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Dorothy Arzner | Augustus | Pompey and Caesar | Thomas Jefferson | German Fascism | Italian Fascism | Busby Berkeley | What Style Is It? | Leni Riefenstahl

Dorothy Arzner (1902-1979)

Only one woman directed films in Hollywood during the 30s—Dorothy Arzner. Starting at Paramount Studios as a film cutter and editor of silent pictures, she had her first behind-the-camera experience doing several of the bullfight shots for Valentino’s Blood and Sand in 1922. With no other directing experience, she was elevated to writer-director of Paramount’s Fashions for Women, 1927, and produced a hit. She followed it with four other successes, each with a top star like Clara Bow, Nancy Carroll, Richard Mien and her personal discovery, Fredric March. She so admired March’s acting that she starred him in four films: The Wild Party, 1929, Sarah and Son, 1930, Honor Among Lovers, 1931, and Merrily We Go to Hell, 1932.

In 1933 Miss Arzner broke Hollywood tradition by declaring herself free of studio affiliation, becoming one of the first independent directors. As such, her first job was at RKO-Radio Pictures, where she saw the young Katharine Hepburn in jungle costume, perched in a tree on the set of what was to be her next film. Miss Arzner pulled her down from her perch, off the set and cast her in Christopher Strong, 1933. It was one of the year’s finest films and a milestone in the careers of both women.

Samuel Goldwyn hired her to direct Nana, 1934, a vehicle designed to introduce Anna Sten as a Garbo rival. The film was interesting, but Miss Sten failed to click with American audiences. Next, Arzner directed Craig’s Wife, 1936, for Columbia Pictures. Miss Arzner’s last film of the decade was M-G-M’s disappointing The Bride Wore Red, 1937. In the early 40s she directed only two features and retired in 1943.

Read more about Arzner in Erin Stein's Independent Study essay "Dorothy Arzner: A Genuine Worman"

Augustus: From the Death of Caesar to the Battle of Actium (44-31 B.C.)

Antony and the Senate. The death of Caesar was greeted by Rome with silence rather than with enthusiasm. The surviving consul, Mark Antony, called a meeting of the Senate, which, although generally sympathetic toward the conspirators, was in some doubt as to its course. A decree declaring Caesar a tyrant and justly slain would also annul his acts, including the appointments he had made and the elections over which he had presided. Therefore, the Senate first ratified his acts and then protected the conspirators by a decree of amnesty. Antony was permitted to deliver a funeral oration over the (lead leader. While the famous oration in Shakespeare is the creation of the dramatist, Antony did succeed in rousing the people against the murderers. He gained the support of Caesar’s veteran soldiers and surrounded himself with a bodyguard. Since the province of Macedon, of which Caesar had designated him governor for 43 B.C., was too far from Rome, he secured the passage of a law giving him Cisalpine Gaul, a province previously assigned to Decimus Brutus, one of the conspirators. Brutus was already in that province, and when Antony arrived with an army, Brutus entrenched himself in Mutina and refused to move. Since Antony as consul had command of all the troops hi Italy and had been able also to rally many former soldiers of Caesar, the Senate was powerless to aid Brutus.

Octavian. A new element entered the situation with the arrival in Rome of young Octavius, the grandnephew of Caesar whom Caesar’s will had named as his adopted son and heir. He had been studying in Greece at the time of the murder and returned at once to claim his inheritance, adopting the name Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus. The glamour of the name was enough to win the support of many of Caesar’s veterans, including even some legions already organized by Antony. When he found that Antony refused to recognize him as the son of the dictator or to cede him Caesar’s property, he offered his services and those of his troops to the Senate. Acting on the advice of Cicero, who now came once more to the fore, the Senate was glad to accept the offer; Antony was driven from before Mutina, and Brutus was freed (April, 43 BC).

The Second Triumvirate. The senators, who had never trusted Octavian, now felt that they could dispense with his services. He was refused the consulship, and the command of the armies in northern Italy was given to Decimus Brutus.

Octavian marched on Rome, demanded and received the consulship, and then went north again to meet Antony in Gaul. The alliance between Octavian and the party that had killed his adopted father could hardly be expected to endure. The Senate had used him to drive Antony from Italy, and he had used the Senate to place himself in a position where he could negotiate with Antony on equal terms. He now met Antony, and with Lepidus, Caesar’s master-of-horse, then commanding an army in Gaul, they formed the Second Triumvirate. A subsequent law legalized this triple dictatorship for a period of five years.

Philippi (42 B.C.). Marcus Brutus and Cassius, two leaders of the conspiracy, had meantime gathered large forces in the East. It was agreed by the Triumvirs that Lepidus should remain in Rome while the other two took the field against Brutus and Cassius. Before doing this, they made Rome safe for autocracy by proscribing and putting to death some three hundred senators, including Cicero, and two thousand knights. They thus not only removed all possible leaders of the senatorial party, hut by confiscating the property of their victims they acquired money with which to pay their soldiers and finance the coming campaign. At the Battle of Philippi in 42 B.C. the forces of Brutus and Cassius were crushed, the two headers committed suicide, and the Triumvirs became supreme.

