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Rubicon: The Last Years of the Roman Republic
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ROMAN EMPIRE -THE HISTORY... > 7. RUBICON ~ November 3rd - November 9th ~ Seven - The Debt to Pleasure (179 - 211) ~ No Spoilers

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message 1: by Vicki, Assisting Moderator - Ancient Roman History (new) - rated it 3 stars

Vicki Cline | 3823 comments Mod
This week's reading assignment is:


Week 7 - November 3rd - November 9th -> Chapter Seven - The Debt to Pleasure (179 - 211)


We will open up a thread for each week's reading. Please make sure to post in the particular thread dedicated to those specific chapters and page numbers to avoid spoilers. We will also open up supplemental threads as we did for other spotlighted books.

We look forward to your participation. Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Borders and other noted on line booksellers do have copies of the book and shipment can be expedited. The book can also be obtained easily at your local library, or on your Kindle.

There is no rush and we are thrilled to have you join us. It is never too late to get started and/or to post.

Vicki Cline will be moderating this discussion.

Welcome,

Vicki and Bryan

TO ALWAYS SEE ALL WEEKS' THREADS, SELECT VIEW ALL

Rubicon The Last Years of the Roman Republic by Tom Holland by Tom Holland Tom Holland

REMEMBER NO SPOILERS ON THE WEEKLY NON SPOILER THREADS - ON EACH WEEKLY NON SPOILER THREAD - WE ONLY DISCUSS THE PAGES ASSIGNED OR THE PAGES WHICH WERE COVERED IN PREVIOUS WEEKS. IF YOU GO AHEAD OR WANT TO ENGAGE IN MORE EXPANSIVE DISCUSSION - POST THOSE COMMENTS IN ONE OF THE SPOILER THREADS. THESE CHAPTERS HAVE A LOT OF INFORMATION SO WHEN IN DOUBT CHECK WITH THE CHAPTER OVERVIEW AND SUMMARY TO RECALL WHETHER YOUR COMMENTS ARE ASSIGNMENT SPECIFIC. EXAMPLES OF SPOILER THREADS ARE THE GLOSSARY, THE BIBLIOGRAPHY, THE INTRODUCTION AND THE BOOK AS A WHOLE THREADS.

Notes:


It is always a tremendous help when you quote specifically from the book itself and reference the chapter and page numbers when responding. The text itself helps folks know what you are referencing and makes things clear.

Citations:

If an author or book is mentioned other than the book and author being discussed, citations must be included according to our guidelines. Also, when citing other sources, please provide credit where credit is due and/or the link. There is no need to re-cite the author and the book we are discussing however.

Here is the link to the thread titled Mechanics of the Board which will help you with the citations and how to do them.
http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/2...

Table of Contents and Syllabus

Glossary
Remember there is a glossary thread where ancillary information is placed by the moderator. This is also a thread where additional information can be placed by the group members regarding the subject matter being discussed.

Bibliography

Book as a Whole and Final Thoughts - SPOILER THREAD


message 2: by Vicki, Assisting Moderator - Ancient Roman History (new) - rated it 3 stars

Vicki Cline | 3823 comments Mod
Chapter Overview and Summaries


7. The Debt to Pleasure


While Lucullus was waiting for a well-deserved triumph, which kept getting denied him, he indulged in building an opulent park just outside the city walls and making luxurious additions to his numerous villas, including his famous fish ponds. He put on lavish banquets, hiring the best cooks available. He wasn’t the only one to indulge in conspicuous consumption, to the scorn of Marcus Porcius Cato, a relative newcomer to the Senate, and descendent of the famous Cato the Elder, who ended every speech declaring “Carthage must be destroyed.” Cato the Younger was famously upright and scrupulous and railed against the decadence of the current age.

In fact, many in Rome were heavily in debt, including Julius Caesar, who had put on fabulous games as aedile and had bribed his way into being elected Pontifex Maximus. Lucius Sergius Catilina was one such debtor. One way out of debt was to be elected consul, then serve as governor in a province which you could squeeze dry. Catilina had tried running for consul before but had been prevented because of legal troubles. He ran again for consul but finished third behind Cicero and Antonius Hybrida. Truly desperate now, he was alleged to have led a conspiracy to take over the government in Rome and cancel all debts. Cicero in particular was worried about this and finally became convinced when Crassus delivered to him some letters he had received with details about the conspiracy. Catilina fled to the countryside and joined up with a group of soldiers. Meanwhile in Rome, Cicero arrested some of Catilina’s co-conspirators and had the Senate condemn them to death without a trial because of the threat to the state. Catilina’s army was defeated and he himself killed. Cicero congratulated himself on saving Rome and was awarded the title of pater patriae, father of the country.

