Julius Caesar steals the show. Vain, dictatorial, adulterous, and violent, he was also a far-sighted reformer and wicked smart. In fact, he was one of the most charming men in history. No wonder writers and artists have been fascinated by him for 2000 years.
I fell under Caesar's spell while researching my new book, Masters of Command: Alexander, Hannibal, Caesar and the Genius of Leadership [Simon & Schuster, $26.00]. The other two members of ancient warfare's Big Three, Alexander and Hannibal, are iconic conquerors but neither matches Caesar's versatility.
In war, Caesar offered strength and speed. In politics, he projected populism. In both, he showed the urbane intelligence that stands out in his writing. His Gallic Wars, the bane of generations of schoolboys, goes down like a smooth whiskey when read as an adult. His military achievements dazzle. He added Gaul to the Roman Empire - most of today's France as well as Belgium and part of the Netherlands, raided Britain, and took on - and defeated half of Rome in a civil war.
As a politician, Caesar combined JFK's oratory with Bill Clinton's bonhomie and Ronald Reagan's authority. Like FDR, he was an aristocrat and a populist. Add to that the military magnetism that made men follow a Patton or a Rommel.
True, Caesar came to a bad end. He grew too fond of power and too trusting of his friends, and he paid with his life on the Ides of March (March 15, 44 B.C.).
Yet Caesar offers leadership lessons in both war and politics. Even an accomplished politician like President Obama could benefit from the following tips.