The end of the Republic. The two years of futile struggle that had followed the death of Caesar had shown that the free Republic was gone beyond recall. The Senate, even under the energetic leadership of Cicero, had been powerless without the support of a military leader whose reputation could attract soldiers to its army. If the Senate had had such a header, it would have been equally without real power, depending for its continued existence upon his favor. If Brutus and Cassius had been victorious, they might have restored nominal sovereignty to the Senate as Octavian himself later did, but it would have been a sovereignty resting on the military power, and in danger equally from its enemies and its defenders. The Battle of Philippi, therefore, did not decide whether or not the Republic was to continue, but merely which of two rival sets of leaders was to prevail. It was well for Rome that the power came not to Brutus and Cassius, neither of whom ever gave signs of real ability, but to the Triumvirs. Although another civil war was to be necessary, one of them, Octavian, was to prove himself a statesman capable of giving to the government of Rome a new form, which it retained for two centuries and more.

Octavian and Antony. After Phihippi, the Triumvirs divided the Empire among themselves, Antony taking the East, Lepidus getting Africa, and Octavian being given the West, with the difficult task of finding land in Italy for the veterans. To do this, he confiscated the property of cities which had sided with the Senate. Antony’s wife, Fulvia, and his brother, taking advantage of the consequent discontent, roused a revolt, possibly with the hope of displacing Octavian and making Antony supreme. They were, however, defeated at Perusia; Fulvia soon died, and, when Antony finally returned to Italy, it was to renew his peace with Octavian (40 B.C.) and to seal the new agreement by marrying Octavia, the sister of his colleague.

In 38 B.C. Octavian faced a more serious danger from the pirate fleet of Sextus Pompey, son of Pompey the Great. In the following year, after a renewal of the Triumvirate for five years, Pompey was defeated and killed, and Lepidus, who had tried to take advantage of the situation for his own ends, was removed from the Triumvirate. From the beginning of his eastern power Antony had cherished the hope of carrying out the Parthian campaign that Caesar had planned. From 40 to 37 b.C. his lieutenant, Vcntidius, had engaged the Parthian forces in Syria, and finally in 36 b.C. Antony prepared to take the offensive. When Octavian refused to send him troops, he dismissed his wife Octavia and sought aid from Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt. In the relations between Antony and Cleopatra, policy played a larger part than romance. She hoped to restore the vanished greatness of the Ptolemies by Roman aid. He desired Egyptian financial support for the Parthian War, and probably also foresaw that Egypt might be a safe base for him in the inevitable struggle with Octavian. The Parthian campaign was a complete failure, and only Antony’s superb retreat prevented it from being a disaster. For twenty-seven days he led his army back through the hills of Media, while a Parthian force hung closely behind him. In the constant skirmishing and the one pitched battle of the retreat, the Romans lost 8,ooo men, hut the army was still unbroken when, a short distance from the Armenian frontier, the enemy abandoned the pursuit and withdrew, first shouting a tribute to the courage and resourcefulness of the Romans.

Actium (31 B.C.). By accepting Egyptian aid Antony ran the risk of alienating Roman sentiment. When he stayed on at Alexandria with Cleopatra and even gave to her certain parts of the Roman provinces that had once been Egyptian, many of his Roman followers left him and went over to Octavian. In 32 B.C. the Senate declared war, not against Antony, but against the Egyptian queen. The two armies, each supported by a navy, met at Actium, across the Adriatic from Italy. Agrippa, who commanded Octavian’s fleet, shut the ships of Antony and Cleopatra up in the harbor, while Octavian threatened the supplies of the army. Antony finally decided to break through the blockade with his fleet while his army retreated by land, but only a small squadron bearing the two leaders escaped to Egypt, where they committed suicide. The rest of the fleet was destroyed; the army, whose Roman leaders were becoming more and more disgusted, promptly surrendered; and Octavian was master of the Roman world. In the final analysis his success was due, not to the naval battle at Actium, hut to the fact that Antony, once a general very popular with his men, had adopted a policy repugnant to them and to their leaders.

Third Phase of the Revolution: Pompey and Casesar


No sooner was Sulla (lead than his constitution was attacked. Events of the next few years showed that his measures to protect the Senate from the consuls, the tribunes, and the assembly were effective, but that the real danger was to come from the provincial governors. Even here his arrangements might have been successful had it been possible to follow them, but as soon as military necessity forced special appointments, the man with thc army could again dictate to the Senate.

