Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Rubicon: The Last Years of the Roman Republic” as Want to Read:
Rubicon: The Last Years of the Roman Republic
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Rubicon: The Last Years of the Roman Republic

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  15,138 ratings  ·  893 reviews
A masterful, witty, brilliantly researched popular history of perhaps the greatest civilization ever and the events and people that led to its transformation from a republic to an empire.

On a dark January morning, Julius Caesar, the governor of Gaul, rode with his closest aides towards a river named the Rubicon, which marked the line of the frontier with Italy. A governor
Hardcover, 432 pages
Published February 17th 2004 by Doubleday (first published January 1st 2003)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.19  · 
Rating details
 ·  15,138 ratings  ·  893 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Rubicon: The Last Years of the Roman Republic
Jeffrey Keeten
Jan 04, 2014 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
Feb 04, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 en ...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
Riku Sayuj
Feb 23, 2013 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
Bryan Alkire
Not particularly good. I was very disappointed in this book. First, there wasn’t really anything new here, though that would be a tall order when discussing the Roman Republic. The writing was dry and I found myself wishing it would hurry up and end, never a good sign. Lastly, the author seems to buy into the great person theory of history. All the patricians and politicos of the age are here and their intrigues and machinations are discussed in loving detail. The plebeians, even the leading one ...more
Jul 15, 2015 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

Rubicon - Triumph Tragedy Roman Republic - Tom Holland

Read by Steven Crossley | 13 cds | 15.7 hrs | unabridged |
Clipper Audio | 2005
42 mp3

0101 _ Clipper Audio _ Rubicon, Last Years of the Roman Republic _ Tom Holland
0102 _ Preface _ 49 BC _ Narrated by Steven Crossley
0103 _ Preface _ The Die is Cast
0108 _ Ch 01 _ The Paradoxical Republic _ Ancestral Voices
0115 _ Ch 01 _ The Paradoxical Republic _ The Capital of the World
0201 _ Ch 01 _ The Paradoxical Republic _ Blood in the Labyrinth
0207 _ Ch
Jan 04, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, history
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
Sean DeLauder
Feb 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nook-book, history

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
Nov 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reviewed for The Bibliophibian.

With a title like Rubicon, if you know about the significance of that small river, you might expect the book to be mostly about Julius Caesar (if you didn’t notice the subtitle, which differs slightly between editions but always mentions the Republic). It isn’t: in fact, at times early on you might not be quite 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 that you don’t need the big name to
Aug 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ancient-history
An enjoyable account of the last years of the Roman Republic from Sulla to Augustus. I would recommend this over SPQR.
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
Roy Lotz
Because I’ve been bogged down with reading Ulysses for the last month, I decided that I would read something engaging and entertaining alongside it. And so Rubicon proved to be. Tom Holland’s narration of the fall of the republic is a deft bit of popular nonfiction: educational but not pedantic, eloquent but not pompous. Holland manages to condense an enormous amount of history into a novel-sized book. He paints thumbnail sketches of the principle actors (Cicero, Caesar, Pompey), and also gives ...more
Jun 14, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 07, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classical-era
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.
Jun 12, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I'm surprised by the great reviews this book receives on GoodReads and on Amazon. I found the writing to be extremely choppy and full of unsupported generalizations about what Romans desired, detested, dreamed about, etc. This is not good history- no matter how many primary documents the author reviewed, there is simply no way for a modern author to get into the heads of the ancients. This is a world in which Greek towns welcomed home their sailors with phallic processions, in which women parade ...more
Ahmed Chowdhry
Apr 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This compulsively readable book put it all together in one seamless narrative, and replaced my slides with a breathtaking movie that has it all: epic battles, dynastic soap opera, noble patriotism, eyecatching eccentricity, treacherously shifting alliances, scheming and backstabbing and dazzling hypocrisy, with the survival of a great democracy always at stake and always at risk.

The cast of characters over here is the stuff of legends: Pompey the Great, the temporizing orator/politician Cicero,
Aug 24, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 Rome, Holland's
Gumble's Yard
Jan 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
Brilliantly constructed summary of the fall of the Republic – mainly concentrating on the period from the actions of Sulla up to the death of Octavius (although with some coverage of earlier tensions such as the Gracchus brothers).

