The early history of Rome was a big mystery to me. I could recall some of the names and deeds of the early mythological kings, but when it came to the Early Republic I was at a loss when the subject wasn't about Lucius Brutus or Cincinnatus. This book helped introduce me to the key players of this period.
Rather than being a narrative history of the Republic, this book covers the biographies of some of the great and lesser known politicians and generals of the years 753 BC to 31 BC. It starts with a look at Rome's founder, the mythological hero Romulus, and ends with a look at Octavian, the man who would become Emperor Augustus.
The book is divided into four sections - The Age of Kings 753-509 BC; Founders of the Republic 509-264 BC; Romans of the Mid-Republic 264-100 BC; and the Last Republicans 100-31 BC. Each section covers the lives of some of the notables of the age, for instance in the Founders of the Republic we have 10 biographies including a look at the lives of Horatius Cocles, Coriolanus, and Appius Claudius the Decemvir.
Every section is beautifully illustrated and packed with information. Charts give you the basic facts about a certain individual's family, achievements etc, a running timeline at the bottom of the page allows you to put these lives into the context of the period, while maps, photographs and illustrations adorn the pages. There are 293 illustrations in all, and they cover things such as portraits, art and archaeology, and diagrams and battle plans.
As well as the biographical sections, there also other shorter sections that include information on daily life in the Republic. These include a look at Gladiators, Vestal Virgins, Roman Roads, The Twelve Tables, Romans Farms and so on. These shorter sections give you a basic understanding of the Republic's society and culture.
All in all this a fascinating, well written, copiously illustrated, and well edited introduction to the Republic. Interested amateurs will find this a brilliant introduction to the period, while dedicated Romanophiles will no doubt find this book an excellent supplement and reference guide to the Classical accounts. Highly Recommended!