Sertorius in Spain (83—72 B.C.). When Sulla had established himself in Italy after his campaign in the East, one of the ablest of the opposing leaders, Sertorius, who at the time was governor of Spain, refused to recognize Sulla’s authority or that of the Senate, and, with the aid of refugees from Rome, began a remarkable career. He showed great ability in win-fling the support of the Spanish tribes and defeated, one after another, the generals sent against him by the Senate. The one man in Rome who seemed capable of meeting him was Pompey, a young officer who had gained experience under Sulk, but who had never held a magistracy and was not a member of the Senate. To give him a large independent command in Spain was to invite the very danger which Sulla had most feared, but there seemed no other possible course, and in 76 B.C. he was sent out as "propraetor." He succeeded in checking the rising power of Sertorius, but not until the latter had been murdered by a rival in 72 B.C. did Pompey bring the campaign to a successful conclusion.

Spartacus and the Servile Revolt (73-71 B.C.). Rome, like all states containing a large slave population, lived in constant danger of a servile uprising. In the past, Sicily had suffered severely, and now it was the turn of Italy. In 73 B.C. Spartacus, a Thracian gladiator, gathering a band consisting largely of Cimbri and Teutons enslaved in Marius’ wars, terrorized all of southern Italy. During that year and the next he defeated the consular armies: sent against him, but in 71 BC. The praetor, Licinius Crassus, who, like Pompey, had served under Sulla, defeated him in the south, while Pompey, returning from Spain with his victorious army, intercepted and destroyed iii northern Italy those of the slaves who tried to flee to their native land.

Consulship of Pompey and Crassus (70 B.C.); end of the Sullan constitution. Pompey and Crassus were now before the gates of Rome, each with an army. Although by Sulla’s laws neither was eligible for the consulship—Pompey because lie had not held the praetorship, Crassus because the proper interval after his praetorship had not passed—both offered themselves as candidates, and the Senate feared to rule them out. Although they were personal enemies, they campaigned on a common platform that promised the restoration of most of the democratic institutions that had been abolished by Sulk. Neither of them had any particular political principles, democratic or otherwise, but they saw that this was the way to gain votes. They were elected for 70 b.c., when they restored the powers of the tribunes and the assembly and again gave to the capitalists control of the courts, one third of the jurors still coming from the Senate. Thus within ten years after the end of Sulla’s dictatorship, the senatorial supremacy, which he had imposed on the state by his military power, was destroyed by two consuls, former protégés of his, both of whom, thanks to military power, had gained the consulship contrary to his laws. While the time was not yet ripe for a general to obtain permanent control of the state it was clear that henceforth not the Senate but the generals would determine the fate of Rome.

The Mithridatic War. The domestic situation had brought Sulk back to Italy before he could establish the eastern frontier. By 75 mc. Mithridates was again active, this time in concert with Sertorius. The murder of Sertorius put an end to the joint threat from east and west, and Lucullus, sent against Mithridates in 74 B.C. and continued in command until 66 B.c., won many battles but could not win the war. He did succeed, however, in driving the king out of his kingdom, but his own army, weary with years of unremitting service, threatened to mutiny, and he could not follow up his advantage.

Pompey’s extraordinary commands. The Spanish campaign had been Pompeys first step to power. The situation in the East was to place him in a unique position. Throughout the Mediterranean, piracy had for years been unrestrained. The Greek states, such as Rhodes, that had once policed the eastern seas had lost their navies, and Rome, never much interested in commerce, had not undertaken the task. When, however, fleets of pirates subsidized by Mithridates raided the shores of Italy and captured Roman ships in Roman harbors, something had to be done. To clear the seas of pirates, while not in itself a difficult task, required a unified command over all the Mediterranean and its shores, and such a concentration of power the Senate was afraid to entrust to the hands of any one individual. To make matters worse the obvious man for the task was Pompey, and in his consulship he had gone over to the democratic party. The Senate, therefore, refused to act, but the assembly, to which Pompey had restored full power, bad no such scruples, and in 67 BC. an extraordinary command over the Mediterranean and its shores was created and given to Pompey. In a few months he had cleared the seas. While he was still busy at this, a law introduced into the assembly by a tribune, Manilius, placed him in command of all the eastern provinces with full power to carry on the war with Mithridates and to make terms with all the states and nations concerned, a concentration of power which might make him supreme in the Roman world.

Pompey’s settlement of the East. Again the task was not a difficult one, for Lucullus had all but brought the war to an end. After driving Mithridates beyond the Caucasus, Pompey devoted himself to reorganizing Rome’s eastern territory. The province of Asia was left as it was, and three new provinces, Bithynia, Cilicia, and Syria, were created. Beyond these lay a ring of client kingdoms, in which Pompey set up native rulers friendly to Rome. Many new cities were founded and old ones were strengthened, forming centers from which Hellenistic culture, only slightly influenced by Roman, rapidly spread. Tribute from the new provinces almost doubled the public revenues of Rome, and while taxes were largely gathered by contract, efforts were made to protect the provincials from the greed of the publicani. Here as in the other provinces the existing communities were left with a large degree of control over their own affairs. The Roman governors preserved law and order, protected the frontiers, and saw that the taxes were paid.

