Which Historical Figure was Most 'Sugar-Coated' Post Factum?

Nov 2011
4,657
Ohio, USA
Julius Caesar. I've seen him praised to the skies endlessly on several forums and subreddits - not necessarily for his military skills, which I agree were excellent, with a few exceptions, but for his (of all things!) politics. His rebellion and civil war are justified because apparently the Senate was unfair to charge him with crimes of corruption and exceeding his duties as governor - both of which are objectively true and valid charges - and Caesar had no right to comply with the lawful demands of the government he was serving. Utter absurdity. His defenders thus seem to believe that civilian oversight of the military - one of the most important features of any country, be it ancient or modern - is not relevant because it's unfair on a man who was as blatantly ambitious and manipulative as any other military strongman turned dictator. They buy into Caesar's own propaganda that he was a victim and was forced into doing everything he did. And even beyond this, they seem to view Caesar as some proto-Lenin figure, standing up for the downtrodden plebians and commoners while the cartoonishly evil optimates in the Senate oppressed them. They ignore - or are unaware - that Caesar gave precisely zero figs about the welfare of the common man, and merely used them as a convenient tool to strengthen his regime, since much of the Senate disliked him both politically and personally, and thus he couldn't count on their support. People seem to take Caesar's favouritism of the plebian classes as a sign of his own personal morals or politics, and very naively see no ulterior motive involved. These ardent defenders of Caesar's political career thus seem to believe that a military dictatorship is preferable to a deeply flawed but still ideologically superior republican government. And yet how many of these same people would instantly condemn similar military dictatorships in the 20th century like Mussolini's or Franco's?
Considering the corrupt state of the Roman Republic at the time, it’s hardly surprising that Caesar ended up doing so many of the things he did. Even if these were not necessarily with the greatest of intentions, many positive effects still resulted from his actions, both during and after his lifetime. You likely don’t have the great reigns of Augustus (who admittedly was responsible for shaping the future reputation of Caesar probably more than Caesar himself was), Tiberius (most of the time anyway), Vespasian, Trajan, Hadrian, Antonius Pius, and Marcus Aurelius without the previous actions.

I agree that he was more corrupt and self-interested than pure, but so are just about all powerful figures of history, and the same with his “Republican” opponents. Certainly Napoleon was no better himself.

Lastly, I agree that he wasn’t the innocent victim in the whole affair resulting in the Second Roman Civil War, but the Optimates themselves had their own ulterior motives in going after him too. They clearly feared his power as governor of Gaul, even though he had just delivered one of Rome’s greatest geo-political conquests. Given the charges set against him and the common punishments for those, you can hardly expect him to not fight it with whatever force necessary, especially since he enjoyed the adoration of his soldiers to an extent that very few previous Roman military leaders had.
 

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