Synopses & Reviews
A masterful, witty, brilliantly researched popular history of perhaps the greatest civilization ever and the events and people that led to its transformation from a republic to an empire.
On a dark January morning, Julius Caesar, the governor of Gaul, rode with his closest aides towards a river named the Rubicon, which marked the line of the frontier with Italy. A governor was forbidden to lead troops out of his allotted province – to break this severest of laws was tantamount to a declaration of civil war. Caesar was a gambler, however. Like the consummate actor on the public stage he had always been, he quoted a line from one of Menander's plays: "It's time to roll the die." Then he ordered the legion behind him to advance, over the river and on towards Rome. Crossing the Rubicon was a step so consequential that it has come to stand for every fateful step in history since. When Caesar rolled his die, the result was indeed a civil war, one that would end up destroying Rome's traditional freedoms and establishing a permanent dictatorship on the wreckage of her constitution.
In Rubicon, Cambridge- and Oxford-educated historian and novelist Tom Holland gives us a harrowing and exciting account of the fall of the Republic, one that begins in 100 BC, the approximate birthdate of the generation that was to bring about the Republic's ruin. He then traces the development of these men into the ruling minds of the Republic, and the occurrence at the Rubicon that marked the end of the expansionism for which they had fought. Rubicon captures the suspense and drama of Rome's most famous political rivalries and shows its vibrant and charged atmosphere, all the while featuring some of the most celebrated personalities in history–Julius Caesar, Cicero, Spartacus, Cleopatra, Brutus, Pompey, Virgil, and Augustus. As America embarks on its own imperial adventures, Rubicon is the chronicle of Rome for which we have all been waiting–carefully researched and wildly compelling.
"With the narrative talents that have established him as a prominent radio personality and novelist, Holland pulls readers deep into the treacherous riptide of Roman politics....[A] richly resonant history for the general reader." Bryce Christensen, Booklist (Starred Review)
"With the skill of a good novelist, Holland weaves a rip-roaring tale of political and historical intrigue as he chronicles the lively personalities and problems that led to the end of the Roman republic." Publishers Weekly
"With its mordant depiction of a republic pursuing imperial ends while its citizens pay lip service to political values they no longer practice, Holland's gripping narrative has particularly uncomfortable resonance for contemporary American readers." Kirkus Reviews
"This is narrative
history at its best. Bloody and labyrinthine political intrigue and struggle,
brilliant oratory, amazing feats of conquest and cruelty. Holland's lucid
account of this alien civilization moves at a fine pace. He makes no facile
comparisons with our times, but you sense you are witnessing through him the
enduring difficulty of reconciling power and peace." Ian McEwan
"In a phrase, Rubicon is ancient history through postmodern glasses....Can Tom Holland be faulted for reaching out to today's readers? He could, but, given his aplomb, it would be silly." Dallas Morning News
In 49 B.C., the seven hundred fifth year since the founding of Rome, Julius Caesar crossed a small border river called the Rubicon and plunged Rome into cataclysmic civil war. Tom Holland's enthralling account tells the story of Caesar's generation, witness to the twilight of the Republic and its bloody transformation into an empire. From Cicero, Spartacus, and Brutus, to Cleopatra, Virgil, and Augustus, here are some of the most legendary figures in history brought thrillingly to life.
Combining verve and freshness with scrupulous scholarship, Rubicon is not only an engrossing history of this pivotal era but a uniquely resonant portrait of a great civilization in all its extremes of self-sacrifice and rivalry, decadence and catastrophe, intrigue, war, and world-shaking ambition.
About the Author
Tom Holland gained the top degree at Cambridge before earning his Ph.D. at Oxford. An accomplished radio personality in Britain, he has written a highly acclaimed series of adaptations for Radio 4 of Herodotus's Histories and Virgil's Aeneid, to be followed by Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, and is the author of the novels The Bone Hunter, Slave of My Thirst, and Lord of the Dead.