Partisan politics at Rome. While Pompey was in the East, a last effort toward free government was being made at Rome. The leading characters in tile tragedy were Cicero, Crassus, Caesar, and Catiline. The first was Rome’s ablest orator, a sincere patriot who by his efforts to reconcile the opposing interests in the State was doomed, like all who undertake such a task, to appear at times inconsistent. Crassus was a senator but represented the financial interests and was himself exceedingly rich. Caesar, of aristocratic birth hut drawing his support from the people, was a man of many-sided genius— general, statesman, orator, amid writer, but as yet known only as a clever politician. Catiline, a reckless bankrupt aristocrat, was ready to capitalize on the popular discontent and to ruin the state to satisfy his own ambitions. In the background was constantly the thought of Pompey, and the fear or hope that on his return he would set himself up as another Sulla. The Senate had lost confidence in itself and lacked an effective leader. Cicero, who had the ability and the character to give the needed leadership, was distrusted by the Senate because he was a ‘new man" from a country town and because he had shown what in their eyes was a dangerous partiality toward Pompey. The equestrian class was ready, for the time, to throw in its lot with Pompey, who was restoring stability in the East, where the knights had large investments. In spite of the upheavals of the past generations, there were still many small farmers throughout Italy who could be trusted to support sound government, but only on occasions of extraordinary importance could they come to Rome, and as a factor in the ordinary political activity they hardly counted. The assembly was usually controlled by the city mob—freedmen and ruined farmers and their descendants—ready for anything, easily swayed by any orator who bribed them with promises of grain or land, and all too ready to sell their votes to the highest bidder.

Catiline. The career of Catiline, while not important in itself, is symptomatic. In 66 and 65 B.C. he was prevented from running for the consulship because a charge of provincial corruption hung over him. In 64 b.C. he became a candidate on a platform offering the cancellation of debts. He was supported by Caesar and Crassus, who probably did not sympathize with his platform (campaign promises do not have to be kept), but who hoped to use him for their own purposes. Another candidate was Cicero. As a "new man" he could not expect support from the senatorial group intent on keeping the higher offices in their own hands, but when the senators were faced by a choice between Catiline, the radical and corrupt aristocrat, and Cicero, the conservative and honest parvenu, they rallied to the latter, and he was elected with the worthless Antonius, a supporter of Catiline, as a colleague.

The consulship of Cicero (63 B.C.). Early in Cicero’s consulship a land bill was introduced in the assembly, the chief purpose of which seems to have been the creation of a commission with sweeping powers in Italy and still greater ones, including military power, in the provinces. It was clear that Caesar and Crassus hoped to dominate this commission and to use it to offset the power of Pompey. Cicero opposed the law with all his eloquence, and for once the assembly was persuaded to vote against its own immediate advantage. In midsummer of 63 B.C. Catiline became once more a candidate for the consulship, but he was defeated in spite of even more lavish promises and of covert hints that if not elected he would take by force what he failed to get by votes. He then formed a conspiracy if he had not already done so. His agents went throughout Italy rousing the discontented elements, particularly the Sullan veterans. In Rome he planned to fire the city, arm the slaves, and murder the consuls and such senators as opposed him. Through secret agents Cicero was kept informed of the plot, but could get no proof. Finally in a meeting of the Senate he denounced Catiline to his face, revealing his detailed knowledge of the conspiracy but concealing his lack of evidence. It was a magnificent bluff, and it worked. Catiline left the city to join the forces that his agents had gathered in Etruria. The conspirators left behind in Rome mismanaged affairs, and Cicero was soon able to present to the Senate documentary evidence. Martial law had been declared, and the conspirators who could be found were arrested and, on Cicero’s orders, put to death. The Senate had always contended that martial law suspended the right of appeal, but the popular party had never accepted this principle, and Cicero well knew that in ordering the execution of the conspirators without trial he laid himself open to attack whenever the populares gained control of the state.

The concord of the orders. Throughout his consulship Cicero had been constantly working to bring the Senate and the knights together, and the danger from Catiline for a time achieved what Cicero’s eloquence had not been able to do. Such a coalition, especially if supported from time to time by the rural citizens, who were always ready to follow Cicero, could protect the state from demagogues, hut if this control was to last, there was needed also the support of such a military man as Pompey. Cicero hoped for this, and not without reason. Pompey had indeed shown himself ambitious and ready to ask for powers beyond those contemplated in the Sullan constitution, but he had accepted those powers only when they were conferred on him in due legal form and had displayed no disposition to seize more than was given him. He had little interest in domestic politics, and he might have been quite willing to assume an unofficial role of protector of the state, loyally following the directions of the constitutional authorities. Whether the Senate would be willing to trust such power to him was another matter.

