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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 (113 customer reviews)
RRP: 12.99
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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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Rubicon: The Triumph and Tragedy of the Roman Republic + Persian Fire: The First World Empire, Battle for the West + In The Shadow Of The Sword: The Battle for Global Empire and the End of the Ancient World
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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 (113 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 16,176 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
51 of 54 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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73 of 80 people found the following review helpful
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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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Roman History for the non-Latin scholar 30 Aug 2004
I bought this book without having ever heard anything about it purely because I love History books and was very surprised to see this one in the top ten bestseller list in a Dublin Book Shop. I took a chance, but was rewarded by a great read written in excellent style by Tom Holland.
As a schoolboy who in a boarding school where the study of Latin was compulsory for my class, I was fascinated by the Roman Republic and later Empire. In fact this was the only part of the subject of Latin that I liked! The good news for Latin haters is that there is very little latin used in this book.
Holland's description of the Roman Republic, its main characters, lesser characters, and the politics of the time is well done - though at times a little more detail would have been useful (some sections gloss over events and people very quickly). For me, two characters (Caeser and Cicero) dominated the book and could easily form the basis of separate books. Cicero in particular would fit in today's political world with ease. He is known as a great orater, but this ability is only briefly covered in his earlier speeches at court trials. As political schemer, he has been seldom matched over the centuries since. Caeser would just be another dictator, though not in the savage mould of Hitler, Stalin or Saddam. In fact he gets sympathetic treatment from Holland for his several episodes of clemency to his enemies.
Jealously and power struggles are what the last century BC was about. However, it still seems incredible that a republic with democratically elected Consuls existed over 2000 years ago. Holland attempts to paint a "true" picture of the times and does not attempt to hide the savagery, rivalries and corruption that ravaged the Republic in its last days.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
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 1 month 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 1 month 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 1 month 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 1 month 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 3 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 4 months ago by Tayporttony
5.0 out of 5 stars Love it!
Tom Holland has the rare gift of making deep scholarship accessible and exciting. A brilliant and completely absorbing study. Highly recommended!
Published 5 months ago by C
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read
Tom Holland's style of writing is very engaging and he's easy to read, if Roman history is new to you then it's not a bad place to start. Read more
Published 5 months ago by London Meerkat
5.0 out of 5 stars a roman history ,par excelanc
loved it ...i dont always give 5 stars...
,this was worth it,...anyone who likes history must read this ,
never been a fan of roman politics ,but i am now.... Read more
Published 5 months ago by eunice
5.0 out of 5 stars Rise and fall of the Roman Empitre
Important book beautifully written. Holland is a learned historian and his command of the language is beautiful. I was totally absorbed.
Published 6 months ago by Wilbur Smith
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