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Rubicon: The Last Years of the Roman Republic [Paperback]

Tom Holland
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
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Book Description

March 8 2005
In 49 B.C., the seven hundred fifth year since the founding of Rome, Julius Caesar crossed a small border river called the Rubicon and plunged Rome into cataclysmic civil war. Tom Holland’s enthralling account tells the story of Caesar’s generation, witness to the twilight of the Republic and its bloody transformation into an empire. From Cicero, Spartacus, and Brutus, to Cleopatra, Virgil, and Augustus, here are some of the most legendary figures in history brought thrillingly to life. Combining verve and freshness with scrupulous scholarship, Rubicon is not only an engrossing history of this pivotal era but a uniquely resonant portrait of a great civilization in all its extremes of self-sacrifice and rivalry, decadence and catastrophe, intrigue, war, and world-shaking ambition.

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From Publishers Weekly

After a palace coup demolished the reign of King Tarquin of Rome in 509 B.C., a republican government flourished, providing every person an opportunity to participate in political life in the name of liberty. As Holland, a novelist and adapter of Herodotus' Histories for British radio, points out in this lively re-creation of the republic's rise and fall, the seeds of destruction were planted in the very soil in which the early republic flourished. It was more often members of the patrician classes who had the resources to achieve political success. Such implicit class distinctions in an ostensibly classless society also gave rise to a new group of rulers who acted like monarchs. Holland chronicles the rise to power of such leaders as Sulla Felix, Pompey, Cicero and Julius Caesar. Some of these leaders, such as Pompey, appealed to the masses by expanding the republic through military conquest; others, like Cicero, worked to reinforce class distinctions. Holland points to the suppression of the Gracchian revolution-a series of reforms in favor of the poor pushed by the Gracchus brothers in the second century B.C.-as the beginning of the end of the republic, providing the context into which Julius Caesar would step with his own attempts to save the republic. As Holland points out, Caesar actually precipitated civil wars and helped to reestablish an imperial form of government in Rome. With the skill of a good novelist, Holland weaves a rip-roaring tale of political and historical intrigue as he chronicles the lively personalities and problems that led to the end of the Roman republic. Maps.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Ancient history lives in this vivid chronicle of the tumultuous events that impelled Julius Caesar across the one small river that separated the Roman Republic from cataclysmic civil war. With the narrative talents that have established him as a prominent radio personality and novelist, Holland pulls readers deep into the treacherous riptide of Roman politics. To show how Caesar eventually masters that tide--if only temporarily--Holland first traces the bloody career of the ruthless dictator Sulla, who rescues an imperiled Republic even as he breaches its founding traditions. Those breaches deeply disturb the moralist Cato, but the indulgent luxury of a post-Sullan world suits Caesar well enough: a popular favorite, he sets the fashion in loose-fitting togas--and waits for his fated opening. Recounting Caesar's eventual seizure of power in pages as irresistibly cadenced as the legionnaires' march, Holland probes the tragic ironies that quickly expose the bold conqueror to idealistic assassins, who themselves soon perish in the rise of the Augustan Empire. Not a work for scrupulous scholars, but a richly resonant history for the general reader. Bryce Christensen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
Easily the best prose I have read on the Roman Republic, etc. since Graves' "I, Claudius". I would venture to say perhaps even better.
An amazing read. Easily one of the top 20 or 30 books I have ever had the pleasure of reading, Holland's prose is simply outstanding. And that is something that is very difficult to accomplish with such doughty subject material.
His portrayal of each major player during the last years of the Republic really gave me a true sense of what kind of men they really were. Men like Pompey, Cato, Clodius, Julius Caesar really jumped off the page and I really could imagine them debating and arguing in the Senate, each with their own imitable style. They weren't one-dimensional names that appeared on a page, there was a great amount of depth to each. Pompey's arrogance and conceit, Cato's unbending rigidity and austere nature, Clodius' viciousness, and Caesar's pure genius all come to life !
If you have any appreciation for history, get this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating Jan. 12 2012
By Justine
Format:Paperback
After having read Millenium, I wanted more and Rubicon satisfied my craving. Well written and entertaining, it reads like a novel, though I got sometimes confused with some of the characters, Claudius, Metelus, Crassus and all the other "...us". I'll have to read it again.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Top Marks Feb. 20 2008
By Patrick Sullivan TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Once you start reading Rubicon, it is very hard to put down. Tom Holland has done a great job. Do yourself a favour and read this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Solid but a little slow May 9 2004
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
From the published reviews I read I expected the narrative-style to be more brisk, almost novelistic. Instead it's basically a well-written textbook. (I was a history major in college and still read a lot of history and biography). Many familiar and perhaps not so familiar characters are part of this history: Cicero, Cato, Crassus, Clodius, Sulla, Spartacus, General Pompey, Julius Caesar, Cleopatra, Brutus, Mark Antony, Octavian (later Caesar Augustus). In his introduction the author touches on the idea of parallels between Rome and modern America: "The Roman people in the end grew tired of antique virtues, preferring the comforts of easy slavery and peace...bread and circuses." But the author doesn't pursue this analysis at all in the rest of the book. Certainly America is more like Rome with our interest in law, engineering and war, than like ancient Greece with its keen development of philosophy, literature and the arts. Like Rome, America is also a republic that became a world power, increasingly dependent on a professional, all-volunteer military. Other parallels the reader will have to discover for himself, even as he learns again about Cicero's vanity, Cato's rectitude, the Ides of March and why Caesar's wife had to be above reproach.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous narration March 25 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
If Mr. Holland would have been my teacher way dow in the year path 40 years ago how happy I would have been. I rarely read a so lively exact account of what was life in the political and social web of the Roman Republic before its passing and demise. Mr. Holland fleshes out figures that were in my world half alive, gang wars, clans, the mentality of a Roman, the immense shock of having to administer Asia Minor and the Kingdom of Pergamus and its riches by a bunch a greedy, uncouth, raw, vulgar provincials. Parallel in my view to the conquest of 2/3 of Mexico by America leading to the Fall of the First Republic 20 years later in 1865. Tom Holland makes you liking and appreciating the historical characters he describes so well, he is not afraid to describe them warts and all and if handsome and charming also, albeit murderers and sadist too. I was never so sad to finish a book I would have wished it to continue as my pleasure was so great reading it all.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Very Readable Survey May 18 2004
Format:Hardcover
Having read Colleen MaCullouch's fascinating series, I have tried to find what was truth and fiction. With Rubicon, I found what I was looking for. Other accounts I found tended to be very dry and brief. Rubicon, on the other hand, is a well-written popular history (in the best sense). The author converys the competitive nature of Roman society which worked well for a city state, but not an expanding empire, thus bringing about the end of the Roman republic.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By Ron H
Format:Paperback
For non-academics in the field this is a fabulous book. A great historical account of the major happenings and events in the Fall of the Republic. Holland's mastery is to recount the events through the motivations and characteristics of the key historical figures. It stands up as a true work of clarity and a great launching pad into further historical readings of this extraordinary period. Could not put this down once I started to read it!
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Brilliant History Book Sept. 7 2010
Format:Paperback
I keep it short and sweet. This is a brilliant book for a brilliant part of history. This is written how a history book should be written, making it in intresting and enjoyable book for anyone intrested Roman history. This easy reading book makes you come to your on conclusing on what to make of this time in history and not forcing a certain perspective on you. A brilliant History book on a important part in Western European Hisory.
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