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Rubicon The Last Years of the Roman RepublicReviewed for The BibliophibianWith a title like Rubicon if ou know about the significance of that small river ou might expect the book to be mostly about Julius Caesar if ou didn t notice the subtitle which differs slightly between editions but always mentions the Republic It isn t in fact at times early on A Tribe Apart A Journey into the Heart of American Adolescence you might not be uite sure what Caesar has to do with it and what s even happening to him at the time Which is fine there s plenty going on thatou don t need the big name to make Roman history interesting but I do think it makes the title a little bit misleading It s not really all about that decisive moment of Caesar s it s broadly about the Republic and the sense I got was that even if Caesar hadn t taken the action he did the end of the Republic would still have comeHolland s writing is mostly breezy and easy to follow someti Roman history is well documented and this book does a great job of retelling their superb history Marius the retired Military hero is appointed commander to fight Rome s enemy Mithridates This angered his former deputy Sulla who had campaigned for that job Sulla then challenged Marius for the job which caused a civil war in Rome Unfortunately Marius died before he could campaign Without his leadership Sulla s forces defeated the remainder of Marius s soldiers Then he marched on Rome and became its dictator Sulla established peace with Mithridates in the kingdom of Pontus but made a list of proscriptions and exterminated most of his enemies He is not regarded as a great Roman Ruler due to his extreme violence and his unpopular and peculiar relaxation activities And he was the first Military leader to march on Rome itself in Rome s history He does one remarkable thing howeverhe retired and relinuished his power then returned to his odd behavioral ways The republic was afterward reestablished The author points out the mindset of the Roman people Ambition was their number one goal They viewed sex as a weakness They were xenophobic Winning was everything and the path to glory was winning wars Pompey rode this subscription to its highest level He ran a spectacular string of successes in Spain and took credit for ending Spartacus s slave revolt When the Senate decided to try to stop the Pirate harassment of Roman citizens which had grown substantially over the decade they called on Pompey He miraculously wiped out the Pirates in just 3 months He was then sent to take care of Roman s greatest enemy Mithridates He easily defeated him and continued into Syria and Judea making them Roman satellites No Roman general had accomplished so much In all 243 countries came under Rome rule due to Pompey He was given the title Great because of these accomplishments However there were two other men seeking similar glory in the midst The first was Crassus Rome s wealthiest man The other was Julius Caesar Caesar won a high office due to his great charisma and paying for votes From this position he was able to secure a part in a triumvirate along with Pompey and Crassus which ruled Rome While serving as part of the triumvirate he was appointed as governor of Gaul This is where he met his first test of his military greatness by soundly defeating a united Gallic force He then moved through Germany and built a bridge to cross into England and occupy Britain by defeating a Celtic Army It was the first time in history that a foreign enemy invaded Great Britain Back in Rome the Senate feared Caesar s accomplishment s called him back to face charges of illegal military actions Caesar calculated that the Senate was out to get him gathered his troupes and assembled them at the Rubicon The Senate sensed Caesar s intentions called on Pompey the Great for Rome s defense As Caesar troupes moved at an accelerated pace Pompey left Rome to assemble troupes to battle and end Caesar s ambitions Caesar finally met Pompey at Pharsalus where his army routed Pompey s Pompey fled to Egypt but rather than the great hero receiving safety he is murdered Caesar entered Egypt finding Egypt in the midst of a political power struggle Cleopatra in exile was snuggled in a blanket then rolled out in front of Caesar She seduced Caesar Caesar next took a long deserved vacation after he reestablished Cleopatra as Egypt s ruler by taking a boat ride down the Nile RiverThe Romans were not happy about Caesar s love affair with Cleopatra He returned with Cleopatra to a shattered and crumbled Rome The Senate gave him a 10 ear period of dictatorship recognizing his brilliance Caesar forgave his enemies provided land to his troops granted citizenship to disenfranchised citizens and commissioned rebuilding of Rome s great architecture However the Ides of March 44 BC the great Julius Caesar was stabbed 23 times by among 60 enemies including men named Casca and Brutus Afterwards Rome capitulated into another civil war Caesar s Lieutenant Mark Anthony crushed the murderers But Caesar s heir made claims to succeed his great Uncle Julius Caesar Octavian and Antony agree To Joint Rule For A joint rule

