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.
©2003 Tom Holland (P)2005 Recorded Books LLC
At one point in its history, Rome was ruled by toga wearing citizen soldiers who were elected by people so afraid of kings that the term of office was only one year. At another point in history, Rome was ruled by decadent and insane emperors who commanded their subjects to worship them as gods. This book explains how and why such a huge change could take place. The book has lively descriptions of the actions of the key players and does a great job in expanding on the motives and consequences of their choices. Highlights include Publius Clodius crashing a female only party in drag, Crassus’ severed head being used as a stage prop by Rome’s enemies in Parthia, Julius Caesar’s exciting campaign in Gaul, Cicero’s sarcastic court case speeches, and tales of grisly battles waged by Pompey Magnus a/k/a “the teenage butcher.” Both the writing organization and narrative style are excellent and I was enthralled. If you only could read one book about Rome, this is a good choice.
I majored in classical history and studied this period pretty intensely - but that was twenty years ago. For me this was a wonderful refresher, engaging and fast-paced and very informative. I can't recommend it enough if you're interested in the period.
I've knocked the Performance score because, while the narrator is quite good, there are a lot slightly over-long pauses, especially in the beginning. There are also numerous instances where you can hear him swallow or make other little noises, which is something I don't ever remember hearing on an audiobook before. I assume it was the producers fault. It's a minor distraction from a great listen.
The way the facts are presented in a narrative fashion that allows you to stay engaged from start to finish.
The special attention given to the rise and fall of Julius Caesar is amazing. You find yourself caring for Caesar, Cato and Pompey in a way that makes it somewhat heartbreaking when they meet their inevitable ends.
He is a great narrator in general, and his voice lends credence to the words.
The death of Pompey Magnus.
I definitely recommend this, though be warned that if you're looking for the strictest historical account this may not exactly be it. The facts are all there (as well as anyone can say 2000 years after the fact), but Holland is no stranger to embellishment and emotion. The same things that make this book more engaging than your average historical account also detract, if only slightly, from the credibility.
The part where Pompi literally ends the Republic by forcing Mark Anthony and Ceasers other men in Rome out by a death threat. Then tries to say he is saving the Republic. He forced Ceasars hand and ended the Republic.
When the senators forced Pompi to attack Ceaser in the east. Destroying any chance for them to gain power again. Pompi the general knew better, but the senators thinking they know it all ruined everything for them.
This great narrator brings the finely-written prose to life. I couldn't put this book down as the story builds to the climactic crumbling of the republic.
I bought this book after listening to Dan Carlin's fantastic "Death Throes of the Republic" podcast series. This book complements Carlin's narrative so well that each makes me appreciate the other that much the more.
Just as a mosaic would be hard to understand if we started out by describing the individual pieces rather than describing the big picture, this story jumps around to individual events and personas without sketching out a larger context first. I believe that if the story were better organized, the book would be better.
I found the abundant use of hackneyed phrases and strings of cliches made the book difficult to listen to. I listened to this book right after Gibbon's "Decline and Fall" and the contrast was just too much to take. I had to stop after a few hours.
His clear diction and English accent are pleasant to listen to but his typically English over-emotional and over-emphatic reading became tiresome after a while. I think I'd be willing to give him a try if he read a Victorian novel - his censorious intonations would probably fit well the characters of that era who commonly found a lot to be dissatisfied with. I think he is probably very good with works of high drama.
Sorry to be critical - this could be a good book with some reorganization and revisions, and with a language that rises above the evening news' standards. I have learned some new things from it. But in addition to my remarks above, I have to say I felt the author was talking down to the reader.
This book is so well done. The narrator was fantastic and his performance was phenomenal. I love a good story, and this story is great. The drama is brought to life with great detail. You love characters and hate others. For anyone who is a fan of history and the talented Romans who built it, this is a must read.
The Narrator's performance was wonderful, conveying the scheming and back-biting atmosphere of late-republican Rome true to form. You could imagine yourself there. However, it takes a bit of artistic license and adds somewhat to Tacitus' works in order to achieve this - the only reason I have marked it 4 and not 5 stars. If you don't mind a bit of artistic license in your history to enhance the experience, I'd say go for it!
Having read another of Holland's books, Persian Fire, and been impressed, I was not disappointed with this one, having been recommended by Dan Carlin.
No. This book was a hash job FULL of gossip from various sources. There is no reason to believe any of it. The author and publisher had to know this was bad literature but they put it out anyway. The phrase Junk Food comes readily to mind...
No. In his narration of this book Steven Crossley sounded like an English gadabout at a mid 19th century dinner party trying to serve up something scintillating and shocking. Neither of which was realized. Rather this is gossip stew done rather better by Suetonius in his tome about the 12 Caesars.
Had it been based on quality material perhaps it would have made the narration rise to the task.
I am disappointed that this was made available. I am even more shocked at all the positive reviews. This teaches me to never base my selection on a review anymore.
"Bad Romans make great listening"
This is essentially a political history of the last century or so of the Roman Republic, ranging from the exploits of Sulla to the rise to the top of Augustus, the first true emperor of Rome. 'Rubicon' is as evocative a title as any, but while Caesar figures prominently of course, it is not primarily about his fateful move in 49 BCE nor about his life and death in general. Instead it is a guide through the roller-coaster journey of Roman politics in the last century BCE, and on the whole it shows Roman politicians as unscrupulous, power-hungry and generally prepared to do anything to achieve their personal aims.
It's a cracking story and it is well told, putting into perspective events that most people will have heard of, like Caesar's 'invasions' of Britain and his later murder. The text moves along nicely, and it is very well read. Major events like wars with 'barbarians' and the Spartacus Slave Revolt are only touched on, and then only when they had an effect on the power politics of the day. Still it is an enjoyable eye-opener into how the Republic's politics worked, and if nothing else it makes even our own disreputable politicians look practically saint-like by comparison.
"a riveting story"
I'd recommend this- the story and narration make this exciting to listen to, rather than becoming a dry, detailed lesson on history.
"Gripping from beginning to end"
A gripping re-tell of the history of the last 100 years of the Roman Republic. Just enough detail and well-read.
Not all good books make good audio books. This one does. And what a cast of characters!
"OK - But not as good as I hoped"
Not a bad book overall, but sounds more like a magazine article than a historical document. More concerned with chat, public opinion and political machinations that actually recounting the main events of the period in any great detail. Not that I mind that, I would just have liked more of the details on battles, commanders and purges etc.
Worth a listen
"History at it driest"
I hoped for much from this book as it is a subject I have read several really good books about. I felt let down. It is dry and dusty. Gave it up several times to read something a bit more entertaining.
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