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3.4 out of 5 stars8
3.4 out of 5 stars
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on 5 October 2008
Michael Crawford is an exceptional historian who has never shied away from the difficult parts of history, nor from difficult methodology. His work on Roman Coins still sets the standard, and his management of epigraphical (inscriptions) evidence is excellent. I bring this up because it is important to understand that Crawford writes a style of history that tries to really assess the evidence for a period, this may make the work less palatable to non-academics as he focuses less on the personalities of the period (Caesar, Crassus, Pompey et al.) and more on the structural factors affecting the period and giving the reader access to some longer term themes of Roman History. Equally he does unbalance his history by only examining the fall of the republic, he allows an insight into earlier less well discussed periods.

The Fontana series made a real effort to create good entry points to the themes of ancient history rather than the narrative of Ancient History and Crawford makes good use of this premise.

Ideologically the book may be less comfortable to modern readers as Crawford does lean toward some Marxist ideas and Socialism in general. Though he does not try to let this influence the work too much, ultimately he does look at the system from a perspective of exploitation by a military elite against an agrarian proletariat, equally and appropriately he is keen to remove the veneer of respectability that has been attached to the likes of Caesar, Pompey, Crassus etc, by viewing them as Warlords with selfish motivations whose actions hurt their fellow citizens. Ultimately there is not too much wrong with trying to make historians aware that history of elites should not ignore the plight of ancient history's silent majority. Equally academics must be prepared to accept ideological stances other than their own if they are to develop their own ideas.

This work is a great introduction to the themes of Roman Republican history, though a reader may also wish to support it with works that provide a more narrative history of the period.
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on 13 April 2010
This is not a book for beginners, as it assumes some knowledge of the events of the Republic, but it is a thoughtful and incisive analysis of the Republic and the tensions which brought it down. It has consistently strong themes in the analysis, not least the crucially destructive role of imperial expansion to the ideals and practices of the Republic.
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on 27 October 2012
Very good book, for a very good price. Needed it for Ancient history degree and was much cheaper than buying it new for £13. Crawford is the essential book for this time period in Romes vast history. The narrative is very easy to read while still maintaining a scholarly air!
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on 11 January 2012
generally very good but occasionally hard to follow. good range of material for beginners through to academic (if looking for a general starting point)
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on 1 May 2009
The book lacks any attempt at coherent narrative and assumes a pre-existing knowledge of the history of the Roman Republic (which is what I hoped it was going to impart). For instance Jugurtha crops up on p 72 with no explanation of who he is, being given some advice by P. Scipio (I think that is Publius Scipio, but we are assumed to know that). Look Jugurtha up in the index and you find him again on p 124 as a "Numidian kinglet who stepped out of line...against whom Rome declared war in 112". You have to go to wikipedia to establish that on the first occaion he is an ally of Rome, on the second an enemy. p. 58 there is a reference to "the war between Athens and Sparta between 431 and 404" - that is usually called the Peloponnesian war, but you wouldn't know it from this book. Why not? The index won't help you find fundamental events like the battle of Cannae. This may for all I know be a very good book indeed but it is manifestly unfit for its intended readership.
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on 5 December 2008
This book jumps about a lot and uses abbreviations for first names (eg Ti for Tiberius) which while standard are not explained anywhere and unless you are familiar with them is extremely irritating. Not the best written or easiest to read compared to other books in the series which is supposedly aimed at the general public. Having said that it is excellent starting point for a detailed study of the era.
Why do academics, who should know better, insist on using conjunctions to start sentences that add nothing to the impact or meaning and could so easily be omitted?
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Excellent
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on 18 June 2008
Extremely rigorous, but perhaps more detailed than the lay reader would want. Perhaps the already well-stocked appendix area could have expanded still further. However, if one skim-reads - and one needs some knowledge of the subject to do this - then the book does offer an exciting and useful narrative. Without knowing the major figures and events, I suspect that the reader would be hard put to do even this.

The author does offer a useful attempt at continuity, showing the fall of the republic starting a hundred years beforehand with the murder of reformer Tiberius Gracchus. The wilful failure of the aristocracy to consider agrarian reforms were exacerbated by the resort to violence as a political tool. The fluctuations from those purporting to represent the plebeians and the status quo, with the latter, Sulla, exacting an awful reign of terror, made it all the more likely that ordinary people would later flock around leaders who represented only themselves.

If Mark Twain is right in asserting that history doesn't repeat itself but it does rhyme, then polarisation during times of economic hardship, if accompanied by over-reaction, could augur badly.

The Fontana version, by the way, is most peculiarly edited. It is quite difficult working out what illustrations actually represent.
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