Introduced by the author
A gripping account of the twilight of the Roman Republic and its bloody transformation into empire; the story of Caesar’s generation, thrillingly told.
‘The blood-stained drama of the last decades of the Roman Republic … is told afresh with tremendous wit, narrative verve and insight … What characters there were in this drama!’
Described by renowned author Ian McEwan as ‘narrative history at its best’, Rubicon brings to life the last century of the Roman Republic, when Rome was transformed from a democratically run empire into one ruled by an emperor. With his extensive research and authoritative prose, Tom Holland has brought a fresh perspective to this dramatic era.
In 49 BC, 704 years since the founding of Rome, Julius Caesar (then a Roman general and governor of Gaul) crossed a small river in the north of Italy called the Rubicon and knowingly plunged Rome into civil war. Placing the reader in the midst of the action, Holland tells the story of Caesar and his generation, which was to witness the twilight of the Republic and its bloody transformation into an empire. Here, legendary historical figures are brought thrillingly to life, from eloquent Cicero and wily Cleopatra to brave Spartacus, the slave who dared to stand against the mighty superpower.
Holland pictures Rome as a disciplined and ambitious predator, a state willing to commit acts of shocking barbarism to preserve its freedom. It is also a state ‘as unsettlingly familiar as it is strange’ – its citizens enjoyed all-night dances, were intrigued by the cult of celebrity and had a fascination for unusual pets. Holland’s is a story of intrigue, triumph, cruelty and violence, an exciting retelling of a moment in history that still echoes with significance. As Holland describes it, ‘so fateful was Caesar’s crossing the Rubicon that it has come to stand for every fateful step taken since’.
‘Time and again Caesar had hazarded his future – and time and again he had emerged triumphant. This, to the Romans, was the very mark of a man. In less than a decade he had forced the surrender of eight hundred cities, three hundred tribes and the whole of Gaul – and yet excessive achievement, to the Romans might be a cause for alarm as well as celebration. They were the citizens of a republic, after all, and no man could be permitted to put his fellows forever in the shade.’
Combining verve and clarity with scrupulous scholarship, Rubicon is not only an engrossing history of this pivotal era but a resonant portrait of a great civilisation in all its extremes of self-sacrifice and rivalry, decadence and catastrophe, war and world-shaking ambition. This lavishly illustrated edition features 32 pages of colour plates, revealing the artefacts that help further our understanding of Rome. The binding is blocked with a striking image of Caesar, by Kent Barton.
Tom Holland is one of the leading historians of the classical world. His books include: Persian Fire: A History of the Graeco-Persian Wars, which won the Anglo-Hellenice League’s Runciman Award in 2006, Millennium: The End of the World and the Forging of Christendom, In the Shadow of the Sword, and Dynasty. A presenter for the BBC’s Radio 4 Making History, he has also written and presented a number of documentaries, and served two years as the Chair of the Society of Authors
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Review by caesar1 on 3rd Jul 2017
"Can't say enough about the quality of this book. Everything from the wonderful cover portrait of Julius Caesar to the nice pictures, and the great writing. This book is heavy and feels comfortable to ..." [read more]
Review by anon on 20th Dec 2016
"I am IN LOVE with my copy. Excellent typography, vivid pictures, and lovely paper. The "D" of "HOLLAND" on the spine was only partially printed, so it looks like "HOLLANI", but it doesn't take away fr..." [read more]