For A As Antony Relished 
a As Antony relished power his relationship with Octavian strained until they finally went to war Octavian won a fairly easy war therefore becoming Rome s undisputed ruler In Rome he was entitled as Augustus Augustus ruled for 40 ears of peace and prosperity and a happy Rome strived Breezy and brisk Tom Holland tells the story of the early Roman Republic and the counterintuitive et inevitable transition to a monarchy in a style that is very easy to read The Roman Republic was founded upon an abhorrence of kings making the presumption that Rome was destined to be ruled by emperors somewhat hard to swallow Holland however makes the case for Roman personal ambition and competetiveness as major motiv In the few days since I finished this book the initial vague feelings of disatisfaction have coalesced into a malignant lump of unfufilled ambition for the book The opening chapter promises so much that the rest of book falls resoundingly flatIn 49 BC Ceasar crossed the rubicon with his army and thereby ended a proto democracy with dictatorial rule by deified monarchs as the prevalent form of government for the next millenia and Which is an essentially fascinating uestion why would such a regime switch occur how are previously robust institutions eroded and do citizens choose security over free will Throughout the book various hypotheses are wafted up in the air such as a system built on fostering ambition amongst its citizens was inevitably going to goad one them into achieving the ultimate goal of absolute power Rome s democracy could not survive the need to administer an ever increasing empire especially with the tempting despots as role models was there just a degree of entropy in the system or again the natural conseuences of greed In the end any substantial discussion or indeed opinion is subsumed into a straight narrative of one ambitous Roman after another Sulla Marius Pompey Crassus and finally Ceasar flinging themselves into the fray and coming to a variety of spinal tap drummer bad ends Its ends with Octavian coming out of nowhere and taking the whole show over Its all interesting and well written but I cannot help feeling that the inititial ambition is deftly sidetepped for the temptations of biographical titliation I wnated so much Rubicon Triumph Tragedy Roman Republic Tom HollandRead by Steven Crossley 13 cds 157 hrs unabridged Clipper Audio 2005 42 mp3 0101 Clipper Audio Rubicon Last Years of the Roman Republic Tom Holland0102 Preface 49 BC Narrated by Steven Crossley0103 Preface The Die is Cast0108 Ch 01 The Paradoxical Republic Ancestral Voices0115 Ch 01 The Paradoxical Republic The Capital of the World0201 Ch 01 The Paradoxical Republic Blood in the Labyrinth0207 Ch 02 The Sibyl s Curse Sacker of Cities0210 Ch 02 The Sibyl s Curse Choking on Gold0217 Ch 02 The Sibyl s Curse A Trumpet in the Sky0304 Ch 03 Luck Be a Lady The Rivals0307 Ch 03 Luck Be a Lady Thinking the Unthinkable0314 Ch 03 Luck Be a Lady Missing the Joke0319 Ch 04 Return of the Be a Lady Missing the Joke0319 Ch 04 Return of the Sulla Redux0402 Ch 04 Return of the It is rare that ou come across a history book which is suitable for both readers who know a fair amount about the subject and also for those who know virtually nothing but this is one of those very unusual books To be fair most people know something about the Roman Empire but this book fleshes out historical characters that may be just names and puts them in context The book begins with Julius Caesar about to take the supreme gamble of Crossing the Rubicon and then backtracks to show the reader why that was such an immense step to take There is much about the establishment of the Republic as far back as 509 BC before explaining the importance of the Republic to Romans As Cicero once stated The fruit of too much liberty is slavery and so as the book unfolds we hear of how the almost religious sense of community felt by Roman citizens and of politics and power in the history of RomeThis book is full of famous names and events Civil wars assassinations ancient patrician families prestige and politics abound As the book progresses we read of Sulla Marius Pompey and Crassus Much of the bulk of the book tells the story of Julius Caesar the Touched by an Alien young man of nineteen who was forced to flee Rome and who then stood on the threshold of history on the Rubicon Cleopatra Antony and Octavian all exist here in a readable and understandable form In fact the author In 49 BC the seven hundred fifthear since the founding of Rome Julius Caesar crossed a small border river called the Rubicon and plunged Rome into cataclysmic civil war Tom Holland’s enthralling account tells the story of Caesar’s generation witness

