Perhaps halfway through Plutarch at this stage (The LIVES I have selected). I have finished 6-7 Greek lives and 2-3 Roman lives. On Caesar now.
What strikes me about Caesar is that he was prevented from attempting a dictatorship, as was his slightly more sluggish rival Pompei, by the third powerful potential threat in the State - the wealthy Crassus. When Crassus was killed in battle, the triad was destabilised and Caeser and Pompei were now in a position where either could act against the other without worrying that their opponent would make common cause with Crassus to finish them off.
Interesting to be listening to how Caesar made such ingenious use of the common folk in his effective usurpation of the machinery of the State. He played to the crowd, and subverted existing laws and institutions to his way, and trampled on them with the consent of the masses when it was necessary.
This is more or less in perfect alignment with what Aristotle says in THE POLITICS in relation to how democracies fail. He doesn't just say that populism overturns them, he is specific that it's the potential for a prospective tyrant to give the populace what they think they want ... And the populace will cast down any check and balance, and law, which stands in the way. Aristotle talks about the extreme worst case for a democracy, when the people's desires become sovereign over the law. This is, ultimately, what the risk of any populism is - whether left or right. Caesar is a decent example I think, although he is also a 'tyrant' that Aristotle would have approved of, as he follows many of the tips that Aristotle observes that long-lasting tyrants follow ... He seems relatively benign towards punishing people (for the most part), does not sexually abuse people in a rampant way, and he gives the illusion at times that he is still subordinate to courts and the senate. It's interesting that when he chased Pompei out of Rome and made himself dictator he only held it for about 7 days before resigning it and just appointing himself consul. It may be that he resigned dictatorship in name only, and in fact he was still de facto the ruler, but interesting nonetheless, the optics of the thing.
Almost finished THE POLITICS. I've been slow, looking forward to something new. I think it's Cicero next, but I'm not certain. Funnily enough, a man who features in the rivalry between Caeser and Pompei (Trying to reconcile the two).