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Rubicon: The Triumph and Tragedy of the Roman Republic [Paperback]

Tom Holland
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (117 customer reviews)
RRP: £12.99
Price: £11.56 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

10 Jun 2004

The Roman Republic was the most remarkable state in history. What began as a small community of peasants camped among marshes and hills ended up ruling the known world. Rubicon paints a vivid portrait of the Republic at the climax of its greatness - the same greatness which would herald the catastrophe of its fall.

It is a story of incomparable drama. This was the century of Julius Caesar, the gambler whose addiction to glory led him to the banks of the Rubicon, and beyond; of Cicero, whose defence of freedom would make him a byword for eloquence; of Spartacus, the slave who dared to challenge a superpower; of Cleopatra, the queen who did the same.

Tom Holland brings to life this strange and unsettling civilization, with its extremes of ambition and self-sacrifice, bloodshed and desire. Yet alien as it was, the Republic still holds up a mirror to us. Its citizens were obsessed by celebrity chefs, all-night dancing and exotic pets; they fought elections in law courts and were addicted to spin; they toppled foreign tyrants in the name of self-defence. Two thousand years may have passed, but we remain the Romans' heirs.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Abacus; New Ed edition (10 Jun 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 034911563X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0349115634
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (117 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 22,498 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


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

' The Book that really held me, in fact, obsessed me, was Rubicon ...This is narrative history at its best. Bloody and labyrinthine political intrigue and struggle, brilliant oratory, amazing feats of conquest and cruelty.' Ian McEwan, Books of the Year, GUARDIAN

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
52 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rome certainly wasn't built in a day! 2 July 2004
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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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
If you are unfamiliar with this period of history, this is perhaps the most accessible one-volume account published to date.
Having honed his narrative skills on dark `gothic horror' thrillers Holland has brought the trails and travails of the late Roman Republic to a new generation of readers. From the Gracchi to Marius, from Sulla through Caesar to Augustus, with incisive insight into characters from Pompey to Cicero.
All these names will become familiar to the new reader, whilst the pacey narrative will draw anyone with prior knowledge of this period along.
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A book by another name...UK readers beware! 19 Nov 2005
This is the same text as "Rubicon: The Triumph and Tragedy of the Roman Republic", so previous comments apply. Don't be silly and buy both titles :)
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing 2 Jan 2006
Rubicon was a let-down for me after the reading the praise it has received from Amazon reviewers and other critics. Holland's coverage of the topic is superficial, focussed on the "great men" of the period and never successfully penetrating the surface of the society or developing the characters. The analysis is weak and the same points are repeated throughout the book. Even more problematic is the poor writing style. Throughout the book the writer seems to be able to go on for long paragraphs or even pages using an unnecessarily confusing writing style and saying very little. The result of all of the foregoing is that the events are hard to follow and there is little insight provided into the many factors contributing to the collapse of the Republic. If anything, narrative history should read like a story and be enjoyable. I found Rubicon boring and uninteresting. I recommend you look elsewhere for a good narrative history covering this period.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great introduction for the general reader 1 Jun 2007
By Mr. Tristan Martin VINE VOICE
Tom Holland's retelling of the blood-soaked decline of the Roman Republic certainly deserves the accolades it has thus far been awarded.

This book is thoroughly recommended for the general reader, who, like me, has no special grounding in classical history. Holland animates the legendary figures of whom we have perhaps heard so much and conversely know so little about; Ceasar, Sulla, Cato, Pompey and Cicero, amongst others, parade about the ancient stage, engage in empire building, wage violent and spectacularly bloody war and conspire in labyrinthine power politics.

As the author himself warns us, it is all too easy to take a revisionist approach to this era and see our own world reflected back on this alien landscape: the imperial doctrine of pre-emptive 'self-defence' against 'rogue/barbarian' states, the contempt for an open political process displayed by certain ruling elites, the blatant empire building rationalised as being in the best interests of those conquered et cetera. This interpretation of ancient history is self-evident and consequently, Holland wisely does not over-egg that particular cake. Indeed, in the interwar period of the twentieth century, when studies of the Roman Republic were in vogue, it was a popular interpretation of the time to see in Rome's war machine, a parallel with the ominous maneuvering of Germany..

Perhaps the only downside to this fine work is that it falls into the camp of the 'great man' view of history; what it was like for the average Roman citizen of this mighty city-state, Tom Holland does not really enlighten us, though there are occassional references to squalid, densely packed slums, slongside a thriving slavery business.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Brings history to life
Brings history to life. Covers well known events and people and carries you through the narrative with unbroken interest.
Published 10 days ago by R. Iain F. Brown
5.0 out of 5 stars ... it was described by the seller and is of perfect quality.
The item is as it was described by the seller and is of perfect quality.
Published 12 days ago by Cameron Hunter
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant read. Brought the ancient city and all its ...
Got it for my first trip to Rome. Brilliant read. Brought the ancient city and all its characters to life. Good job Mr Holland
Published 1 month ago by Roy Smart
4.0 out of 5 stars Rubicon
Excellent narrative and compulsive "page turner". Ok this is not nor does it pretend to be an academic study, but those who would have bought the book for either an introduction or... Read more
Published 1 month ago by David Edmonds
2.0 out of 5 stars Not for me
If you like your history books to be like novels, this is for you. The book doesn't just tell you what the people did, it also tells you what they thought and felt and even... Read more
Published 3 months ago by A Reader
4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Overview
This is a detailed overview of the fall of the Republic: I found it interesting.

It is well researched and referenced. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Dev B
5.0 out of 5 stars Outrageously entertaining and educational
A brilliant read. Holland writes historical fact in a more entertaining manner then most write fiction. I could not recommend enough.
Published 3 months ago by michael smith
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read, and a reminder that history doesn't have to be a bore
To be able to write about history as a gripping story is a gift that lots of historians seem to think they have, but few actually do have. Read more
Published 3 months ago by jacaranda
5.0 out of 5 stars Brings Rome to life
Absolutely gripping reading. It does not demand any knowledge of Roman Civilisation, but describes major events such as the civil war of 89 and Sulla's coup d'etat so that we can... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Gamla
5.0 out of 5 stars superb
Well-written, it draws out contemporary parallels whilst highlight the cultural and historical background to the rise of the Roman Empire.
Published 6 months ago by Tayporttony
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