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Leverly uses modern titles and sub titles to help us understand the context of events so Theory of African Literature you read The Winner Takes it All Luck Be a Lady or Blitzkrieg and know exactly where the author is expertly leading us Rubicon covers a vast time period and a huge cast of characters We travel from the establishment of the Republic in 509 BC to the death of Augustus in 14 AD and as such sometimes there is a lack of depth However as an introductory read it would be hard to beat this When Octavian faced Antony and won it was clear how the Citizens of Rome were grateful for peace and a restored Republic Understanding the Roman people and the importance of re branding Octavian became Augustus and held power for fortyears I look forward to Dynasty Tom Holland s seuel to Rubicon and his history of Rome s first imperial dynasty If it is anything near as readable and enjoyable as this then it will be a great read Armed with the HBO series derived knowledge of ancient Rome I always used to think myself an expert on the era With a flippant relaxed and easy telling of the story Holland has just made me even comfortable in my entertainment based version of the history of Rome It is such a simple story is it not The whole city has the same sort of people and the direction of the Republic was like one unwavering arrow and everyone stays true to their characters Narrative history is suarely in vogue as Holland asserts and we are all the better informed for these assertive linear narrations of history I know this books wasn t really meant to be read by someone with a classics background but would it have killed Holland to write a popularized history with a bit recent historical research in it I will commend him and nearly give him a 3 for presenting the republican romans as the superstitious and religiously conscious lot they were but that is pretty much ok and the raunchy details they would have left out where this book diverges from something that could have been written in the 50s For example the patron client model essentially institutionalized mafia social dynamics explains a lot about why the different personalities acted the way they did in the waning ears of the republic and is widely accepted and understood amongst historians of antiuity but Holland barely goes into it And it could have made the romans so much easier to understand Instead he went the familiar route modernizing roman sensibilities and institutions even starting the book with a brief comparison to the modern US This is of course nonsense The people living in antiuity had a world view and understanding of their place in the universe and society VERY different from ours The job of the popular historian is not to make them appear as modern people in the old tired The Good Holland has an impressive understanding of Ancient Rome and the institutions of the Republic What s this understanding was apparently acuired under the influence of a passionate enthusiasm for all things related to the Mistress of the Mediterranean and this combined with his novelist s skills and grasp of language allows him to whip through the centuries without ever getting hung up upon minutiae or buried beneath the weight of the various personalities who boldly and energetically bestrode the foredeck of the RepublicThis truly is popular history at its best a breakneck ride through the tumultuous doings of the Roman Republic in the last century before the birth of Christ that still exert their enthralling spell upon a whole host of modern readers After a rapid introduction to the birth of the Republic in the sixth century BC and a tour through the Latin and Samnite Wars the Punic Wars the absorption of distant provinces and Rome s makeup cultural religous geographical and most importantly political Holland then tears it up vigorously in placing the Marian and Sullan factions and their namesake leaders within the civic foundations and adjuncts of the Eternal City The Sullan conservative aristocracy always on guard to preserve their cherished Republican constitution the Marian demagogues who sought to manipulate the plebian hordes to expand their authority and overcome the institutional bulwarks that prevented the augmentation of their personal power this forms the dominate theme as we meet Catulus Lucullus Cato Cicero Pompey Crassus Clodius Catiline Caesar The story especially takes off when Caesar Pompey and Crassus the unlikeliest of allies form the first Triumvirate then Gaul is smashed Crassus slain Caesar set against the Republic defended by Pompey Caesar victorius but always in danger Caesar slain and Antony Octavian and Lepidus at the head of the Second Triumvirate proscription great battles down to two between Octavian and Antony Then after the great smashup at Actium Octavian reborn as Augustus the Princeps the political genius who under the guise of restoring the august Republic