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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.
26 of 26 people found this review helpful
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.
23 of 24 people found this review helpful
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.
12 of 12 people found this review helpful
Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?
I'd recommend this- the story and narration make this exciting to listen to, rather than becoming a dry, detailed lesson on history.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
If you could sum up Rubicon in three words, what would they be?
Tom Holland certainly knows how to write an engaging work! He blends the everyday Roman experience and motivators with the grand strokes of history, giving a fuller understanding to why the Roman republic gave way to empire. It's like all the best parts of my Latin and Classics classes rolled into a story.
What other book might you compare Rubicon to, and why?
I recently also read Dynasty by Tom Holland, and it made me curious to see what his take on the final years of the republic would be like.
What aspect of Steven Crossley’s performance might you have changed?
I know that we can't really know how the ancient Roman's said their names, but the pronunciations of some words were too distracting. The narrator often uses English vowel sounds rather than European ones, so Marius becomes "Mary-iss" instead of "Mah-rius", Campania became Cam-pain-ya. It's not the end of the world but it's very different from how I've herd those words pronounced and it just grated. Other than that the narrator is good.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
Fantastic book and very well read. I really enjoyed listening to it and it had a good combination of narrative and analysis.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful