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.
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.
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.
After hearing about this book through a podcast I decided to give it a go. If you are interested in this book, you doubtless know the story already. As for the story itself, Holland tries to put the person in the time and place, but save for a few interesting tidbits about Roman indulgences with oysters there were many things left out. I feel like I did not get to know any of the lesser characters better, which is what I hoped for (e.g., Cassius, Brutus, Milo, Scipio, Claudius, etc). I feel like it's a lazy glaze over the whole time period, without any detail on important aspects.
As for the narration itself, there were many words that irritated me. Crossley prounounces 'C's as 'S', so LuCullus is LuSullus (obviously misspelled there for intent), which is made worse by his voice at a decent volume making 'S' sound like static feedback. Irritating throughout. At the end concluding with Augustus (pronounced OW-goose-tus by Crossley), he then switches his 'C's and 'S's to call Princeps "Preen-KEPS". This is obviously personal preference and arguments can be made both ways of pronunciation, but his emphasis seems at odds with what I've heard from other authors/readers. Again, I'm sure someone will argue that this is proper Latin (I wouldn't know), but this is my personal preference, and I am just reporting what I heard.
My recommendation is to skip this book and download "The History of Rome", a free pod-cast by Mike Duncan (who takes some getting used to but comes by it honestly), or "Death Throes of the Republic" by Dan Carlin (also free podcast, and you can tell he is passionate about his history). Both go much more into detail about the people and events and are much easier to listen too.
After reading scores of books on; the Republic, Caesar, Augustus, Cleopatra, Cicero, Pompey and the cast of the elites on that most famous to times, I have to say that Tom Holland's book is the most insightful and brilliant. He makes the time come alive and the interdependency of aristocratic haughtier and the gross exploitation by the publicanaries shown for the witches brew it was. I a matter of decades, Rome conquers Asia, Syria, Pontus, Israel and a host of lesser kingdoms in the Middle East, followed by all of Spain and then Gaul are subjugated by the Legions adding province after province to be ruled by he 500 year old Roman Republican.
But just at the pinnacle of its power the ancient Republic begins to break down into direct violence in the streets, into civil wars, all set with scenes of colossal villas with vast salt water fish ponds, parties and dancing, street brawls, postponed elections because of violence, and finally legions breaking the most ancient taboo - marching on Rome to restore order. The dizzying array of aristocrats, the new men, the conservatives - senators, Tribunes and Consuls forming and reforming alliances to tear down any man who rose too high.
For the first time in Rome there were young grandees dancing naked at parties amid savage calls by their young fabulously wealthy young friends wearing loose togas. Tom Holland makes it all clearer than it has ever been told in his tale of the fall of the longest surviving and greatest Republic in the World - Rome. And in the wing waits Augustus reading the Imperium which will replace the Republic.. Tom Holland proposes that the Republic was wrecked by the very competitive argos it had used to fuel the Republic's power for so long its spectacular rise. The book i filled with new insights, and uncomfortably too close to certain modern equivalents.
The performance is very well done; Read with perfect pathos, irony, humor and insigy the Steven Crossley. A Bravo! performance.
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.
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.
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.
"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.
"A remarkable achievement."
I enjoy reading the book whilst listening to the audible which I find an all enveloping experience.
It is a story that I know so well but one that is often poorly told. Tom Holland tells the tale as if it were a novel, perhaps as Robert Graves might have told it.
A wonderfully calm and relaxing voice.
I am always surprised that the Roman Republic lasted as long as it did!
The demise of the Roman Republic is a study in the exercise of Power. In all antiquity this period is probably the best documented but that requires caution in the interpretation. Holland is a master of his subject and he leaves us with one of the best accounts I have read on the subject. I cannot recommend this book too highly to anyone interested in classical history.
"I admit to skipping large pieces of this tome"
I did listen to the first few chapters but they were a bit easy to forget and started to ramble on like soap opera, so in my impatience I skipped to Pompey and Caesar and all that which his really wonderful stuff and i'd happily listen to twice . Good job at my age I don't have to worry about facing an exam on it after !
"Good book, terrible version"
definitely not - I found the audio quality dreadful, the tone of the narrator off-putting and the constant breaks in the audio irritating
I Claudius, the History of Rome podcasts, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, the Twelve Caesars - all historical novels about Rome
I bought a physical copy of the book, and tried listening to the audio book when driving to work, but incorrectly emphasized and overly bombastic sounding sentences made me turn it off. On top of that the audio recording seems to have been recorded in about 500 different takes which are not smoothly wound together.
I loved the book apart from the narration
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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