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
Learning About the Ancient World
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 is a great starting point for those interested in the last days of Rome. It will excite you to read other historians.
The narrator is quite good, but the production is frustratingly sloppy and it distracts from his reading. It took awhile to get into this book because of the odd pausing between sentences. This was not the narrator himself pausing, but a production decision. Well into the book, the odd pausing stops.
I'm happy to say it's still well worth your time. The book itself is strong enough to make you want to listen despite the sloppy production.
I've listened to the book twice now and intend to take it up again. For me, the book is a moving account of the organic transition of a nation from, in my opinion, a quasi-democracy to a dictatorship. I liked the way the author conveys dry historical information with the relevant backstory in a way that allows me to form my own ethical interpretation. Each listen causes me to stamp a greater level of significance to understanding the fall of the Roman Republic and the very real potential for modern day politicians to use the symbols of democracy, crisis, and the mentality of the mob to destroy the rule of law.
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 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 narrator was quite excellent in the performance of this book and the amount of detail that the author provides is amazing. You will not leave the shadow of this work without a thorough understanding of the Roman psyche, motivations and honor from about 400 years BCE to about 34 years BCE.
I won't blame the author for that. So many names, so many similar achievements and similar goals and all of them shifting alliances between the same group of people for about 60 years. Author does a fairly good job of keeping them straight enough.
Anyone who complains about the narration has yet to hear a Bad narrator. He also gets better as it progresses.
Sometimes repetitive feeling. I bought another book halfway through but was happy to finish this one afterwards.
A good survey of what being an ambitious guy in Southern Europe around 50bc was like.
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.
"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.
"Brilliant - hard to fault"
l am no historian therefore have very limited knowledge of this period, however the great names in this story were familiar. Holland expects no prior knowledge and manages to tell the story in full gory and glorious detail. I loved it!
"Absolutely LOVED this book!"
I had been searching for a decent Roman history book for ages but never found exactly what I wanted.
Finally, I came across Tom Holland and the first book I bought of his was Rubicon.
It was so fantastic that I instantly bought Dynasty and In The Shadow of the Sword!
Holland has a natural gift of combining dates, names and facts with fascinating little tidbits, some humourous, others frankly disturbing (!), but ALL absolutely captivating. As someone who is not overly famliar with Latin names, this could have been a thoroughly confusing book had it not been for the clarity and coherence of the timeline as described by Holland and wonderfully narrated by Stephen Crossley who reads with both intelligence and great inflexion and characterizes people beautifully.
Honestly, if you've ever fancied getting into a bit of Ancient Roman history then this is the book for you! I have almost finished Dynasty and that is also a great book but, have to say, Rubicon was better!
Definitely a book I shall listen to again and I would heartily recommend this to others.
"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 !
"Gripping tale of the RomanRepublic & it's demise"
Yes, it is a classic tale well told.
The narration is a bit 'shipping news' to start with - but push on! Because it gets brilliant.
"Fascinating, with Lovely Narration"
The subject was fascinating, made the information accessible with lots of interesting detail/
The futility of it all, and the greed of the emporers and people in power
It was fabulous to read about such a fundamental piece of the history of democracy, but to see that PEOPLE dont change at all
Narration was really great.
"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.
"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.
"Thoroughly enjoyable audiobook"
to me this is what audio books are made for. great narrator, great story. really brought the characters to life. I probably would have had trouble getting through the book but the narration made it really accessible and interesting to listen to.
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