giovedì 2 febbraio 2017


What do Julius Caesar and journalism have in common?

Caesar is, by many, considered the most important person in the history of the western world. He was the man that gave an empire to Rome and that marked a turning point in the political life of Western Europe and Middle East. Julius Caesar is celebrated as  one of the most, if not the most, capable generals in the military history. His victories are countless and they were almost all obtained with a very limited number of losses among his troops. At Pharsalus, the place where he defeated his rival Pompeius Magnus, the losses of the army of Pompeius were approximately 15000 soldiers; on the other side Caesar lost just 200 people despite having an army that was half of that of Pompeius.
Anyhow there other things for which Julius Caesar may be considered a person thta has left a legacy to the modern world, something that is part of our daily life.
One of those is the reform of the calendar. The Gregorian calendar that we are using nowadays is just a refinement of the Julian calendar.
But Caesar can be considered also the first newspaper publisher and war reporter of the history.

The ancient Romans were already used to keep track of the most important events of the life of the city that were reported in the Annales (yearly facts). That is the reason why the Roman history is so well documented. The historians that lived in that period had a precise source of information.
In the year 59 BC Caesar, during his consulate, officialized and properly organized the publication of the Acta Diurna (daily news) to report not only important events of the public life but also city news such as births, weddings and so on. The very first Acta Diurna had already appeared in 131 BC, but it was only after the decree of Ceasar that they started to be published and kept in a regular way. Acta Diurna were written on lime bleached wood tables or carved on stones that, after being exposed for some time, were removed and kept in the public archives.
The publication of the Acta Diurna, went on at least till 331 AD, when the capital of the empire was moved to Costantinopole. Unfortunately none of the tables has survived till the present times. Anyhow, again, they were a great source of information for the historians of that time.

Commentarii de Bello Gallico, or simply De Bello Gallico (Gallic War) is not only the most important text of the Latin prose, but also the first example of war reporting.
Other people had already written about war facts, the best example being probably the Anabasis of the Greek Xenophon. But all of those text were written well later of the facts.
Caesar started to report the facts more or less on real time. When the Senate began to oppose his campaign, he started sending to Rome the reports of his victories immediately after writing them to gain popular support. It was also the first example of propaganda.
coming back to the Acta Diurna, it is interesting to observe that is was normal for powerful or rich people living in the provinces, far away from Rome, to pay scribes to copy the Acta Diurna, and to send to them. Thanks to the efficient road system the were able to receive the copies in few days after the publication.
What has made Rome so different from other ancient civilation, and so present in our daily life, has been the fact that the Romans had a different way of thinking, for sure more pragmatic but, more importantly, open to changes.

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