The Roman Republic was one of the most remarkable achievements in the history of civilization. After its founding in 509 BCE, the Romans refused to allow a single leader to seize control of the state and grab absolute power. The Roman commitment to cooperative government and peaceful transfers of power was unmatched in the history of the ancient world. But by the year 133 BCE, the republican system was unable to cope with the vast empire Rome now ruled.
As pop history goes, the fall of the Roman Republic is pretty well covered with all the focus going to the era of the First Triumvirate. For people who have done a deeper study the understanding of the long reaching impact of the conflict between Gaius Marius and Lucius Cornelius Sulla has been something of semi-secret handshake. It is an extremely under-covered section of Roman history and hopefully this book demonstrates a demand for more work in that era.
In The Storm Before The Storm Mike does an excellent job examining the gradual breakdown of Republican norms that eventually lead to the full on civil wars that lead to Sulla's dictatorship and draws a clear line to the second wave of wars a generation later that ended in Augustus sitting on the throne of his newly created Empire. The presentation is very similar to one of Mike's podcast, but overall just more polished and tighter narrative, source use, and arguments. He event throws in a few flourishes for the old History of Rome podcast listeners.
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The year is 878, and the Saxons of Wessex, under King Alfred, have defeated the Danes to keep their kingdom free. Uhtred, the dispossessed son of a Northumbrian lord, helped Alfred win that victory, but now he is disgusted by Alfred's lack of generosity. Uhtred flees Wessex, going north to search for his stepsister in the formidable stronghold of Dunholm.
While it threw me off at first hearing the new narrator and different character voices than the ones I was accustomed to from the first 2 books, this really was an excellent story. And once I became accustomed to the new narrator, his performance was good as well.