re: Caesar vs Alexander


Quote:
Originally Posted by DIVUS IVLIVS View Post
Having read extensivly about both of them, I think that it can be said Caesar stands head and shoulders above Alexander as a politician and statesman, administrator, and ruler, not to mention as a writer, orator, engineer, astronomer, etc (this list could go on for while), all the things that Alexander of cause was not.
Caesar was assassinated, not much cop for a great politician if he didn't see that one coming. Alexander wins!
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Old March 24th, 2009, 05:23 AM   #6

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Re: Caesar vs Alexander


Caesar was stabbed to death by the people who had sworn an oath to protect his life with their own.

Alexander was either poisoned, drank himself to death, either of those two worsened the fact that he may have caught maleria, or all three.

Hmmm. I wonder who should have had a vague idea death was coming?

*becoming serious*

I'm not quite sure how it's a political failing to not know the inner-most thoughts of some 60 senators out of almost 1000, and to not be able to predict that you will be quite randomly stabbed one day.

*becomes really serious*

I've never held stock with the theory that Caesar's assasination had anything to do with republican ideals. The class-interests theory fits the facts far better, I find.
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Old March 24th, 2009, 07:46 AM   #7

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Re: Caesar vs Alexander


Quote:
Originally Posted by DIVUS IVLIVS View Post
Caesar was stabbed to death by the people who had sworn an oath to protect his life with their own.

Alexander was either poisoned, drank himself to death, either of those two worsened the fact that he may have caught maleria, or all three.

Hmmm. I wonder who should have had a vague idea death was coming?

*becoming serious*

I'm not quite sure how it's a political failing to not know the inner-most thoughts of some 60 senators out of almost 1000, and to not be able to predict that you will be quite randomly stabbed one day.

*becomes really serious*

I've never held stock with the theory that Caesar's assasination had anything to do with republican ideals. The class-interests theory fits the facts far better, I find.
I concur, but the odd bodyguard here and there or better intelligence, or listening to soothsayers, if you believe Shakespeare, might have given him an inkling of a plot by 60(!) senators (not a small clique then) out to kill him. I admire their security system that prevented Caesar's spies from finding out about such a huge conspiracy.

More seriously, I'm not impressed with Caesar's opponents. Apart from a brief interlude in Spain(?), he fought mainly Gauls; proud warriors to be sure, but no real match for the professional machine that was the Roman army of the time. Gauls were well known for their tactical acumen; "turn up, shout a lot, then charge the nearest enemy." Did it require 'genius' to figure out the weakness in their strategic and tactical system? The Gauls (much like the Britons later) were far more effective as guerrilla fighters, as I recall, and Caesar had no real answer to these tactics.

Alexander fought Greeks, Persians, Steppe nomads, and Indians in his campaigns; several differing tactical systems, some as sophisticated as his own, yet Alexander triumphed over all of them. Marginally more impressive?
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Old March 24th, 2009, 07:52 AM   #8

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Re: Caesar vs Alexander


Quote:
Originally Posted by Challenger View Post
I concur, but the odd bodyguard here and there or better intelligence, or listening to soothsayers, if you believe Shakespeare, might have given him an inkling of a plot by 60(!) senators (not a small clique then) out to kill him. I admire their security system that prevented Caesar's spies from finding out about such a huge conspiracy.

More seriously, I'm not impressed with Caesar's opponents. Apart from a brief interlude in Spain(?), he fought mainly Gauls; proud warriors to be sure, but no real match for the professional machine that was the Roman army of the time. Gauls were well known for their tactical acumen; "turn up, shout a lot, then charge the nearest enemy." Did it require 'genius' to figure out the weakness in their strategic and tactical system? The Gauls (much like the Britons later) were far more effective as guerrilla fighters, as I recall, and Caesar had no real answer to these tactics.

Alexander fought Greeks, Persians, Steppe nomads, and Indians in his campaigns; several differing tactical systems, some as sophisticated as his own, yet Alexander triumphed over all of them. Marginally more impressive?

As a general there's no doubting that Alexander was better.
Many say that Caesar knew about the plot to kill him yet strangely he didn't take any preventive action.
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Old March 24th, 2009, 09:39 AM   #9

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Re: Caesar vs Alexander


Quote:
Originally Posted by Royal Avenger View Post
As a general there's no doubting that Alexander was better.
Many say that Caesar knew about the plot to kill him yet strangely he didn't take any preventive action.
I would disagree with Alexander being better. I know this opinion may not sit well with a lot of people around here, but myself personally, i've always thought Alexander's skills as a general are greatly overrated.
In my opinion, Alexander was so successful because he had an army that was so vastly superior in quality to anything that his opponents possessed.
A big thing that sticks out in my mind is the fact that Alexander was well known for leading his troops from the front. Ya, this is a very heroic, very brave way to go about things, no question about that. The problem with this tactic is though, that if you're locked in hand to hand combat, you can only influence what's happening in the battle directly around you. If things start to break down in other areas of the battle field, there's simply nothing you can do about it.
Caesar on the other hand, usually didn't personally engage in the fighting(Although there are a few instances where he did, when circumstances looked dire and he realized his men needed a major morale boost). Caesar was usually on horseback, behind the lines, which enabled him to quickly reach any hot spots in the fighting, and personally direct and encourage the troops, if things started to go wrong.

As for Caesar knowing about the plot to kill him: It really depends on what sources you believe, as there a great many stories of how things went down. The most common stories tend to be that Caesar's wife had a nightmare the night before he was assassinated, and pleaded with him not to go to meet the senators. Caesar had Priests come in, and the Priests warned him that the omen's were bad. Caesar went ahead with the meeting anyway. Then, on the way to the meeting, Caesar was handed a document by someone(I forget who now), that warned him of the assassination plot, and told him who the conspirators were, but Caesar never got a chance to actually read it.
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Old March 24th, 2009, 09:59 AM   #10
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Re: Caesar vs Alexander


Add in how all we really know of Alexander comes from his cult of personalty we don't really know what he achieved and what was the accomplishments of his generals.
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