The Triumph and Tragedy of the Roman Republic

Tom Holland

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!’

  1. Christopher Hart, Independent on Sunday

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.

Production Details

Bound in blocked buckram, printed with a design by Kent Barton

Set in Spectrum with Castellar display

400 pages

Frontispiece and 32 pages of colour plates

7 maps

Plain slipcase

10˝ x 6¾˝

An engrossing history of a pivotal 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.

About Tom Holland

Tom Holland is one of Britain’s foremost writers on the ancient world. He is the author of Rubicon: The Triumph and Tragedy of the Roman Republic (2003); Millennium: The End of the World and the Forging of Christendom (2008); In the Shadow of the Sword (2012), which covers the collapse of Roman and Persian power in the Near East and the rise of Islam; Dynasty: The Rise and Fall of the House of Caesar (2015), and Athelstan: The Making of England (2016). Persian Fire won the Anglo-Hellenic League’s Runciman Award, and Rubicon was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize and won the Hessell-Tiltman Prize for History. Holland has also published a translation of Herodotus’ Histories (2013) and has adapted Homer, Herodotus, Thucydides and Virgil for BBC Radio. In 2007, he was the winner of the Classical Association prize, awarded to ‘the individual who has done most to promote the study of the language, literature and civilisation of Ancient Greece and Rome’.


You May Also Like

  1. S.P.Q.R.


    Professor Mary Beard


    The definitive account of ancient Rome by acclaimed historian Mary Beard vividly depicts ordinary Roman lives and contains more than 45 full-colour images specially selected for the Folio edition of S.P.Q.R.

  2. Persian Fire

    Persian Fire

    Tom Holland


    Hand-drawn maps and a new image selection illustrate the Folio Society edition of Persian Fire – the bloodthirsty clash of civilisations by the master of classical history, Tom Holland.