Pompey and Casesar

The return of Pompey; the First Triumvirate. In 61 B.C. Pompey came back, and, to the surprise of all he disbanded his army as soon as he entered Italy. After a magnificent triumph, he asked the Senate to ratify his eastern settlement and to reward his veterans. If the Senate had acceded to these reasonable requests, Pompey almost certainly would have become a loyal supporter of the harmony of the orders. Although he was without an army, his military reputation was such that he could raise troops on a moment’s notice, and with his support the government would have been safe from other generals of less restrained ambitions. But the Senate, which could not forgive Pompey for his actions during his consulship of 70 B.C., procrastinated. Moreover, Crassus, acting for himself and for Caesar, who was then in Spain as propraetor, played petty politics, set the knights against the Senate, and aroused Pompey’s suspicions of Cicero. The concord of the orders was shattered. When Caesar returned in 6o B.C. to stand for the consulship, he found Pompey utterly weary of the senatorial policy and ready to join forces with him. The two, with Crassus, formed a political cabal, known to history as the First Triumvirate. Caesar was to have the support of Crassus’ wealth and Pompey’s military prestige, both in his campaign and during his term, and in return was to secure for Crassus certain favors demanded by the knights and for Pompey ratification of his eastern settlement and a bonus for his soldiers.

The consulship of Caesar (59 B.C.). With such support Caesar’s election was easy, and during his term he rode roughshod over all opposition. When the Senate refused to pass his measures, he laid them before the assembly. When in reply to his disregard of a tribune’s veto the Senate threatened to declare martial law, Pompey countered by promising to meet force with force. After fulfilling his bargains with Crassus and Pompey, Caesar secured for himself a five-year appointment as governor of Gaul, including Cisalpine Gaul, which would enable him to maintain close touch with Roman politics without leaving his province. During his term in Spain he had discovered in himself a surprising military genius, and in Gaul he might hope to build a military reputation and to create a loyal army that would make him Pompey’s equal. Before he left for his province, it was necessary to remove from Rome the one senatorial leader who might prove dangerous—Cicero, for whose oratorical power Caesar had much respect. He had tried to bring Cicero into the cabal but Cicero, seeing in it nothing but a combination of selfish politicians, had refused. Clodius, a henchman of Caesar and a bitter personal enemy of Cicero, had been elected tribune for 58 B.C. Before Caesar left the city, Clodius was permitted to bring into the assembly a bill exiling all who had executed citizens without trial. When an appeal to Pompey failed, Cicero read the handwriting on the wall and left Italy even before his formal banishment was decreed.

Map of the Roman Republic, 133 B.C. to 44 B. C.
Map of the Roman Republic, 133 B.C. to 44 B. C.

Caesar in Gaul (58—50 B.C.). We cannot follow Caesar’s brilliant campaigns in Gaul. His duty as governor was to defend the existing Roman province, a narrow strip along the Mediterranean. This he did in a series of ‘‘defensive’ wars so successful that when he returned to Rome all of Gaul from sea to sea and from the Pyrenees to the Rhine was subject to Rome. It seems probable that to Caesar the main purpose of these wars was to build for himself a military machine, actually the conquest of Gaul marks a crucial point in Roman history. During the preceding century and a half Rome’s interests had been turning increasingly to the East. Rome itself was being flooded with eastern slaves, eastern wealth, eastern luxury and vices, and eastern religions. There was danger that Rome would turn its back on Europe and become a Graeco-Oriental power. The addition of the large and fertile land of Gaul, peopled with an intelligent race who were quick to adopt Roman culture and were soon to become more Roman than Rome itself, restored the balance.

The end of the First Triumvirate. Roman politics during these years are largely a history of the triumvirate. Cicero, indeed, was soon recalled to Rome, but he took little part in public life. Clodius, as Caesar’s representative, managed politics for his master, using votes and violence with equal ruthlessness. Pompey and Crassus almost fell out over an Egyptian commission, and senatorial sympathizers almost won Pompey away from Caesar. In 56 B.C. the three leaders met at Luca at the southern boundary of Cisalpine Gaul and once more parceled out the Empire. Caesar was to have five more years in Gaul, to be followed at once by another consulship; Pompey and Crassus were to be consuls in 55 B.C., after which Crassus was to become governor of Syria and Pompey of Spain. During the consulship of the two nothing of note took place. In 54 B.C. Crassus left for Syria and in the following year invaded Parthia (Persia), where his army was cut to pieces and he was slain. Pompey became governor of Spain but stayed in Rome and governed the province through legates. Rome itself was in anarchy. Bribery at elections was rampant, Caesar, Pompey, and the Senate being equally responsible. Riots prevented the elections of consuls for 52 BC., and finally, by arrangement with the Senate, Pompey, while still retaining his governorship of Spain, became sole consul and restored order. It was clear that he was drifting away from Caesar and that he was ready to co-operate with the Senate in an effort to force Caesar into private life.

