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Rubicon: The Last Years of the Roman Republic

4.16  ·  Rating Details  ·  8,983 Ratings  ·  555 Reviews
In 49 B.C., the seven hundred fifth year 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 to the twilight of the Republic and its bloody transformation into an empire. From Cicero, Spartacus, and Brutus, to ...more
Paperback, 464 pages
Published March 8th 2005 by Anchor (first published 2003)
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Jeffrey Keeten
May 04, 2016 Jeffrey Keeten rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: roman
”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 silence.

The Romans had a word for such a moment Discrimen, they called it--an instant of perilous 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 fu
Riku Sayuj
Mar 03, 2013 Riku Sayuj rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 more 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 squarely in vogu ...more
Feb 09, 2011 Szplug rated it really liked it
The Good : Holland has an impressive understanding of Ancient Rome and the institutions of the Republic. What's more, this understanding was apparently acquired 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 ener ...more
Endre Fodstad
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 more 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 t ...more
Jul 24, 2015 Susan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It is rare that you 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
Sean DeLauder
Jul 25, 2013 Sean DeLauder rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, rome, holland
Breezy and brisk, Tom Holland tells the story of the early Roman Republic and the counterintuitive yet 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 motivators for kingship, and also highlights a variety of additional interest ...more
Mar 17, 2016 Arminius rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, nook-book

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 be
Oct 26, 2015 James rated it liked it
Shelves: history, non-fiction
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 flat.

In 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 more. Which is an essentially fascinating question why would suc
Aug 29, 2015 Jonfaith rated it really liked it
For the generation that had lived through the civil wars, this was the consolation history gave them. Out of calamity could come greatness. Out of dispossession could come the renewal of a civilised order.

(from July of 2005) I finished the above by Tom Holland today at lunch. A (near)Footean examination of the short-lived Roman Republic -- the text has flourishes of prose but it is the titanic visiage of the people themselves which carry the text.

It also appears that in the aftermath of the Repu
Jun 05, 2007 Siria rated it it was ok
I am of two minds about this book. There is no denying that as an overview of the final years of the Roman Republic, running from roughly the time of the Social War to the establishment of the principate, it's a fine achievement. Holland takes events which have been recounted many times over the last two thousand years or so, and makes them fresh and interesting, even to someone like myself who has read of them more times than I care to think about. There is a great sense of narrative verve and ...more
Feb 27, 2012 Harte rated it really liked it
I am a big fan of Roman history & have really enjoyed television shows such as HBO's Rome & STARZ's Spartacus and historical fiction by Simon Scarrow and Conn Iggudlen. For years I've had a collection of Roman history books such as Livy, Plutarch, Suetonius, Polybius, etc. I've had a difficult time really getting into the works by older historians because I find their prose & narratives long winded & difficult to read.
Rubicon being the first contemporary scholar's work I read on
Mar 15, 2014 Manray9 rated it really liked it
With “Rubicon: The Last Years of the Roman Republic,” Tom Holland has taken the ancient sources and fashioned an absorbing narrative of the waning years of Republican Rome. Holland transformed his source material, which often seems dry and obtuse to modern readers, into an exceedingly readable tale -- even though he is guilty of occasionally lapsing into glibness. Holland earned a strong Four Stars from me as well as an interest in reading his other works.
Aug 08, 2011 Juan-Pablo rated it it was amazing
This historical period is so fascinating that writing a History that reads like a novel doesn't sound like a big deal. But where many provide dry accounts, Holland excels with his sterling prose. Even if you already know the story, this book will give you new insights and a fast paced account of the Roman Republic that is always fun to read.

