Rubicon

Rubicon: The Triumph and Tragedy of the Roman Republic
by Tom Holland

An easy-to-read history of ancient Rome that focuses on the Republic and how it is gradually taken over by the men who swore to protect it. One thing that makes it easy to read is the way it traces the inter-relationships between the many players. The elite were famously interbred, and this balance of power ensured stability. The rise of plebian power and the rise of the empire go hand in hand. The military history and the expansion of the Empire is documented well, as well as the reasons for the expansion: Caesar’s need for cash, Marius’s pride, and Pompey’s vanity.

There are many tempting parallels to the fate of today’s mightiest republic, but the author cautions against reading too much into surface similarities. The Romans were very different from us – their moral system, their ethics worked differently.

However, the little anecdotes and histories of how Rome united the countryside explain the ancient roman’s view of themselves as better than other civilizations. This inflated self-view goes a way towards explaining things like this recent news article. Some aspects remain unchanged after two millenia it would appear.

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