Rubicon : The Triumph and Tragedy of the Roman Republic, Paperback Book

Rubicon : The Triumph and Tragedy of the Roman Republic Paperback

4 out of 5 (5 ratings)


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 civilization, 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.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 464 pages, Section: 24, b/w and col
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: European history
  • ISBN: 9780349115634

Other Formats



Free Home Delivery

on all orders

Pick up orders

from local bookshops


Showing 1 - 5 of 5 reviews.

Review by

Wonderful introduction to the Roman Republic, and excellent as a starting piece. It's very focused on the last century - everything from the founding in 753BC to the end of the Gracchi in 133BC gets dealt with in 30 pages, including all three Punic Wars. The three emphasis points are Sulla, Caesar and Augustus, with the author's interest clearly on the former two.There's plenty of juicy historical gossip in the telling to make it an entertaining read. Social factors are discussed, as are basic concepts of politics and the military situation. The historical facts are accurate, although alternate interpretations tend not to be discussed. The portrayals of Sulla, Caesar and Augustus follow conservative Anglo-American research lines and don't go as much into controversial issues as current research does. Overall a very good and entertaining overview of the Roman Republic that can be relied on in terms of factual accuracy.

Review by

Very readable and informative, but the persistent and strong anti-plebian bias wears thin. Particularly in the breezy self-contradictions of the Gracchi chapter.

Review by

Describes how the Roman republic became a dictatorship as a result of acquiring an empire.

Review by

Excellent. Main interest her is my own reading experience. Reading the book for a 2nd time; something I v rarely do. First read it 3-4 years ago as a kick off to broad study of classical history ( supporting my daughter's Classics exam). My knowledge of the period then was pretty much what I picked up from shakespeare (JC & Ant & Cleo). Then spent a couple of years in which Graeco-Roman History was the core of my reading. Now re-reading "Rubicon", I find I literally don't remember a word of it, though much is colourfully expressed and dramatically related. But I am familiar with the characters and can follow the "plot", am at home with the whole sequence of events , which on first reading left me a trifle overwhelmed (I remember that feeling), but the words on the page are as if read for the first time.

Review by

After hearing much about this book for several years now and seeing it referenced in essays about the current state of our nation, I found the most striking thing about it was not the parallels to the USA's current situation vis-a-vis the world and the Patriot Act. Rather, what impressed me most were the differences between the world of the Roman 2000 years ago and our contemporary one. The main such difference being Roman fatalism, the sense that one must make the most of what is, after all, a bad deal. For us, this seems to mean surrounding ourselves with luxuries and comfort, for the Romans it meant becoming famous through wealth, public service or military victories. Hmmmm.

Also by Tom Holland   |  View all