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INTRODUCTION

INTRODUCTION

The civil war fought in 49–48 BC involved much of the Roman world, as the armies of Caesar and Pompey clashed in Italy, Gaul, Spain, Africa, and Greece. Rome’s prodigious military strength and the expertise so long honed against external enemies turned inward, with results made more dreadful by the tumultuous political and social context of the Late Republic and the personal antipathies fueled by that turmoil. In the Civil War Caesar tells the story—his version of the story, that is—to an audience for whom the history surveyed in sections I–III of this Introduction would have been only too familiar. All dates are BC, and references are to the Civil War unless otherwise specified.

I. THE COLLAPSE OF THE REPUBLIC A. Rome Dominant

In the middle of the second century the Greek historian Polybius, looking back at Rome’s conquest of the Mediterranean world over the previous half century or so, felt that the achievement—“a thing unique in history,” he says—called for explanation. “How did the Romans do this?” he asked in the opening paragraph of his History, and, strikingly, “With what sort of political system?” This politically

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