Not long after this, there was a scandal when Publius Clodius Pulcher disguised himself as a woman and attended the annual rites of the Bona Dea, the Good Goddess, in the Regia, where the Pontifex Maximus lived, in this case Julius Caesar. He was discovered by Aurelia, Caesar’s mother. It was assumed Clodius had come to see Pompeia, Caesar’s wife, and Caesar subsequently divorced her on the grounds that Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion. There was a trial during which Clodius claimed that he was not in Rome at the time, but Cicero testified that he had seen Clodius in Rome on that day. In spite of Cicero’s testimony, the jury acquitted Clodius (perhaps as a result of bribes) and Cicero had earned an implacable enemy.


Matthew | 112 comments I am finding the book very frustrating. There are all sorts of buried gems -- explanations of the fad for salt water fish; comments on how the very "male qualities" that brought leaders to the fore also led to their downfall; the story of Cicero starting a panic by reading improbable letters to the Senate.

The problem is all the gems are buried deep under so much junk. The author reads like a comedian who, short on good material, just curses a lot. Sulla does not befriend a courtesan or visit a prostitute. He chased after whores. Clodia is a "cock tease." Rome is a "shit hole." These words all have multiple translations, and he always picks the crudest one.

Then, in all of that filler, I still feel like I am missing the big picture. Why was Cloius in drag? We here all about the fedtival of the good goddess without ever learning who she is. Was Clodia inecstuous or not? "No smoke without fire" isn't enough evidence where half the people are victims of smear campaigns.


Matthew | 112 comments Not to mention stuff like the fact that Caelius "established a reputation as one of the three best dancers in Rome." Reputation with whom? Was there a list? Who were the other two? Did they have dance-offs? I keep reading "facts" that seem dubious, improbable, or meaningless. And other facts that would help me understand what is going on are omitted.


Katy (kathy_h) We do seem to be getting a "quick" overview of the history.


Bryan Craig Let's return to the fish: this whole culinary movement is interesting, even building expensive pools. Thomas Jefferson, who loved food, built a pond to hold fish for Monticello, but it was not even close to what the author describes.


message 7: by Billt4sf (new)

Billt4sf | 5 comments I am glad to hear that others are finding the book frustrating. I also have a problem seeing the big picture.

Part of the problem for me is that many characters that are presented: I counted I think 10 characters whose names begin with the letter C in this chapter. I simply cannot remember the characteristics and personality traits of all of them.

I already got that the leadership of Rome was heavily involved in internecine strife. Okay, I got that. Good lesson for our own day. Do we need to read even more about it, for the rest of the book? I hope not.

At this point, I am not sure what the book is about, besides struggles and backbiting, repositioning, and deception with in the leadership. Are we getting to some sort of story here, hopefully something that has to do with Cesar Crossing the Rubicon?

- Bill


message 8: by Billt4sf (new)

Billt4sf | 5 comments I am glad to hear that others are finding the book frustrating. I also have a problem seeing the big picture.

Part of the problem for me is that many characters that are presented: I counted I think 10 characters whose names begin with the letter C in this chapter. I simply cannot remember the characteristics and personality traits of all of them.

I already got that the leadership of Rome was heavily involved in internecine strife. Okay, I got that. Good lesson for our own day. Do we need to read even more about it, for the rest of the book? I hope not.

At this point, I am not sure what the book is about, besides struggles and backbiting, repositioning, and deception with in the leadership. Are we getting to some sort of story here, hopefully something that has to do with Cesar Crossing the Rubicon?

- Bill


message 9: by Bryan (last edited Nov 04, 2014 06:09AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bryan Craig Thanks Bill. I see where you are coming from. I find it hard to keep the names straight myself and we seem to be going on fast forward.

If you think about it, the author is taking on a difficult task. We are seeing many of the old Republican traditions disintegrate and new ones emerging. These transitions are not just political, but he is trying to cover the social ones, too, and over many years. Hard, indeed.

I image Caesar will appear again in later chapters.


Elentarri I think there is a list of characters and a time line at the back of the book? I can't check because I lent the book to my grandmother.


message 11: by Billt4sf (new)

Billt4sf | 5 comments There is no list of characters in my book. anyway, such a list wouldn't really help me because I have some problems keeping track of who I am reading about, And why.

