Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Assassination Of Julius Caesar: A People's History Of Ancient Rome (New Press People's History) by Michael Parenti (The Free Press)

Michael Parenti, page 151: "Caesar reduced the numbers on the grain dole from 320,000 to 150,000 ridding the swollen lists of fraudulent recipients, including slaveholders who deliberately would 'free' their workforce then present their slaves' food bill to the state for reimbursement. Caesar prohibited the hoarding of huge sums of cash, and eased the desperate straits of a large debtor class by allowing people to repay their debts at lower prewar rates. He also imposed usury limits on creditors, at the same time forbidding them from suing for any arrears of interest that exceeded the sum of the original loan. He forbade proscription, property confiscation, and fines on debtors. He ordered all interest already paid to be deducted from principle owed, and canceled the interest due since the beginning of the civil war. This last measure alone, Suetonius reckons, erased one quarter of all outstanding debt......There are two theories about why people fall deeply into debt. The first says that persons burdened with high rents, extortionate taxes, and low income are often unable to earn enough or keep enough of what they earn. So they are forced to borrow on their future labor, hoping that things will take a favorable turn."

The Roman landowner creditor class, from which the assassins came, had a multitude of reasons to murder Caesar. His moves to outlaw their payday loan businesses was only one. From Cato the Younger to Cicero, the titans of Roman aristocracy are exposed to be hypocrites and schemers, whose primary objective was to preserve their power and wealth, not the unwritten Constitution of the Roman Republic. Parenti says the 'gentlemen historians' who have written on ancient Rome, and which he often quotes, have held that the Senate assassins of Caesar were virtuous and unsullied heroes of democracy and human rights, largely because the historians come from the same moneyed upper class background, creating a strong bias. Parenti upturns this standard historical view, which also holds that the commoners were an unruly contemptible mob easily manipulated by despots. He also recounts the circumstances of the murders of other 'populares' (of Caesar's Party) by 'optimate' assassin squads.

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