Civil War (49-45 B.C.). At the conference at Luca, Caesar had been promised a second consulship, to be followed in normal course by another provincial command. It was essential for his safety that he pass directly from his present office to the consulship without becoming a private citizen and giving his enemies a chance to do away with him by legal or illegal means. If he could secure this, he was ready to make any compromise, but this was the one thing which the Senate, now openly aided by Pompey, refused. At the end of 50 BC. Caesar had led his army to the southern limit of his province and waited. At the beginning of the next year a senatorial decree ordered him to give up his province or be declared a public enemy. This decree was vetoed by two tribunes, who, when martial law was declared, took refuge in Caesar’s camp, thus giving him an excuse to cross the Rubicon into Italy, beginning the Civil War in defense of the rights of the tribunes, rights which he himself had constantly ignored during his own consulship.

For the outbreak of this war Caesar and Pompey were equally responsible. It is true that at the last Pompey had the Senate on his side and could pose as the protector of constitutional power, but in his earlier agreements with Caesar he had equally violated the rights of the Senate, and if he now defended that body, it was because it served his own interests to do so. Free government was gone beyond saving, and if Rome was to be in the hands either of Caesar or of Pompey allied with the incompetent Senate, it was better that it fall to Caesar.

Pompey had strong forces in Spain, two unstable legions in Italy, and a reputation in the East that would make it possible for him to build up an army there quickly. He at once abandoned Italy and with most of the Senate went to Greece. Caesar, after setting up a favorable government at Rome, turned back to Spain, where he defeated the Pompeian forces. Once more in Rome, he restored credit and order and quickly set out for Greece. After much difficulty in crossing the Adriatic, ho first tried without success to besiege Pompey at Dyrrhachium, and then defeated him at Pharsalus. Pompey fled to Egypt, where he was murdered. Caesar followed to Alexandria, where he tried to reconcile the difficulties between King Ptolemy and his sister Cleopatra, but he was besieged in the center of the city and extricated himself with difficulty. He set Cleopatra on the throne, made a short campaign in Asia Minor, and returned to Rome. He spent part of the winter of 47—46 B.C. in the city and then turned to Africa, where the surviving senatorial forces had gathered. These he defeated at Thapsus. After another short period in Rome, he was again called away to crush the final resistance of the Sons of Pompey in Spain, where the Battle of Munda (March, 45 B.C.) ended all armed resistance.

There was no general proscription and slaughter such as followed all the other civil conflicts. While some of the defeated followers of the Senate went into voluntary exile and some few committed suicide rather than yield, most of them sooner or later accepted the repeated offers of pardon and returned to Rome and often to high office.


Caesar’s legislation. It is not necessary to distinguish here between measures passed in the assembly at the direction of Caesar and those which depended simply on his edict as dictator. In general his laws were directed toward carrying out policies which had long been in his mind or to doing away with existing abuses. In extending the citizenship to the region south of the Alps and in restoring to full rights the children of Sulla’s victims, Caesar was accomplishing what he had vainly attempted years before. Various financial measures were directed to mitigating the distress of the Civil War. The Roman calendar, with a year of 355 days, could be kept in harmony with the seasons only by the frequent intercalation of an extra month. This was the responsibility of the Pontifex Maximus, an office which Caesar had held for years, and, thanks to his neglect, the calendar was badly out of joint. He added three months to the year 46 mc. and at the same time adopted from Alexandrian astronomers the year of 36514 days, which with slight changes is still in universal use. To limit the danger from the rough bands of slave shepherds on the large ranches of southern Italy, he decreed that one third of the slaves be replaced by free herdsmcn. A certain amount of uniformity was given to the local city governments throughout Italy. The number of men to receive free grain at Rome was reduced from 320,000 to 150,000. Colonies, many of them outside of Italy, were established to take care of the unemployed and the discharged soldiers. A codification of civil law and an extensive program of public works were planned, but had not been undertaken at the time of his death. In his legislative activity Caesar showed great resourcefulness in dealing with difficulties, rapidity in removing admitted evils and an insistence on good administration, but there was nothing that marked a distinct break with the past or that looked far beyond the present.

Caesar’s foreign policies. Caesar’s own campaigns in Gaul had secured Roman power there as far as the Rhine, and beyond that he did not plan to go. The situation in Egypt was equivocal. The power of the Ptolemies was gone, and Rome might have taken Egypt then as easily as she did a generation later, but Caesar preferred to leave Cleopatra as at least the nominal ruler of the country. There was trouble in Syria, and the growing power of the Dacians in the Danube region was a threat to the province of Macedon. With these two problems the governors of Syria and Macedon were to deal in 44 B.C.; but their campaigns were to be but part of a far more grandiose venture against Parthia which Caesar planned to undertake himself. This Parthian invasion may have been justified as revenge for the defeat of Crassus and as necessary to restore the prestige of Rome in the East; but it is quite probable that Caesar was led to it less from any real national need than from the desire to enjoy one more great campaign. In planning it he turned his back on the harder hut more necessary task of reorganizing the government at home.