I think you are right Brad?, That the theme of the book at this point seems to be about the disintegration of Roman traditions that brought about the empire in the first place. Another lesson for our time!?

- Bill


message 12: by Vicki, Assisting Moderator - Ancient Roman History (new) - rated it 3 stars

Vicki Cline | 3823 comments Mod
I sympathize with those who are finding the book confusing. Holland doesn't present a straight-forward and linear history of the time, but seems to like to deal with themes. I am sort of liking the background look at what Rome was like in those days, having read other history books with far fewer digressions. But I'm not sure this is the best book for an introduction to the fall of the Republic.


message 13: by Katy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Katy (kathy_h) Perhaps not the best introduction, but I agree that I like the themes that Holland explores. It is always interesting to see how he ties things together.


Matthew | 112 comments So can anyone with a deeper understanding of the fall of the Republic let me know who the other two best dancers were?


message 15: by Katy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Katy (kathy_h) LOL


Bryan Craig You really get a feel that issues have not changed with the times. During the Catiline conspiracy, the Senate was debating to kill the conspirators or jail them. Cato got them the death sentence. Holland says, "A majority in the Senate agreed with him that the safety of Rome was more important than the rights of individual citizens." (p. 202-203)


message 17: by Billt4sf (new)

Billt4sf | 5 comments Human nature has not changed. Maybe that's the big lesson from reading history: to illuminate human nature.


message 18: by Vicki, Assisting Moderator - Ancient Roman History (new) - rated it 3 stars

Vicki Cline | 3823 comments Mod
I'm surprised that Holland left out one of the most interesting parts of the Senate discussion on the punishment for the conspirators. While the discussion was going on, Caesar received a letter which he proceeded to read. Cato objected, so Caesar handed him the letter. It turned out to be from Caesar's mistress Servilia, Cato's half-sister.


Bryan Craig This would be important, Vicki, yeah, not sure why he left this part out.


message 20: by Vicki, Assisting Moderator - Ancient Roman History (new) - rated it 3 stars

Vicki Cline | 3823 comments Mod
It almost seems like something that was made up to explain the animosity between Caesar and Cato, but here is what Plutarch says in his Life of Cato the Younger.

'Now, since we must not pass over even the slight tokens of character when we are delineating as it were a likeness of the soul, the story goes that on this occasion, when Caesar was eagerly engaged in a great struggle with Cato and the attention of the senate was fixed upon the two men, a little note was brought in from outside to Caesar. Cato tried to fix suspicion upon the matter and alleged that it had something to do with the conspiracy, and bade him read the writing aloud. Then Caesar handed the note to Cato, who stood near him. But when Cato had read the note, which was an unchaste letter from his sister Servilia to Caesar, with whom she was passionately and guiltily in love, he threw it to Caesar, saying, "Take it, thou sot," and then resumed his speech.'

Source: http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E...

A lot of what happened in this period seems drawn from fiction, like this and the Bona Dea affair with Clodius. I just love all these larger than life characters.


message 21: by Vicki, Assisting Moderator - Ancient Roman History (new) - rated it 3 stars

Vicki Cline | 3823 comments Mod
I keep wondering about just how involved with Catilina were Caesar and Crassus. Granted, Caesar had huge debts, so Catilina's proposal of debt cancellation might have been tempting. But I don't see any advantage to Crassus in such a program, being as rich as he was. Apparently scholars come down on both sides of the question, and many articles show up when you Google "caesar crassus catilina."


message 22: by Douglass, HBC Admin/TL - Economics/Finance/Entrepreneurship (new) - rated it 4 stars

Douglass Gaking | 550 comments Mod
I agree that chapter 7 is a bit frustrating. I do like how Holland keeps a common theme throughout the book so far of showing the political and social maneuvering of all the various characters. It gets confusing when half the characters' names begin with the letter C, but Holland didn't name them. He inherited that problem. To me this book plays out like a TV series, such as House of Cards or Scandal, set in Ancient Rome. You have all these political figures trying to manipulate each other and doing some nasty things to move themselves ahead. I think that is why Holland chooses some vulgar language in a few places. It kind of fits the profane society in which the story is set and the crude characters he is describing. He is trying to show the behind-the-scenes dealings of some very shady characters. I can't picture someone telling these tales in the tone of a bedtime story unless they are trying to be extremely ironic.


Bryan Craig You make a good point, Douglass, I suspect the Roman society had no hesitation in using profanity and being crude. All societies have this aspect and I think Holland brings this out.


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