Kicking away the dirt hiding Roman history and finding what lies beneath...have we got the age of Rome all wrong?
Sunday 15 July 2012
The Spin Doctor
So we're starting to get a feel for what happened in 52BC. The big problem is that the only contemporary account of the year is one written by Julius Caesar himself. Imagine if all we knew about Napoleon were a few coins and a book authored by Arthur Wellesley...but that's what we're stuck with for Vercingetorix. The situation is made even worse by Caesar's understanding of spin being just as advanced as any modern politician. For example, in the Battle of Gergovia, having not slept for almost a week, Caesar makes one of the worst decisions in his life - it costs him a fifth of his fighting force in one afternoon; forces him into a full retreat; and decides for him that he must abandon Gaul entirely. Yet he manages to pass it off as 'misinterpreted orders' by his men and a minor set back (thanks to how things turned out later) - and despite tens of thousands of witnesses, he dismisses his losses as only '700' when all likelihood they were in the region of five thousand. And remember, this is a time when dispatches from central France could still reach Rome within a week...so it wasn't as though he was pulling the wool over everyone's eyes. But he wasn't writing for those who knew the truth - he wrote "The Conquest of Gaul" for the tabloid market, and he knew how to write for his public. It just goes show nothing much has changed - and when you're next reading a newspaper column or blog written by a sitting politician...ask yourself...is this really anything new?