As a narrative almost novelistic style history book it is better read by someone already familiar with the history – where it acts as an extremely readable summary and also one which implicitly rather than explicitly draws out its key themes around the reason for the
Charlie Hasler
May 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Anyone who holds an interest in Roman History, indeed the fall of the Republic, should read this. Not heavy going and extremely well written, well paced and very informative.
Apr 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I’ve grown accustomed to Tom Holland. He’s a writer with a fairly limited bag of tricks and a somewhat cynical attitude towards the subjects of his writing, or perhaps towards humanity as a whole. After reading four of his books, I find I can predict his judgements on this or that historical event or personage with considerable accuracy. One simply assumes the worst, and Tom provides it. He also has a few stock forms of sentence construction ('Just as A, so B’ appears in numerous variations, as ...more
Aug 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 25, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, 21st-century
In truth, I put this at a solid 2.5 -- better than OK, but not all the way to "good" because I was irritated by the premise.

There is no question in my mind that Tom Holland is a brilliant scholar. I only wish he had applied more radiance, and more passion, in his "popular history" of the Roman Republic. How anyone can manage to render a history of Rome that is rather glib is beyond me, but that's exactly what Holland has accomplished in this work. It felt all rather artful: he comes across as sm
Jul 24, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This book is a harder one for me to review and decide if I liked it or really liked it. So much is presented in each chapter that I had to do re-reads to figure out what was going on. And we are given more of the "soap opera" part of the story than the action of the story. I think that I would have enjoyed this one more if I had studied Roman history a bit more. However, it you want to know about this time period in Roman History, you will meet many many characters, if only for a brief moment.
Not my kind of history book. Written like a novel.
"Even three centuries later, however, memories of the Gauls remained raw. Every year guard-dogs would be crucified, a posthumous punishment of the dogs who had failed to bark on the Capitol, while Juno's geese, as an ongoing reward for their ancestors' admonitory honking, were brought to watch the spectacle on cushions of purple and gold."

It is with details such as this that Tom Holland is able to bring the world of ancient Rome to vivid life. I was reminded of Sir Philip Sidney's point when def
Jan 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“Greatness may have cost the Romans their freedom, but it had given them the world. Under [Octavian, Caesar’s son] Augustus, their legions had continues to display all their martial qualities of old - pushing back the empire’s frontiers, slaughtering barbarians - but the urbane consumer back on the Campus Martius, it was only distant noise. War no longer disturbed his reckoning. Nor, much, did morality, or duty, or the past. Not even, did warnings from the heavens.”

The story of Romans exchanging
Brian Turner
Sep 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
A superb history of the Roman Republic, full of passion and life.

Unlike general histories, which will try to describe and explain every little detail, Tom Holland succinctly brings together a grand narrative that weaves together the most important characters and events into a rich tapestry.

While at times he is dependent on the original writings from Rome, which are perhaps more fiction than fact, at least it means the overall story is sourced from what the Romans wrote about themselves. Even b
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
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Caesar: Life of a Colossus
  • SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome
  • Augustus: First Emperor of Rome
  • In the Name of Rome: The Men Who Won the Roman Empire
  • The Twelve Caesars
  • The Storm Before the Storm: The Beginning of the End of the Roman Republic
  • Augustus: The Life of Rome's First Emperor
  • Cicero: The Life and Times of Rome's Greatest Politician
  • The Conquest of Gaul
  • History of the Peloponnesian War
  • The Rise of Rome: The Making of the World's Greatest Empire
  • Imperium: A Novel of Ancient Rome (Cicero, #1)
  • Dictator (Cicero, #3)
  • The Punic Wars
  • I, Claudius (Claudius, #1)
  • Carthage Must Be Destroyed: The Rise and Fall of an Ancient Civilization
  • The Histories
  • Conspirata (Cicero, #2)
See similar books…
Tom Holland is an English historian and 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

News & Interviews

You know the saying: There's no time like the present...unless you're looking for a distraction from the current moment. In that case, we can't...
51 likes · 24 comments
“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.” 9 likes
“Gain cannot be made without loss to someone else.” 5 likes
More quotes…