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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Second edition of Arthur Keaveney's biography of Sulla
Biographies of people from ancient history are often too scholastic at one extreme, or not wholly credible at the other. In his preface Keaveny states that he attempts a reliable account of Sulla's life in a writing style which is a blend palatable to both the scholar and the general reader. In this he succeeds and because of this the work has stood the test of time...
Published on 11 Sep 2006 by G. Alexander

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4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars remorseless pro-sulla spin
This guy clearly knows his sources but in the main he offers little deeper analysis.
What he does add is a remorseless pro-Sulla spin. True once you have become
attuned to it it is possible to strip it away, but what is left is a
rather uninspired compilation of what the ancients tells us.
Published on 13 Jan 2010 by D. J. Barnsdale


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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Second edition of Arthur Keaveney's biography of Sulla, 11 Sep 2006
By 
G. Alexander (North Yorkshire, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Sulla: The Last Republican (Paperback)
Biographies of people from ancient history are often too scholastic at one extreme, or not wholly credible at the other. In his preface Keaveny states that he attempts a reliable account of Sulla's life in a writing style which is a blend palatable to both the scholar and the general reader. In this he succeeds and because of this the work has stood the test of time. Keaveny not only brings this fascinating character from republican Rome to life, but also his political and cultural world.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Maligned, bitter, vengeful and somewhat tragic, 20 Oct 2013
By 
JPS - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Sulla: The Last Republican (Paperback)
This is a rather superb biography of Sulla, the Roman Dictator, the victor of Mithdridates and the warlord who emerged victorious from Rome's civil war against the "Maristes".

As the author makes clear from the beginning, Sulla has been much maligned and has received an overwhelming amount of "negative press", both from ancient authors and modern historians, much more in fact than Marius, who was at least as unscrupulous. As he also shows, this mainly because he was the first Roman general to march his army on Rome and attack it (twice) and he was also the first to get rid of his enemies through the "proscriptions" and a systematic reign of terror. In both cases, he would have plenty of imitators over the last half century of the Republic.

What is less well known are the reasons he had for going to such unprecedented extremes, and this is where the author's contribution is particularly valuable. Essentially, it was about survival, his own, and perhaps also that of a certain idea he had of a Roman Republic dominated by the Senate. Added to this is Sulla's own character, that of a bitter scion of a patrician family who had come across hard times, despised the "populares" but was also despised by the "optimates" who say him as a renegade. One of the main features of his personality, as the author demonstrates throughout his book, was his constancy. He is presented as utterly loyal to his friends and utterly relentless when it came to retaliating and avenging past wrongs.

In sum, according to the author who seeks to largely rehabilitate him, he did what he had to, at whatever costs, and was not one to shy away from extreme measures, when he believed that these were the only viable options.
The author does draw a clear portrait of Sulla and his actions and seeks, often very convincingly, to explain these by the context, and Sulla's character. He is also convincing when demonstrating that the warlord was very probably sincere in wanting to restore the Republic and put it back on a more stable footing. While Sulla's efforts as a Dictator to restore the Republic were considerable, they were also ultimately unsuccessful. They even started to unravel after his abdication and before his death shortly afterwards. This is something that may make Sulla into a somewhat tragic character: he tried terribly hard and using extreme methods, but failed.

However, despite the author's strenuous efforts, he does not quite manage to make Sulla into a sympathetic character. He might have been sincere, but his actions were also mostly (if not always) in his own interest as much as they were in the interest of the Roman State (or, to be more accurate what he say to be the Roman State's interests). While he was probably not the "reactionary" that he is sometimes portrayed to be, his "solutions" to the crisis of the Republic were to promote and restore the leadership of the Senate at the expense of the magistracies and of the tribunate and the people in particular. Interestingly, and perhaps tragically also, he may have been the most sincerest defender of the oligarchical Senate, at a time when most Senators were mainly interesting in their own selfish and competitive interests. To reach his objectives and right the wrongs committed against him, he was ready to go much further than anyone else had up to then, and this is exactly what he did and is remembered for, but not for being sympathetic...

Four strong stars.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Really enjoyed reading this!, 22 Mar 2014
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This review is from: Sulla: The Last Republican (Paperback)
There are simply not enough books about this great man! This one is highly entertaining and yes, probably pro Sulla but so am I so that's ok then. Read it about a year ago almost in one go and am starting it again. Highly recommended
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent in all respects., 10 May 2013
By 
A. Wilson "Dandyb" (Nottinghamshire) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Sulla: The Last Republican (Paperback)
This book, the second edition, has been extensively rewritten with the findings of modern scholars integrated. Keaveney writes in a lively and entertaining style which will appeal to academics, student and the informed general reader.
The best I have read about L. Cornelius Sulla Felix.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An objectiv and educated book on the controversial dictator., 13 Jun 2009
This review is from: Sulla: The Last Republican (Paperback)
Usually when you hear about Sulla, you're left with an impression of him as a vicious Tyrant and a mass murderer. After reading this book you're probably going to have a much more balanced and reflected view on the charismatic general, who'll always be remembered as the one who marched on Rome, not once, but twice!

If you ever wanted the complete story of Sulla, this is as good as it gets, but unfortunately it's not as entertaining as I had hoped for. When I'm reading history books, I always enjoy the ones that are written by someone with the perfect balance between scholar and author, too much weight of any of these and the result is always so-and-so. In Keanveneys case, he falls a bit too much on the scholarly side, in my opinion. This isn't to say that the book is boring, in no way, but the story doesn't become as vivid as one hopes for when reading these kinds of books. On the other hand Keaveneys analysis of Sulla and his decisions are both objective and based on a broad specter of sources and deep knowledge on the subject.

Another minor complaint I have, is that he all to often complexify the language through the use of obscure words that hardly see the light of day in normal social context, where a more "simple" word would not just suffice, but enhance the story and pacing of the narrative. Though in Keaveneys defense, I mean there's a fine line between making a story more vivid through a wide variety of words and the the unwanted outcome of confusing or perplexing the reader. This is of course a more personal issue I have with the book and will at some extent be dependent on the individual readers vocabulary.

All in all a great book, which is sure to cover most, if not all your inquiries about Sulla the Fortunate.

Basic knowledge on the Roman Republic is recommended.
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4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars remorseless pro-sulla spin, 13 Jan 2010
By 
D. J. Barnsdale "Daivid" (London,Europe) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Sulla: The Last Republican (Paperback)
This guy clearly knows his sources but in the main he offers little deeper analysis.
What he does add is a remorseless pro-Sulla spin. True once you have become
attuned to it it is possible to strip it away, but what is left is a
rather uninspired compilation of what the ancients tells us.
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Sulla: The Last Republican
Sulla: The Last Republican by Arthur Keaveney (Paperback - 29 April 2005)
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