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Summary

The Roman Republic was the most remarkable state in history. What began as a small community of peasants camped among marshes and hills ended up ruling the known world. 

Rubicon paints a vivid portrait of the Republic at the climax of its greatness - the same greatness which would herald the catastrophe of its fall. It is a story of incomparable drama. 

This was the century of Julius Caesar, the gambler whose addiction to glory led him to the banks of the Rubicon, and beyond; of Cicero, whose defence of freedom would make him a byword for eloquence; of Spartacus, the slave who dared to challenge a superpower; of Cleopatra, the queen who did the same.  

Tom Holland brings to life this strange and unsettling civilisation, with its extremes of ambition and self-sacrifice, bloodshed and desire. Yet alien as it was, the Republic still holds up a mirror to us. Its citizens were obsessed by celebrity chefs, all-night dancing and exotic pets; they fought elections in law courts and were addicted to spin; they toppled foreign tyrants in the name of self-defence. 

Two thousand years may have passed, but we remain the Romans' heirs.

©2003 Tom Holland (P)2019 Hachette Audio UK

Critic reviews

"The book that really held me, in fact, obsessed me, was Rubicon...This is narrative history at its best. Bloody and labyrinthine political intrigue and struggle, brilliant oratory, amazing feats of conquest and cruelty." (Ian McEwan, Books of the Year, Guardian

What listeners say about Rubicon

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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Great story let down by monotonous narration

The book covers much the same ground as Mary Beard's SPQR, though in somewhat greater detail. However I was constantly having to rewind and listen to a passage again because my attention wandered. I don't think this is a problem with the book but with the narration. It's not flat, but almost every sentence seems to follow a set pattern of intonation and emphasis which I found quite wearing once I latched onto it.

4 people found this helpful

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Factual, accurate, dry.

Solid history but dryly written. Performance clear and crisp with even volume and tempo. Recitation as dry as the facts presented. I enjoy my history a bit more flavorful, i.e. Mary Beard or Barbara Tuchman.

3 people found this helpful

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Brilliant Highly recommend.

I loved this book and got through it really quickly. Holland is a great writer. I would recommend this to anyone with an interest in Romans. I'll definitely be listening to more of his books.

2 people found this helpful

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Ave Caesar

This book is excellent in providing the journey from the brith of the republic, and then slowly plots the destruction of what at the time was comparable today seeing the proud petriotic american seeing his country descend into a civil war, a dictatourship, two popular uprisings, a oligarichal dictatourship, and then explodes into another civil war, then after that another dictatourship. After all that you can only imagine the desperation for it to end. All of this is compounded by excellent narration which gives life to the sheer magatude of these larger then life figures who's names still echo throughout our culteral psyche. Well worth it in my opinion.

2 people found this helpful

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Really, really interesting

Whilst this is a mammoth tome, it was truly fascinating and the lives of Romans are surprisingly familiar. With, perhaps, a touch more murder than we have today.

1 person found this helpful

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Entertaining and comprehensive overview

A decent overview of the last centuries of the Roman Republic, although one can get lost in the details of the less significant parts of the book.
Aside from the early parts concerning the Punic Wars, the main strengths of the book lay in the latter parts concerning the Triumvirate, the Civil War, and the eventual rivalry between Octavian and Marc Antony.
Rubicon's strength is that it takes the latter years of the Roman Republic into a more readable and comprehensive volume, and therefore, is recommended for anyone who wants to either familiarize themselves or recap this crucial period of Western History.
The narration is decent, both the introduction by the author and the larger narration by Mark Meadows.

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Great listen if you like history!

I found this to be a very nice listening experience. I love history & I didn’t know enough details about Rome and the period of the death of the Republic, and Tom Holland and Mark Meadows make it come alive in a way I hadn’t thought possible in a book. If you are a history buff this is a great listen.

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Great book with much detail

The very last chapter contains a timeliness summary and review of the many previous chapters to refresh the reader.
The individual chapters set the scene for ceasars capture of the Republic and and provide the context for what follows. A tale of antiheroes of Rome, their brilliance and their failings.

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Excellent work

Tells the Republic's fall in a very engaging and easy to follow way. Even a moron like me was able to walk away wiser than when i walked in.

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Very in-depth, without becoming dry

It has all the drama of a fictional book, but knowing they are real stories makes it actually interesting.

Oh, and Mark Meadows as narrator really sealed the deal for me.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 08-01-21

A well written narrative history

Tom Holland knows how to make ancient history come to life. Excellent narration by Mark Meadows, as usual.

2 people found this helpful