I have recently been reading a highly interesting book, namely The Assassination of Julius Caesar: A People's History of Ancient Rome by Michael Parenti, an American historian. Parenti argues that the history of the Roman Republic in the first century BC was grossly misrepresented by Roman historians at the time.

A People's History of Ancient Rome, by Michael Parenti The assassination of Julius Caesar is typically portrayed as the act of a few brave senators willing to risk it all to save Roman democracy from popular dictatorship, as we see in Shakespeare's play. In contrast, Parenti argues that the history of the Roman republic is a history of an aristocratic elite fighting to maintain their privileged status, beset by populists trying to bring about changes in land ownership and distribution of wealth. From Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus, to Clodius Maximus, to Catalina, all the way to Julius Caesar, Parenti traces a series of systematic assassinations of all would-be reformers popular amongst the Roman populace.

Of particular note is his treatment of Cicero, to whom he devotes the better part of two chapters. Cicero, a long-time favourite of Latin teachers, hailed as a great orator and intellectual, comes tumbling down from his pedestal -- Parenti argues that Cicero's "exposure" of Catalina's plot against Rome was a charade in order to maintain the status quo and improve Cicero's standing among the optimates. Using his letters and writings as sources, Cicero is construed as a vain, egotistical, ladder-climber.

It's a refreshing read and gives me new perspective on the Roman history I learned in school. After all, most of the sources on early Rome come from a select elite of patrician or equestrian historians. It is easy to imagine that we see Rome through the skewed eyes of the elite.