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The Storm Before the Storm: The Beginning of the End of the Roman Republic

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  6,268 ratings  ·  756 reviews
The Roman Republic was one of the most remarkable achievements in the history of civilization. After its founding in 509 BCE, Rome grew from an unremarkable Italian city-state to the dominant superpower of the Mediterranean world. Through it all, the Romans never allowed a single man to seize control of the state. Every year for four hundred years the annually elected cons ...more
Hardcover, 327 pages
Published October 24th 2017 by PublicAffairs
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Richard Either way works. This is a deep dive into a particular period of Roman history, so you can start there, then run through the podcast to learn about t…moreEither way works. This is a deep dive into a particular period of Roman history, so you can start there, then run through the podcast to learn about the time before and after this period. Or you can get a good grounding in Roman history from the podcast, then dive into this fascinating pre-Julius Caesar period if you want to learn more.(less)

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Jul 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
We truly live in an amazing age when someone can go from releasing a podcast about history before people really knew what podcasts were (2007) to getting a book publishing deal on the subject. If you have not been clued into Mike Duncan's amazing Roman History podcast series The History of Rome or his current one on various Revolutions you are truly missing out on some of the best audio experiences out there (and for the low, low price of free). Ever since he announced he was getting a Roman His ...more
Jeffrey Keeten
Apr 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, roman
”By simultaneously destroying Carthage and Corinth in 146 the Roman Republic took a final decisive step toward its imperial destiny. No longer one power among many, Rome now asserted itself as the power in the Mediterranean world. But as Rome’s imperial power reached maturity, the Republic itself started to rot from within. The triumph of the Roman Republic was also the beginning of the end of the Roman Republic.”

 photo Burning of Carthage_zpso7rwvq7d.jpg
The Burning of Carthage and the beginning of the Roman Empire.

Mike Duncan first
Hilary Scroggie
Aug 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
"These echoes could be mere coincidence, of course, but the great Greek biographer Plutarch certainly believed it possible that 'if, on the other hand, there is a limited number of elements from which events are interwoven, the same things must happen many times, being brought to pass by the same agencies."

"But this was an age when a lie was not a lie if a man had the audacity to keep asserting the lie was true."

I'm not nervous you're nervous.
Margaret Sankey
Jul 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a solid popular history of the generation and a half before the First Triumvirate--the period from the Gracchi brothers to the death of Sulla, which is usually simplified in popular forms or skipped in order to get to Julius Caesar or Augustus. Instead, this is an easily digestible account of the Lex Agraria, the changes to the Roman military, the Roman involvement in the breaking down of the Hellenistic kingdoms in Asia Minor, ramifications of limiting or increasing voting, the triggers ...more
Dan Lutts
Oct 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: roman-history
Many people are familiar with how the Roman Republic ended when Gaius Julius Caesar formed the First Triumvirate in 60 B.C. with Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus and Marcus Licinius Crassus. That informal alliance led to a civil war that destroyed the republic and resulted in Caesar’s nephew, Gaius Octavius, gaining control of the state and becoming Augustus Caesar, the first emperor of Rome. But the civil war and Augustus’ rise to power didn’t happen overnight. They were a long time in coming, fueled by ...more
Michael Perkins
Nov 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
The shocking story of the Oligarchy ruthlessly cracking down on populist Tribunes (considered traitors), who advocated for the poor and disenfranchised masses (via the Lex Agraria).

The next era would bring the rise of Caesar and the virtual elimination of the middle class, with the reduction of most of the Roman population to plebeian status.

I should note how the massive inequality came about in Rome. As Rome became more involved in foreign wars and defeated the likes of Carthage and other enemi
Aug 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
*4.5 stars*

At the time, everyone thought that just one more push for their personal agenda would win the day. Collectively, they ended up pushing the republic over the edge.

Oh, I'm sorry. This is Ancient Rome, not modern America. But here is the story of the fall of a republic as it gallops towards oblivion. The threads of the constitution fray and fray and fray and snap as simple reform bills turn into battles for personal glory which turn into riots in the forum which turn into civil war.

Jul 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Mike Duncan's dive into the civil wars before Caesar's (the period between the Gracchus brothers and the end of Sulla's reign) is quite insightful. It's not an exhaustive treatise, but it catches the key events of the era in a beginner-friendly, easy to digest manner.