The narrative is structured in a zoom in/out fashion. The author quickly covers in the first part of the book from the beginnings of the republic until the
Feb 02, 2014 Nicholas rated it it was amazing
Rubicon reads with all the taught pacing of a political and military thriller - more spectacular for the fact that it's true. Author Tom Holland manages to walk the very fine line between the objective scholarship and reporting that is classical history and the analysis, invention and narrative finesse of a master storyteller. Any book recounting events from antiquity suffers from a dearth of primary sources (especially when compared to the record keeping of the modern age) and while we may know ...more
Mark Russell
Jan 18, 2009 Mark Russell rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
I recently finished reading Rubicon by Tom Holland, which tells the historical tale of the Roman Republic from it's inception until its ultimate demolition at the hands of Augustus, when the Republic was formally and forever transmuted into the Roman Empire. A rich and highly engrossing read, it primarily focuses on the Republic after the rise of the great generals who, through foreign conquest, and the unprecedented wealth and prestige it bestowed upon them, became such formidable power brokers ...more
Aug 09, 2014 M.J. rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, history
Tom Holland's historical narrative is an account on the final years of the Roman Republic--a time often called the Roman Revolution--as feuds, civil wars, and the consequences of empire engulf the ancient republican state of Rome. Caesar, Marius, Sulla, Pompey, Cato, Brutus, Cicero, Augustus, Antony, Cleopatra--the names most well-known to the casual reader of Roman history--enter the stage with grand flourishes, give passioned performances, and become unwilling participants in very dramatic exi ...more
Feb 02, 2016 Thomas rated it really liked it
Rubicon is breezy, colloquial, and fun to read, so it can't possibly be authentic history. This is character-driven narrative history, like the TV histories but better sourced. There are pitfalls to this kind of history telling: timelines get squashed and contemporaneous events play out sequentially, but framing history around the most spectacular characters keeps it interesting, even if it feels at times like eating Lucky Charms from the box.
Apr 20, 2016 David rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
This book tells the story of the end of the Roman Republic and the beginning of the Empire. The first chapter gives a brief overview from the time of kings in Rome, the founding of the Republic and the Punic Wars. From there we move on to a brief look at the generation prior to the one that ended the Republic, specifically Sulla and Marius. Then along come the key players: Crassus, Pompey, Cicero, Cato and Caesar.

This is an excellent book and a must read for anyone interested in the subject. Ho
José Luís  Fernandes
Tom Holland makes a great, well-written and riveting account of the Roman Late Republic in this book and I loved his descriptions of daily life or Roman society, but he's often a bit simplist on the political level (I could say that, for instance, the reasons for the fall of Carthage and Corinth or the issue of the army's loyalty could be better explained) even if the basics of Rome's political workings are relatively well explained. I also didn't like the way how he summarily describes some po ...more
Elia Princess of Starfall
Rubicon: the Triumph and Tragedy of the Roman Republic by Tom Holland is a narrative/popular history textbook that chronicles the rise and fall of the Roman Republic from its early beginnings as a loose federation of neighbouring tribes to the overthrow of the Republic by the first Emperor, Augustus Caesar. Rubicon is a riveting account of Rome and how the once noble (for the time) ideals of the Republic succumbed to atrophy and intense political and social machinations. It is fascinating and we ...more
Jun 20, 2012 Dale rated it really liked it
Rubicon: The Last Years of the Roman Republic is a well-written fact-filled narrative interpretation of the end of the Roman Republic. Interpretation? Of course - all history books are the author's interpretation. Holland has his biases, but it does not distract from the power of the book. With the exception of a slow bit in the middle, this is an entertaining read and worthy to sit on the shelf next to other histories of Rome.

I wholeheartedly recommend this one for enthusiasts (his spin on th
Craig Coleman
Dec 03, 2012 Craig Coleman rated it really liked it
I first wanted to read this book after listening to the Hardcore History podcast series on the fall of the Roman republic. The host, Dan Carlin, recommended Rubicon for a more in-depth treatment of the subject matter, even though the podcast came in at around six hours.