buried it utterly beneath the gilded chains of a rigorous and absolute monarchySure it s not a scholarly work but it is a damn good read with no time To Catch Your Breath Before catch our breath before whisked into another clash of wills and personalities with the civic mobs always swaying in the winds and spoiling for a good fight Holland does an excellent job at bringing sometimes alien and perplexing customs to light and is especially adept at placing the actions undertaken by the various actors within the political traditions of the Republic at how Rome paradoxically encouraged a boundless ambition and hunger for fame within its children whilst simultaneously ensuring that ambition and fame would always be clipped channeled or eclipsed in the end that Rome would always benefit whether its offspring was rising or falling and thus making them explicable to mindsets tuned to the modern age The Bad The enormity of the time frame and events that Holland needed to portray certainly limited him in his expositional choices and thus it was almost inevitable that he would be reduced to the need to tell the tale through the Big Men and a handful of women In The Background Who Dominated the background who dominated course of events Nonetheless this does mean that much gets lost in the process and certain key episodes are whipped through so uickly that many of the details crucial to a true understanding of how things played out are either skipped entirely or condensed to a scattering of words that fail to adeuately convey their import Admittedly this is a relatively minor complaint because Holland s choices of what to omit for the most part are uite judicious and still impart a visceral understanding of what has taken place and why it matteredA serious flaw is the tone and manner in which Holland pens his history The story of the fall of the Republic that institutional framework compiled by a practical and hard working amalgamation of Tiber hill clans in the midst of an unimportant mountainous peninsula which as it teetered on the precipice had risen to dominate the entire Mediterranean should be a tale tragic in its unfolding full of grim pathos and heroic striving Unfortunately Holland comes at his material with an irony and sarcasm that drips off of virtually every page and no matter the character or the historic event being described the whole is distilled to the raging greed hypocrisy pettiness hatred revenge lust and burning desire for power that underlay everything as an ulterior motive While the manner in which the proconsuls in alliance with business interests ruthlessly exploited the provinces is endlessly reiterated Holland never mentions the law and order general peace good roads and expanded markets etc that improved the standard of living for many of the Republic s provincials and client subjects Although base actions tinged much during this period it becomes wearisome to see every single thing painted with its unflattering and mocking huesThat Holland chose this route to portray his subject is of course his prerogative but he is so generally dismissive and harsh towards the Republic that by the end the reader can only wonder why its downfall should be presented as a bad thing If it was in many ways a dysfunctional and cynical undertaking in which all roads pointed towards dictatorship a mercurial snake pit endemically poised to be seized by the strong arm of the despot it repe Rather than gesture his men onward Gaius Julius Caesar instead gazed into the turbid waters of the Rubicon and said nothing And his mind moved upon silenceThe Romans had a word for such a moment Discrimen they called it an instant of word for such a moment Discrimen they called it an instant of and excruciating tension when the achievements of an entire lifetime might hang in the balance The career of Caesar like that of any Roman who aspired to greatness had been a succession of such crisis points Time and again he had hazarded his future and time and again he had emerged triumphant This to the Romans was the very mark of a man Julius CaesarIn 49 BC when Julius Caesar made the fateful decision to cross the Rubicon with his soldiers and march on Rome this was the beginning of the end of the Roman Republic This is considered the watershed moment of Roman history but really the trouble all starts with Sulla Just a few decades before Caesar s march on Rome Sulla and Marius were embroiled in a battle for powerEverything culminates when Sulla wins the right to go East and fight Mithridates Every patrician worth his salt prays to the gods for someone like Mithridates to come along to advance their careers Marius with O the twilight of the Republic and its bloody transformation into an empire From Cicero Spartacus and Brutus to Cleopatra Virgil and Augustus here are some of the most legendary figures in history brought thrillingly to life Combining verve and freshness wi. Olitical astuteness manages to find enough