Generally, Mike Duncan's interpretation of events seems reasonable - he generally tries to look also at the way the historical sources might relate towards the events and he's not so quick to draw parallels between current day event
Jul 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Mike Duncan's History of Rome podcast remains one of my favorites, and his new podcast, Revolutions, is quite good also. I was happy to see he wrote a book and the subject is fascinating. Everyone knows a bit about ancient Rome, with names such as Julius and August Caesar still in our consciousness. We Americans even wonder if we've crossed the border from Republic to Empire yet. Duncan argues if there is any time in Roman history parallel to our own, it is the century before the end of the Repu ...more
Omar Ali
Mar 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
A relatively short (265 pages), fast paced and lively account of the Roman Republic from 146 BC (the fall of Carthage and Corinth) to 78 BC (the death of Sulla), covering the period in which the Republic saw major social upheaval, conflict and civil war and in which many of the constitutional checks and balances of the Republic fell by the wayside, setting the stage for the final overthrow of the Republic by Julius Ceasar and his grand nephew, Augustus Ceasar. Duncan makes the case that the decl ...more
Jan 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
There are two good reasons to read this book.

First, if you want to know the history of this particular period of the Roman state, there’s apparently a dearth of books on that. Plenty on the changeover to an Imperial state, and on the later collapse, but not so much on the collapse of the republic. And this is a very easy and enjoyable book to read, although at times it’s just a tiny bit clumsy. If you want an authoritative book written by an actual historian, this isn’t the one for you, however.
Caidyn (NO LONGER ACTIVE; he/him/his)
Nov 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Caidyn (NO LONGER ACTIVE; he/him/his) by: Tides of History podcast
I loved Duncan's podcast about Rome and this was just as good. It was overall a really good book, made even better by me listening to the audiobook, which is narrated by him AND includes the music from the podcast. Just, overall, a great listen. Totally an interesting topic and I'm glad that I decided to go for the audiobook rather than read it!
Oct 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, europe
In 146 BC, the Roman Republic stood atop of the Mediterranean world with no peers to match it. But, within 100 years, this great republic would fall into the hands of iron fisted autocrats that the Romans themselves had always feared? How they got from one point to another is a tale that often revolves around Julius Caesar, Pompey the Great, Mark Antony and Augustus Caesar. However, that is only half the story and the second half at that. The story that is rarely told is the first half starting ...more
Jan 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was an exceptionally well written and concise outline of the history of the Roman Republic from the period of the Gracchi brothers to the death of Lucius Sulla. The author did a masterful job of describing to the reader in an organized fashion the myriad of events, personalities and issues. The Roman Republic was an extremely bloody, dynamic and complicated place where political questions were often settled through assassination and war. It would be very easy for a reader to get lost especi ...more
While the story (146 - 78 BC, so from the fall of Carthage and Corinth to the death of Sulla with a little afterword summarizing what happened next) is familiar, the exposition is fairly concise, based on the classical sources and very entertaining. Of course one still should read Colleen McCullough fictionalized versions of the same events (the first 2 1/2 novels in her 7 book series) for an awesome reimagination
April Cote
I found this book to be all narrative. This seemed like one long podcast, which the author is famous for, and is fine, in a podcast, not a book. I think this is just too much history to cover, and why it was more narrative, with the facts only touched upon.

I do think I see his point in this book. People who want power will take it, no matter the cost. And no matter how big and mighty a government thinks they are, someone, someday, will come along and destroy it.
Michael Burnam-Fink
Oct 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Everybody know the story of the Fall of the Roman Republic. Julius Caesar, Mark Antony, Cicero, Cato, Octavian, Brutus, civil war, assassination, the last grasp of liberty, and the foundation of both tyranny and centuries of peace and prosperity. Roman politics are a common metaphor for our own times. In The Storm Before the Storm, veteran history podcaster Mike Duncan (Revolutions, The History of Rome), writes about one of his favorite periods, the Roman Republic between the Second Punic War an ...more
Oct 24, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: ebook
Aside: In prepping for this review to liken it (negatively) to Dan Carlin's Hardcore History podcast on The Roman Republic, I noticed that all the HH podcasts that I had rated and reviewed were NO LONGER IN MY BOOKS. The book pages seem to have all been recreated on Dec 27th.

WTF, Goodreads!??!?! NOT COOL. This doesn't exactly encourage review-writing or even rating, you know. And if non-book items are going to be deleted, then let's get rid of the book pages for ONLINE FANFICTION. Arrgh.


Oct 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The late Roman Republic is one of the most studied and most familiar periods of history. Even the average American - famously ignorant of history - could probably tell you what happened to Julius Caesar or the name of Cleopatra's lover (thanks in no small part to Shakespeare's plays). But there's surprisingly little attention paid to the period before Caesar, the events that set the stage for the fall of the Republic. Mike Duncan, host of the excellent History of Rome Podcast, takes a stab, writ ...more
Darcia Helle
Dec 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I am endlessly amazed at the amount of detail uncovered from events that took place more than 2,000 years ago. Mike Duncan managed to piece together an entire narrative, introducing us to the main players in a society whose climb to greatness seemed to be its undoing.

