If one merely wants to read an awfully good biography of some of the makers of history during the last generation of the Roman Republic, one cannot go wrong with Rex Warner's translation of Plutarch's Lives of Marius, Sulla, Pompey, Crassus, Caesar and Cicero. Each "Life" is full to the brim of goodies (Even the skimpy life of Marius has its magnificent moments, such as the Cimbri women strangling their children and stabbing themselves rather than surrender to the Romans; or Marius with his Bardyae goons, who laugh when he laughs and kill when he doesn't laugh [Godfather material!], and my favorite bit in the life of Marius is when he is tryihg to make a deal with the angry Senate at the front door of his house and his tribune Saturninus at the back door--running back and forth between the two, excusing himself each time, pretending that he has diarrhea. ["Terribly sorry, the sardines I ate at lunch must have been off!"; the subtext, not Warner].
This book is full of wonderful anecdotes that render the story of ancient Rome so entertaining.
As with the Penguin edition of "The Age of Alexander," however, the editors have skimped and not provided an index (which I notice Oxford has done) and therefore have made the book a pain to use in undergraduate classes. Again, the cover has been tarted up, but no effort has been made to facilitate students in looking up the multifarious characters in each of the lives.
Well, I'm cross with Penguin, but not with Rex Warner's splendidly readable translation!