senators to overturn Sulla s appointment Things uickly get out of hand Sulla marched on Rome and demands his appointment back There are riots stonings and general unrest among the Roman population Sulla is granted his appointment again SullaWhile Sulla is gone Marius is in charge of Rome and promptly musters enough votes to exile Sulla Now the trouble is if Chicana Movidas you are a senator existing under these circumstances with two very powerful men vying forour loyalty what do A Theory of Adaptation you do Ifou back the wrong horse it isn t just about A Secret Alchemy your career Potentiallyour life Dinosaurs Eat Paris your possessions and the lives ofour family are all on the line if Fundamentals of Political Science your guy fails to keep power While Marius is back home trying his best to destroy Sulla Sulla is in the East kicking Mithridates rear end all over Asia Just a uick word about Mithridates This guy when he comes to power has his brother and sister killed and his mother murdered as well He gives himself doses of poison to build up his resistance for any future attempted assassinations Even with his army in shambles he somehow escapes displaying that feral survival skill that will save him time and time again Mithridates had a role to play in Roman politicsOf course Sulla is well aware of what has been going on back in Rome He comes home triumphant and promptly marches on Rome a second time This time the senate declares him dictator in an attempt in my opinion to give him what he wants and hopefully spare their lives as well It doesn t work Sulla flushed with self importance and frankly pissed off sends out lists of enemies of the state ie people who opposed Sulla This is where those who backed the wrong horse lose everything Julius Caesar aoung lad and heir of the prestigious Julian family finds himself on the run hiding in the countryside and avoiding sometimes bribing bounty hunters who were trying to collect the price on his head It was to leave a lasting impression on Julius Sulla in 81 BC steps down as dictator and returns Rome to the republican model they had been following in the past Julius Caesar mocked Sulla for doing so I m sure from a properly safe distance away During this period Romans were cuisine crazy and even fish crazy One of the richest among them Lucullus split a mountain in two to bring salt water to his pond so that he could raise the salt water creatures that he wanted to have readily available for his dining pleasureBy 60 BC Julius Caesar Pompey the Great and Crassus had formed what Tom Holland called a Triumvirate Instead of fighting each other for ultimate power they decided to just carve up the empire between them sharing power and making it almost impossible for Cato the Younger and Cicero who opposed this powerful trio to have any chance in eroding their control In 53 BC nature does what Cicero and Cato can notCrassus dies Julius Caesar meanwhile is invading Britain on the pretext that they had offered help to Rome s enemies He soon has to abandon his plans of conuest to put down a revolt in Gaul Vercingetorix manages to unite the tribes of Gaul under one banner and wins a couple of battles against Caesar At the Battle of Alesia Caesar is pinched between two Gaul forces and manages to defeat both sides He also captures Vercingetorix The leader of the Gauls is thrown in chains and brought back to Rome to be publicly beheaded for the enjoyment of the Roman citizens Vercingetorix is the cherry or rather the noggin to top off a very elaborate triumphal parade Vercingetorix defeated but immortalizedAll of Rome was following the exploits of Caesar euivalent as Holland says to the time of the moon landings when almost the entire United States population was glued to TVs and radios to hear Neil Armstrong utter those famous words Even Cicero sworn enemy of Caesar was gleefully following the events in Britain and Gaul as they unfolded The idea even a glimmer of a thought that Caesar would lose is preposterous A Roman could no conceive of the Republic s collapse than he could imagine himself an Egyptian or a Gaul Fearful of the gods anger he may have been but not to the point of dreading the impossible Pompey the Great I smile every time I see his smirk which adorns most of his sculpturesPompey realizes that Caesar has become much powerful and much popular than even his own grand self He aligns himself with the senate in an attempt to balance out this shifting of power with Caesar They order Caesar to disband his army Yeah right A sub story that is absolutely fascinating involves the thuggish elements behind the scenes Clodius Claudius and his sister Clodia Claudia are patricians who changed their names to plebeian pronunciations to better identify with those that would become their main base of support They were charming beautiful charismatic people who were both sexually attractive to men and women Rumor has it malicious maybe that they were attracted to each