The position of Caesar in the state. It is clear that by 45 B.C. Caesar had determined to maintain himself as an autocratic ruler of the Roman world, but what form he intended to give to his power and how he planned to relate it to the other organs of government we do not know. Indeed, it is quite probable that he had formulated no definite plans himself. We do know that it was commonly believed after his death that he had wished to gain some sort of divine sanction for his position and perhaps to rule as a god on earth, and that he had hoped to become king. In the absence of any clear statement from Caesar himself, it is almost impossible to distinguish between rumors set afloat by him or his friends as trial balloons to see what the people would accept, and false statements of his desires circulated by secret enemies with the intention of discrediting him.

Divine honors were paid him in the eastern provinces, but similar honors had for generations been offered to and accepted by Roman governors there, and therefore had little meaning. In Rome itself he accepted honors—his statue set up in temples and carried in processions with statues of the gods, a temple front on his own home, a temple to Caesar’s Clemency—that came very close to deification, but there is nothing to indicate more than a laissez-faire policy on his part. There is a complete absence of the carefully calculated steps by which Augustus later made religion one of the props of his power. Still less is there evidence that Caesar wished to become a king. It is true that shortly before the fatal Ides of March, his confidant, Mark Antony, publicly placed a crown upon his head. But if this was done by Caesar’s orders, it may have been to give him an opportunity by refusing it to quiet the rumors that he aimed at kingship; and it is equally possible that Antony acted without Caesar’s approval, urged on by some of the dictator’s seeming friends who hoped thus to arouse popular resentment. One thing that is certain is that Caesar had made no plans to name a successor. In his will, drawn shortly before his death, he adopted his grandnephew Octavius (the later emperor Augustus), and made him his heir, but this is what any childless Roman with respect for the dignity of his family would do. Not until Octavius, by his own efforts, had raised himself to prominence did the will have any political significance in the eyes of the Romans.

When we consider the actual position of Caesar rather than his plans, if any, for the future, we are naturally on somewhat firmer ground. His chief office was that of dictator. In the past this office had always been temporary and created for a particular emergency. Even Sulla had been dictator "to reestablish the state," and had retired when his task was accomplished. Caesar had been appointed dictator at first for an indefinite term, then for ten years, and finally for life. The regular officers continued to be elected, but those candidates whom Caesar favored were sure of success. Against the dictator the tribunes’ veto was powerless. Caesar himself seems to have been given some sort of tribunician power, but he probably valued this chiefly for the protection that the sacrosanct office conferred. Certainly he did not use it as the basis of his civil authority as did Augustus. The Senate, enlarged by the addition of many of his followers and constantly recruited by the addition of ex-quaestors who owed their office to his favor, still retained the shell of its old powers, but functioned only in accord with his will. Although the Senate still distributed provincial commands to ex-magistrates, Caesar in fact controlled both the election of the magistrates and the appointments to the provinces. Moreover, as dictator he could and did appoint praefects to carry out his will at home, and legates to command armies in the field. In his absence from Rome his master-of-horse represented him there with all the power of the dictatorship.

The conspiracy and the death of Caesar (44 B.C.). The dictatorship was the most convenient office for an autocrat, but in some ways it was a weak foundation for permanent power. It had always been a temporary office. A permanent dictatorship was undisguised tyranny. Moreover it was an office outside the regular government. During a dictatorship the ordinary instruments of government continued to exist, and at the end of a dictatorship all the appointments that had been made by the dictator lapsed, and the regular government began again to function. It might appear that all that was necessary to restore free government to Rome was to remove Caesar. In the ancient world political assassination was not regarded in the same light as ordinary murder. When an individual had gained such a position in a state that he could crush all ordinary opposition and the regular machinery of government could not function to remove him, then, in the eyes of a patriot, assassination seemed justified. Even today this attitude of mind has not altogether passed. While among the members of the conspiracy that was directed against the life of Caesar there were doubtless many who were actuated by less worthy motives, the leaders were men of sincere if mistaken, patriotism, who saw in Caesar the one obstacle to the re-establishment of a free state ruled by the Senate. So complete, indeed, was their confidence in the ability of the Senate to resume what they regarded as its rightful place at the head of the state, that they completely failed to make any plans for the period of transition, an oversight that was to cost them dearly. On the fifteenth of March, 44 B.C., Caesar was slain, and anarchy and civil war once more broke out.

Thomas Jefferson
Read "A 'canine appetite' for books" by Lewis Lord, U.S. News & World Report, May 1, 2000. p.58. [JPEG image]

Neoclassicism: German Fascism [view 8 JPEG images: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8]

Neoclassicism: Italian Fascism [view 8 JPEG images: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8]

Leni Riefenstahl

Leni Riefenstahl The Blue Light

One of the most bitter controversies to rage around an artistic figure is that involving the German director, Leni Riefenstahl, a woman at once brilliant and frightening in her ability to manipulate audience response. Any student of propaganda would do well to study her works with care.