I've read a lot about this period of history, but Duncan's unique approach gave me a different perspective on the unraveling of the empire. While academic, in the sense that this is not light reading, Duncan's writing style is enjo
Jan 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2020, own
Fascinating and very informative history lesson chronicling five decades precipitating the fall of the Roman Republic from 133 to 80 BCE. Also a very good reminder that I really need to revisit Colleen McCullough's series sometime.
Andrew “The Weirdling” Glos
This is largely a reworking and polishing up of Mike Duncan's podcast, "The History of Rome". If you haven't heard this podcast, put your device down now and go subscribe to it and start listening to it. It's one of the best ever done. If you don't have a devise for podcasts or an app to listen to them, then go get one just so you can listen to his podcast. Yeah, it's just that good. Just do it. Seriously. Stop reading my review.

If you are still here, then I'll get back to m review. This book i
Katie Lumsden
Apr 26, 2018 rated it liked it
An interesting look at certain parts of Roman history, but a little too narrative-driven for me. I found the audiobook hard to follow and concentrate on at times, but I still feel a learn a few new things.
Amanda Leon
Great, simple to understand and engaging
Richard Levine
Apr 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020
(3.5 stars)

I haven't listened to Mike Duncan's entire podcast series on the History of Rome. This book is focused on the period of Roman history that Duncan implies is most immediately relevant to our times.

In the introductory author's note, Duncan writes that people repeatedly ask him, "Is America Rome?" and "Where does the US stand on the Roman timeline?" As partial answer, he compares Rome's victories over Carthage and Corinth, which gave it military and political dominance over long-standin
Mark Lawry
Jan 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
A great book about the 100 some years of continual disaster leading up to the fall of the Republic. That time in history between the founding of Rome in 509 BC and the fall of Constantinople 1453 is a stretch I really need to read more about.

Reading everyone else’s reviews, I must disagree and suggest we have no need to fear we’re going to relive these times. Just because xyz happened to the Romans does not mean their fate is our destiny. The modern world is simply not 150 B.C. I say this for
Nov 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Exceptionally well written history of the Roman Republic from the period directly after the kings to the death of Sulla. Mike did a great job of describing the events, battles and characters of the period to the reader without drowning in the details. Easily recommended to everyone with a slight interest in the period or for historical drama.

Be warned that there is quite a lot of overlap with Mike’s History of Rome podcast, so try that first and then decide if you want more of the same.
Nic Morgan
Oct 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved this book. While it's a great story about the civil war between Marius and Sulla, and the events that lead up to it, it's also presented masterfully as a case study in how the erosion of norms can create irreparable cracks in a political system. As norms and customs that form the bedrock of a system give way to crises and the expediency of the moment, norms are subsequently weakened, or worse, new a precedent is set and the unintended consequences ripple from there. There is a ...more
Christian Dibblee
Oct 20, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: ancient-history
I very much enjoy Mike Duncan's work as a podcaster. He is a notably good historian who provides excellent overviews while also calling the listener's attention to broader trends. It makes for digestible material.

Unfortunately, I was underwhelmed by this book. Not because it isn't interesting at points or touches on important topics. But rather because it only touches on them. Duncan uses the prologue of the book to lay out what he thinks are the biggest points to take away, but then rarely rein
Aug 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: rome
Unsurprisingly, given how much I loved Mike Duncan's podcasts (The History of Rome and Revolutions), this book was both thoroughly enjoyable and a blast to listen to on Audible (Mike read it himself).

In it, he tells the story of the unraveling of customs, principles, norms, and eventually laws at the hand of violent agitators. While the famous quote "do not quote laws to us we carry swords" from Pompey occurs near the end of the tail, it summarizes much of the slow fall of the Republic, as cleve
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Mike Duncan is one of the foremost history podcasters in the world. His award-winning series The History of Rome set the gold standard for episodic narrative history and inspired a generation of listeners. His current series Revolutions explores the great political revolutions of history and is one of the most popular history podcasts in the world.

Duncan's first book The Storm Before the Storm: T

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“But as he stood watching Carthage burn, Scipio reflected on the fate of this once great power. Overcome with emotion, he cried. His friend and mentor Polybius approached and asked why Scipio was crying.

"A glorious moment, Polybiius; but I have a dread foreboding that some day the same doom will be pronounced on my own country." Scipio then quoted a line from Homer: "A day will come when sacred Troy shall perish, And Priam and his people shall be slain."

Scipio knew that no power endures indefinitely, that all empires must fall.”
“But this was an age when a lie was not a lie if a man had the audacity to keep asserting the lie was true.” 3 likes
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