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Rubicon: The Triumph and Tragedy of the Roman Republic Hardcover – 21 Aug 2003

131 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown; First Edition edition (21 Aug. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316861308
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316861304
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (131 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 257,429 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Historian Tom Holland has adapted Homer, Herodotus, Thucydides and Virgil for BBC Radio. Rubicon was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize and won the Hessell-Tiltman Prize for History 2004, and Persian Fire won the Anglo-Hellenic League's Runciman Award 2006.

Product Description

Review

Holland has the rare gift of making deep scholarship accessible and exciting. A brilliant and completely absorbing study (A. N. Wilson, author of The Victorians)

This is the best one-volume narrative history of the Rome between King Tarquin and Emperor Augustus I have ever read. The story of Rome's experiment with republicanism - peopled by such giants as Caesar, Pompey, Cato and Cicero - is told with perfect fre (Andrew Roberts)

A modern, well-paced and finely observed history which entertains as it informs (OBSERVER)

Explosive stuff ... a seriously intelligent history ... [written] with élan and gusto ... It is a history for our times ... Wickedly enjoyable (Peter Jones, BBC HISTORY MAGAZINE)

Book Description

* An accessible and exciting narrative history of the final 100 years of the Republic. Fascinating and thrilling, it's international politics as played out by the sopranos.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By F. Aetius on 2 Sept. 2008
Format: Paperback
I first read Rubicon at least a few years back, and some of its facts and anecdotes are still fresh and vivid in my mind today, which is what most history books attempt (and fail) to do. When I first brought it I was looking forward to getting into it, considering the high amounts of praise showered upon Holland's prose and my own love of Roman history.

At first I was slightly disappointed, as the book didn't live up to my expectations. I basically thought that the book was supposed to be a narrative history of Julius Caesar's age, and I was a bit put off with all the initial historical background to the Roman Republic.
But as I continued to read it, Holland's wonderful writing drew me in, and I realised I couldn't put it down.

Holland takes the reader on a journey through the history of the Republic, and does an excellent job of explaining the Republic's background in government and society.
With the Background set, Holland then takes us on a tour of the last few decades of the Republic, from the days of Marius and Sulla, to the age of Antony and Cleopatra.
Holland's great strength is his ability to makes these historical figures come to life. He describes their appearance and personality, and in so doing he creates a vivid portrait of the person. His description of Julius Caesar, grand military strategist and shrewd politician, as a bald-headed dandy, who loved to wear loose belts and was very self concscious about his appearance, will no doubt surprise those who have come to base their opinions of him from old films and television shows.
He's also very adept at describing the enviroment, and he can therefore explain the reasons for the Republic's fall, as well as narrating the events and characters of the age.
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59 of 64 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Gavin P. Brooks on 2 July 2004
Format: Paperback
Holland's narrative style means that even those with little, or no, previous knowledge of Roman history can soon find themselves totally engrossed, and enriched, by the story of the Republic's rise and fall.
It is not just the people and personalities that come to life in this book, but the nature of Rome itself. The reader is not just taken on a journey through the personal aspirations of each player, but through the mindset and aspirations of Rome as a whole.
Holland is not afraid to include the small details, such as salacious gossip of the time, which helps to add to the colour and vibrancy and brings the ancient city back to life. While the violence can appear as a bloody reminder of how far civilisation may have moved on, the political machinations have a far more familiar ring to them.
The book is littered with reminders of how much today's society has taken from, and owes to, Roman times. However, this is not done in a preachy pointed manner, rather the evidence is there for the reader to pick up on, and judge for themselves.
The main historical figures of the time, Cicero, Caesar, Pompey, etc, are the main focus of each section. Rubicon allows us to see the interaction and the power play between each of them. As the story of the alliances, oppositions and betrayals unfolds, the urge to keep reading is immense.
The book refers back to previous events in chapters, which serves to reinforce the readers understanding of events. There are maps that help to explain where places are, and their relation to Rome at the time.
Obviously, covering such a vast amount of time, and such an array of people, means that the book can only really scratch the surface of the period it covers.
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75 of 83 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Loveitt on 20 Oct. 2003
Format: Hardcover
The above is a quote from Cicero. High praise indeed, for he mostly thought that any place which wasn't Rome was "squalid obscurity." But, as Tom Holland points out, most Romans thought of Alexandria as the one city that could compete with Rome as the centre of the world. Alexandria was the first city ever to have numbered addresses. It also had slot machines and automatic doors. Perhaps most importantly for the Romans it contained two other things: the tomb of Alexander The Great and the greatest library in the world. The library "boasted seven hundred thousand scrolls and had been built in pursuit of a sublime fantasy: that every book ever written might be gathered in one place." Mr. Holland's book is very good for several reasons. Firstly, it is well-written - both in terms of style (he has a background as a novelist) and also because it is written in the language of today rather than the language of 2,000 years ago. That statement may offend purists. If it does, I'm sorry, but I'm just being honest. For someone who is not a classical scholar, like myself, it makes the material much easier to read. The book is also good because Mr. Holland doesn't just describe historical events - he also gets into the Roman psyche and culture. Thus, we learn of the inherent conservatism of the Romans, which was always in conflict with ambition and ego. Men such as Sulla and Pompey, when implementing changes, always made an attempt to justify their actions by saying they were really trying to turn back the clock - that other people had disregarded precedent and they were only trying to restore tradition. We learn how important public service was to the Romans. You were frowned upon if you retired to the country and tried to live a life of idle pleasure.Read more ›
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