Carlin was right, Rubicon treated the topic exhaustively, but the narrative flow was superb. At times it was like reading a political soap opera. The characters were amazingly well-rounded. No one came off as a total villain or sa
Peter Mcloughlin
The death of the Roman Republic and the civil war that turned Rome into a world wide empire under the control of one man was a signature event in the history of the west that echoes even today in our ears. The founders of the U.S. used Rome as both a model and a warning when founding our own republic. The republic of Rome had separation of powers between the consuls two of whom were at the head, the Senate and Tribune of the plebs. This balance degenerated as the republic conquered the Mediterr ...more
Cindiloohoo Montgomery Sloate
Interesting history but somewhat overly dramatic and revisionistic, in my opinion. Reads at times more like a Harold Robbins novel. It makes me sad when people write books that do nothing but disparage every single thing of which they are writing about. It became tedious toward the end. For a better picture of the "scandalous" goings on in Rome at around that time, I would suggest Suetonious instead. Further, while I am no great Cicero fan I hardly think the portrayal of him in this book as bein ...more
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
Too fast-paced for me, this account of the last years of the Roman Republic retold with modern sensibilities. Many characters often leave as quickly as they'd been introduced, achieving glory then shame in just a few pages. I would have loved that the narrative was slower, that it had been made to linger longer to let the great historical personages--Pompey, Cato, Cicero or Ceasar--impinge upon the memory and survive more vivid in it long after the book is closed and put down. But it is too much ...more
Jimmit Shah
Mar 24, 2015 Jimmit Shah rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
"But in a civil war to what could a citizen pledge his loyalty? Not his city, nor the altars of his ancestors, nor the Republic itself, for these were claimed as the inheritance of both sides."

The horror of the death of a Republic comes vividly alive in Tom Holland's writing. It is the not the horror of the holocaust or the horror of the death of is the horror felt due to the death of an idea. The idea is not perfect - far from it- but it is the idea which great men have lived by for 4
Well, what was there to expect? As narrative history it does exactly what it says on the tin. Here's a romp through the Roman Republic that is as accessible as it is entertaining. All in all, it's very instructive and enjoyable.

Of course, it has its flaws! But those are not Tom Holland's faults. In fact, they have more to do with the nature of such an approach. After all, to cram 500 years of history into 400 pages called for some editing and cutting and, the author decided to focus more here on
Jan 22, 2016 Luke rated it it was amazing
The Sybil's curse is never too far away as she gives eerily accurate portents of the play of fate in the lives and events of the Roman Republic, saying famously to Caesar, 'Beware the Ides of March'. This book does what a popular historical book should do - sticks to the known events of the times while creatively dragging you head first into the ancient past. Instead of ancient history being merely just dates and names, certain obscure events, you get a sense of the times and the character's who ...more
Claudia Majetich
Nov 23, 2015 Claudia Majetich rated it really liked it
A wonderfully written recounting of the last days of the Roman republic. Fast-paced, but detailed with lots of info about political infighting, which seemed to be the main amusement of the Roman upper classes. . Famous names abound, like Julius Caesar, Cicero, and Marc Antony. I can't remember all the numerous switches of allegiance, but I am left with an overall picture of the times. Now I feel I know a little about an important turning point in western history.
Oliver Morey
Jan 09, 2016 Oliver Morey rated it really liked it
Having been a fan of Tom Holland's Persian Fire, and recently visiting Rome, I finally decided to sit down and read Rubicon from cover to cover.

Holland's fantastic narrative style makes him worthy of his plaudits. He is able to evoke not only the events but the characters of the Late Roman Republic. Holland weaves the characters and the culture of Republican Rome into the historical narrative as clearly as he can. Considering the confusing nature of the narrative and complex characters, Holland
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An acclaimed British author. He has written many books, both fiction and non-fiction, on many subjects from vampires to history.

Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

Holland was born near Oxford and brought up in the village of Broadchalke near Salisbury, England. He obtained a double first in English and Latin at Queens' College, Cambridge, and af
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“It was an article of faith to the Romans that they were the most morally upright people in the world. How else was the size of their empire to be explained? Yet they also knew that the Republic's greatness carried its own risks. To abuse it would be to court divine anger. Hence the Roman's concern to refute all charges of bullying, and to insist they had won their empire purely in self-defense.” 7 likes
“Honour, in the Republic, had never been a goal in itself, only a means to an infinite end. And what was true of her citizens, naturally, was also true of Rome herself. For the generation that had lived through the civil wars, this was the consolation history gave them. Out of calamity could come greatness. Out of dispossession could come the renewal of a civilised order.” 2 likes
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