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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 (115 customer reviews)
RRP: 12.99
Price: 9.09 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. 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 (115 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 10,999 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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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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rome and her characters brought to life.... 16 Dec 2004
What a superb book! Having only known Tom Holland for his book Supping with Panthers, I really had no idea he was so knowledgable about this period in Ancient History. I am hugely impressed with this book and it's vivid depictions of Roman society. But more importantly, I love the way Holland has brought these great characters to life. We learn about their personality traits and private lives, though never once drifting into 'soap-opera' territory. For instance, the chapters on Sulla, I found to be both page-turningly fascinating and, in points, hilariously funny. As a student of this period in history, I can only lament that this book wasn't around when I studied for my exams, it would have made a clearer counterpoint to the speeches and biographies of Cicero and Plutarch's Roman Lives.
I too cannot recommend this book highly enough. If you haven't delved into this subject before, this would be as good a place as any to get your introduction. If you've read everything you can get your hands on regarding this subject, then you should still read this book anyway, believe me it's worth the time.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
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 day 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 2 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 2 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 2 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 2 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 4 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 5 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 6 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 6 months ago by London Meerkat
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