Born in 1902 in Berlin, she nursed hopes to become a dancer and spent several years in training, but a bad knee injury eliminated this option. When she saw an example of the "mountain film," a genre propounded by Dr. Amold Fanck, she was impressed and soon became an important actor in such films as Der Heilige Berg (The Holy Mountain) and Die Weisse Holle von Pitz Palu (The White Hell of Pitz Palu), aided by her athletic strength and breathtaking physical beauty. She directed as well as starred in Das Blaue Licht (The Blue Light), one of her most exquisite vehicles and also a mountain film, in 1932.

With the coming of Hitler to power the following year, she was commissioned to make a short documentary on the Party, Der Sieg des Glaubens (Victory of Faith), an effort that so pleased the Fuehrer that he asked her to make a longer film on the Nuremberg rally in 1934. The story goes that, fearing harassment from the Propaganda Minister, Joseph Goebbels, she at first refused the offer. Finally she was persuaded, however, and Triumph des Willens (Triumph of the Will) was shot. A third work followed in 1935, Tag des Freiheit-- Unsere Wehrmacht (Day of Freedom--Our Fighting Forces), a short that was perfunctorily made and is now apparently lost. The next year saw Berlin as the site of the summer Olympics and Riefenstahl, appointed to make the official film about the event, turned out a masterpiece, Olympia (1936-38), brilliant especially for its harmonization of camera movement with the natural movement of the athletes. Finally, there is record of a mysterious 50-minute piece entitled Berchtesgaden uber Saltzburg that deals with Hitler's mountain retreat and about which very little is known; along with Sieg des Glaubens and Tag des Freiheit, it is apparently irretrievably lost.

After an ill-timed visit to the U.S. in 1939, Riefenstahl began an ambitious project based on Kleist's play Penthesilia; regretfully, it had to be shelved shortly after production began on account of the outbreak of the war. A second unfinished project, Tiefland (based on d'Albert's opera), actually reached the shooting stage but was soon held up by mounting costs and the illness of its director (she was also starring). With Tieflandlikewise shelved, Riefenstahl disappeared from the film scene for the duration of Hitler's regime; the film was finished and released after the war.

While officially de-Nazified in 1952, Riefenstahl is still living down her Nazi career, and her post-war activities have been plagued with a mixture of bad luck and harassment. She began a documentary on African slave trade in 1956 called Schwarre Fracht (Black Cargo), only to be forced to abandon it

when she was badly hurt in ajeep accident. In 1965 she returned to Africa to live with and record the life of the Nuban tribe; while that picture, too, has not been released, she has at least been able to publish a portrait book based on her studies. (MP)

Triumph Of The Will

Triumph of the Will

1934-36 I0l min. Directed and edited by Leni Riefenstahl; original title: "Triumph des Willens"; photography by Sepp Allgeier and others; music by Herbert Windt. German dialog with English subtitles.

The most disturbing product of one of the cinema's most controversial figures, Triumph of the Will is a "record" of the Party rally in Nuremberg in 1934, an event meant to reassure the German public of the solidarity of the Nazi Party after the notorious Rohm purges and to introduce the party leaders, hitherto relatively unknown. Set in the medieval town of Nuremberg, the rally was filmed with a grand touch deliberately modelled on the Wagnerian music-drama, with Hitler as its hero. While overly long and heavily burdened by speeches and marches, Triumph nonetheless has a disturbing power and stands as one of the most staggering examples of cinematic propaganda. (MP)

Olympia (In Two Parts)

1936-38 205 min. B&W English Narration Rental: A Part 1: Fest der Volker (Festival of the People) 120min.  Part II: Fest der Schonheit (Festival of Beauty) 85min.  Directed, produced and edited by Leni Riefenstahl; music by Herbert Windt. English narration.

Ostensibly a "record" of the 1936 Berlin Olympics, Olympia goes far beyond documentation in its utilization of music, camera and editing to convey the prowess and beauty of the athlete in motion. A worshipper of human body in its prime, Riefenstahl never captured that feeling better than in this film, and there is doubt whether the sports world has ever been more stunningly represented. Memorable sequences include the opening (the carrying of the Olympic torch), the high dive and the marathon; an added bonus is the presence of the American runner, Jessie Owens, whose brilliant performance dismayed Hitler. Herbert Windt's score is exceptional.

Olympia is divided into two parts, each complete in itself. Part I consists of an abstract introduction, the carrying of the flame from Greece and the lighting of the torch at the stadium; plus the track and field events. Part II includes the gymnastic and aquatic events, sailing and rowing, equestrian events, bicycling, and the decathlon events.

"Olympia is only incidentally a record of the actual games: (Riefenstahl) selected shots for their beauty rather than for a documentary record. She emerged with over three hours of dazzling quality--a film that moves one kinesthetically in response to physical tension, and psychologically in response to the anguish and strain of men and women desperately competing for a place in history... Olympia is an elegy on the youth of 1936: here they are in their flower, dedicated to the highest ideals of sportsmanship--these young men who were soon to kill each other."-Pauline Kael, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (MP)