other than other people The rumor grew to the point that Clodius is actually accused of incest He is acuitted for lack of evidence but his ability to spread cash among the jury probably didn t hurt his cause either He was a supporter of Crassus His arch rival Milo was a Pompey supporter so along the lines of the enemy of my enemy is my friend he became closely aligned with Caesar after Crassus diedThis is a different kind of politics with Clodius and Milo having bands of thugs who fought epic gang style battle through the streets of Rome He famously burns down the forum It is easy to dismiss Clodius as much of history has as a man interested in violence than in truly championing reform but if we can set aside his flamboyant brutality he did support and sponsor legislation that was very progressive Historians are in the process of reevaluating his possibly maligned image Clodia was just as political and just as dangerous as her brother Her eyes dark and glittering had the ox like appearance that invariably made Roman men go weak at the knees When a humorist called her Lady Copper Bit referring to the low rent hookers who stood on street corners He soon had the smile wiped off his face Publicly beaten and gang raped it was he who had been used like a whore They were a sibling duo not to be messed with Just ask CiceroCicero testified in Betweens and Beyonds in Contemporary Albanian Literature yet another trial where Clodius stands accused When all the dust settles Cicero is in exile and his house has been bought by Clodius and razed to the ground Caesar crosses the Rubicon and 460ears of Rome being a republic come to an end Pompey raises an army that has no real chance against the battlefield hardened warriors that make up the Caesar legions Pompey escapes to Egypt only to be murdered on the shore at the order of Ptolmey XIII Cleopatra s brother A Roman renegade drew his sword and ran him through the back More blades were drawn The blows rained down And Pompey drawing his toga over this face with both hands endured them all nor did he say or do anything unworthy only gave a faint groan And so perished Pompey the Great There is certainly something poignant about the death of Pompey It has always bothered me that Ptolmey had Pompey s head spiked and displayed as if he were a criminal or had head spiked and displayed as if he were a criminal or had defeated in battle when really he had been murdered most cowardly To Caesar s credit when he saw the head of Pompey displayed in such a manner he wept Caesar s remaining opposition are unable to offer any resistance to his rise to power Cato was asked nicely to commit suicide and he did so Cicero was politically marginalized and eventually murdered on the orders of Marc Anthony the following ear after Caesar s assassination Cicero the great orator I don t know why but I ve just never warmed to him Trapped by his executioners at last Cicero leaned out from his litter and bared his throat to the sword This was the gesture of a gladiator and one he had always admired Defeated in the greatest and deadliest of games he unflinchingly accepted his fate He died as he would surely have wished bravely a martyr to freedom and to freedom of speech Caesar lived happily ever after Well not exactly On March 15th 44 BC he is set upon by a group of senators and stabbed to death Beware the Ides of March There were so many men involved in the assassination that many of them were stabbed by fellow conspirators trying to plunge their knives into Caesar s body Brutus son of Caesar s mistress was one of the main conspirators Interesting enough knifing someone in the back runs in the Brutus family One of his ancestors assassinated the last king of Rome "I ve only skimmed the surface of what this book covers Tom Holland "ve only skimmed the surface of what this book covers Tom Holland breezy novelistic style presents the information in such a palatable form that I feel this is a good introductory book to someone who wants to learn about the beginning and ending of the Rome Republic For those like myself who need a brush up on the period it serves that purpose as well An interesting piece of trivia about Tom Holland is that I first encountered him as a novelist ofwellVampire books They are not listed in this book I would guess that now that he has turned his pen to serious non fiction books he considers that chapter in his life writing of the undead closed I actually rather enjoyed his horror books For those Byron fans Lord Of The Dead takes the melancholy poet and turns him into a rather interesting blood sucking fiend If ou wish to see of my most recent book and movie reviews visit also have a Facebook blogger page at. Th scrupulous scholarship Rubicon is not only an engrossing history of this pivotal era but a uniuely resonant portrait of a great civilization in all its extremes of self sacrifice and rivalry decadence and catastrophe intrigue war and world shaking ambiti.