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Tuesday 12 December 2023

Julius Caesar


I seem to be one of the diminishing few who still prefer to watch television in the traditional manner: as and when it is broadcast, usually in weekly episodes. For the past three Mondays we have been watching the Julius Caesar series on the BBC. Even Mrs. D., who is something of a phone addict, has been riveted by it.

It tells the story of how, through ruthless political manipulations and military conquests, and by appealing to the popular vote, Julius Caesar overthrew five hundred years of democracy, seizing power to become dictator of the whole Roman Empire. What a tyrant! Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. After him, democracy ended. Rome was governed by emperors and gradually fell into decline.

Caesar and those around him, such as Cato and Pompey, are played by actors. We see their actions, which are often terrible, and they spend a lot of time looking worried or thoughtful, but they speak no lines. Their contributions are described by around a dozen experts - academics, serious politicians and constitutional lawyers - who each focus on one person. The effect is gripping and powerful. I especially liked Rory Stewart’s explanations of Cato, Caesar’s adversary, who kills himself rather than compromise. I have seen historical dramas, and documentaries narrated by individuals, but nothing like this. Maybe I don’t watch enough television.

Without anything too explicit, it is impossible not to make comparisons with present times. Choose any conflict or political situation in any country you want. It is best said at the end. Democracy has to be defended constantly and vigorously. If democracy is weak, strong people come forward, and a new dictator will emerge.

24 comments:

  1. A timely documentary. Western democracy is teetering once again.

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  2. It does all sound horribly familiar. Some lessons from history are just never heeded.

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    1. As I've just said elsewhere, we are so fortunate to live in northern Europe at a stable time.

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  3. As Churchill once said - democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others that have been tried. And the past century has provided many examples of the need to vigorously defend it.

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    1. But does social media change the game? The ability to tell outrageous lies to gullible people.

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  4. In order to raise the intellectual bar here, I remember a playground rhyme...
    Julius Caesar
    Had a weesar
    On the coast of France
    His brother tried to do the same
    But did it in his pants.

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    1. I can see why you do so well in the pub quizzes. How many did you get on University Challenge this week?

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    2. As always - a few before the kids were able to answer and one or two they didn't know. Probably nine or ten I would say. How about you?

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  5. It sounds like a good program. Lets hope history does not repeat. Like many others, I have been concerned for democracy recently.

    You are not alone in watching traditional TV. Tom and I do stream shows occasionally but for the most part we stay with network TV.

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    1. The programme was one of the few good ones these days. Otherwise, there is not all that much worth watching. And we have scores of channels! When there were only 2 or 3, everyone watched the same things and it led to discussion of shared experiences.

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  6. Sounds like a very interesting program. Democracy seems to be like a muscle--it must be worked, if you will, lest it atrophy.

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    1. I thought it was an excellent series, although no doubt some might not have liked the way it was done. I hope they make more historical documentaries in the same style.

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  7. Sadly, it is not available in the US. I wish it were. Sounds like something we all need to see.

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    1. I don't know what the BBC iPlayer rules are in the US. Probably it will be on a subscription channer eventually. The BBC have to sell their output just like all the other producers.

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  8. How very timely. Just yesterday, it was big news here that the first verdicts have been spoken against a group of Reichsbรผrger. These are radicals who believe the German state is a fake construct that can not be accepted, and that no institution in this country is valid or should be respected. They are a small group but dangerous; arsenals of weapons have been found in their private homes, and they plan to overthrow the government and "re-instate" whatever they feel is the "true" Deutsches Reich. Horrible! And guess what - at their head is a person who envisions himself as the Prince...

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    1. I had not heard of this; very few will have here. It sounds as is it could be quite intimidating. The role of the state above all else is to safeguard the safety of its citizens.

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    2. We have the same sort nutjobs here. I am sad to know that this is happening in other countries. Very dangerous .

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  9. That sounds like an interesting series. It is good to be reminded of the evils that came before the present evils, for there is always evil and we should be vigilant.

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    1. It is available on iPlayer. Well made and very thought provoking.

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  10. It is as if an almost invisible force of moving to the right and pushing democracy aside is what is happening at the moment. Here in England the government seeks to overcome law-making which is not in its favour.
    An interesting fact about the Romans, our Hadrian's Wall was only a small part of 'A Wall', the Roman Limes also stretched across Europe. We are all trying to build walls at the moment. But I suspect there is another Ghengis Khan on the other side.

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    1. We have had decades of stability for which I am thankful.
      Caesar did terrible things to conquer the Gauls in France. Britain was after his time, although I suspect that had he lived it would have been high on his list.
      It's worth watching on iPlayer if you didn't see it.

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  11. Just passing...
    Brilliant series..Brilliant...!
    And the Romans even invaded my island home...
    Bit before my time of course...! :0.
    And this was the speech l gave as part of my
    entrance exam at RADA....

    Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
    I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
    The evil that men do lives after them;
    The good is oft interred with their bones;
    So let it be with Caesar. The noble Brutus
    Hath told you Caesar was ambitious:
    If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
    And grievously hath Caesar answer’d it.
    Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest–
    For Brutus is an honourable man;
    So are they all, all honourable men–
    Come I to speak in Caesar’s funeral.
    He was my friend, faithful and just to me:
    But Brutus says he was ambitious;
    And Brutus is an honourable man.
    He hath brought many captives home to Rome
    Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill:
    Did this in Caesar seem ambitious?
    When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept:
    Ambition should be made of sterner stuff:
    Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
    And Brutus is an honourable man.
    You all did see that on the Lupercal
    I thrice presented him a kingly crown,
    Which he did thrice refuse: was this ambition?
    Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
    And, sure, he is an honourable man.
    I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke,
    But here I am to speak what I do know.
    You all did love him once, not without cause:
    What cause withholds you then, to mourn for him?
    O judgment! thou art fled to brutish beasts,
    And men have lost their reason. Bear with me;
    My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar,
    And I must pause till it come back to me...!
    ⛄ ๐Ÿ”ฅ ๐ŸŽ„ ๐ŸŽ ๐Ÿงฆ ๐Ÿ”” ๐ŸŽ„๐Ÿง‘‍๐ŸŽ„๐ŸŽ…๐ŸŽ ⛄ ๐Ÿ”ฅ ๐ŸŽ„

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    1. I thought it brilliant too. It would be good to see more Roman history told in the same way. They could start with Mark Anthony and the second triumvirate. "Now let it work".
      Thanks for passing by. Hope to see you again.

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