Shotter provides a concise and up-to-date (at the time, bearing in mind it is nearly a decade old now) look at the Fall of the Roman Republic that is invaluable to any student of the period. Indeed it is useful as a general guide to the general reader. Commencing with an explanation of the governemnt of Rome and detailing the concept of the res publica he makes it clear that the republic was divided amongst what he terms the 'aristocratic class' and the plebian. He makes the sweeping statement that the downfall of the republic was caused by the growth of empire and talks of the Social War, the Gracchi and enfranchisement, sweeping on through Marius' reforms to construct a professional standing army to the inevitable conflict between military brilliance as shown under Sulla and oligarchic steadiness as employed by the Senate. A chapter on Pompey focuses on Cicero and Clodius' involvement in the Bona Dea in 61 and Shotter concludes with three chapters on the first triumvirate between Caesar, Pompey and Crassus, Caesar's dictatorship and the second triumvirate of Octavian, Anthony and Lepidus culminating in the battle of Actium in 31. He confirms that this battle is the decisive watershed in the move from republic to empire - though a modern-designated pivotal piece of history. In some respects this admission leads us to realise that whilst modern scholarship neatly splits the Roman domination of the Mediterranean into Republic and Empire, for Rome itself there would have been no such distinction. Indeed, one could argue that the premise of the book is indeed artificial by nature. However, it does allow Shotter to boundary his period of Roman history to 31 and discuss more fundamentally the nature of political power of the time and its shift from oligarchy to principate. This concise yet fluid discussion on the shift in Rome's power is worth reading as both a general introduction and a more interesting discussion on the nature of political power.
I'm about to start on an OU course on the Roman Empire so thought I'd catch up with the period before the Empire and plumped for this one.
If you just want aprecis of what happened BEFORE the Empire started in earnest (i.e. pre-Augustus Caesar) then this is the book for you. If you want a more in-depth of the Roman Republic there are bigger and more comprehensive books.
A good read and a good introduction to the subject.
As with all Shotter works, it is measured, considered, insightful and very easy to read; written for students and without trying to impress fellow academics. I speak with some bias as he was without doubt the best Lecturer/Tutor I ever had. However, take my word for it, reading D.C.A. Shotter is as easy and laid back as the man himself. Enjoy.