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Rubicon: The Triumph and Tragedy of the Roman Republic (English Edition) par [Holland, Tom]
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Rubicon: The Triumph and Tragedy of the Roman Republic (English Edition) Format Kindle

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Longueur : 464 pages Word Wise: Activé Composition améliorée: Activé
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The Paradoxical Republic



Ancestral Voices



In the beginning, before the Republic, Rome was ruled by kings. About one of these, a haughty tyrant by the name of Tarquin, an eerie tale was told. Once, in his palace, an old woman came calling on him. In her arms she carried nine books. When she offered these to Tarquin he laughed in her face, so fabulous was the price she was demanding. The old woman, making no attempt to bargain, turned and left without a word. She burned three of the books and then, reappearing before the king, offered him the remaining volumes, still at the same price as before. A second time, although with less self-assurance now, the king refused, and a second time the old woman turned and left. By now Tarquin had grown nervous of what he might be turning down, and so when the mysterious crone reappeared, this time holding only three books, he hurriedly bought them, even though he had to pay the price originally demanded for all nine. Taking her money, the old woman then vanished, never to be seen again.

Who had she been? Her books proved to contain prophecies of such potency that the Romans soon realized that only one woman could possibly have been their author--the Sibyl. Yet this was an identification that only begged further questions, for the legends told of the Sibyl were strange and puzzling. On the presumption that she had foretold the Trojan War, men debated whether she was a compound of ten prophetesses, or immortal, or destined to live a thousand years. Some--the more sophisticated--even wondered whether she existed at all. In fact, only two things could be asserted with any real confidence--that her books, inscribed with spidery and antique Greek, certainly existed, and that within them could be read the pattern of events that were to come. The Romans, thanks to Tarquin's belated eye for a bargain, found themselves with a window to the future of the world.

Not that this helped Tarquin much. In 509 bc he succumbed to a palace coup. Kings had been ruling in Rome for more than two hundred years, ever since the city's foundation, but Tarquin, the seventh in line, would also be the last.* With his expulsion, the monarchy itself was overthrown, and, in its place, a free republic proclaimed. From then on, the title of "king" would be regarded by the Roman people with an almost pathological hatred, to be shrunk from and shuddered at whenever mentioned. Liberty had been the watchword of the coup against Tarquin, and liberty, the liberty of a city that had no master, was now consecrated as the birthright and measure of every citizen. To preserve it from the ambitions of future would-be tyrants, the founders of the Republic settled upon a remarkable formula. Carefully, they divided the powers of the exiled Tarquin between two magistrates, both elected, neither permitted to serve for longer than a year. These were the consuls, and their presence at the head of their fellow citizens, the one guarding against the ambitions of the other, was a stirring expression of the Republic's guiding principle--that never again should one man be permitted to rule supreme in Rome. Yet, startling though the innovation of the consulship appeared, it was not so radical as to separate the Romans entirely from their past. The monarchy might have been abolished, but very little else. The roots of the new Republic reached far back in time--often very far back indeed. The consuls themselves, as a privilege of their office, bordered their togas with the purple of kings. When they consulted the auspices they did so according to rites that predated the very foundation of Rome. And then, of course, most fabulous of all, there were the books left behind by the exiled Tarquin, the three mysterious rolls of prophecy, the writings of the ancient and quite possibly timeless Sibyl.

So sensitive was the information provided by these that access to them was strictly regulated as a secret of the state. Citizens found copying them would be sewn into a sack and dropped into the sea. Only in the most perilous of circumstances, when fearsome prodigies warned the Republic of looming catastrophe, was it permitted to consult the books at all. Then, once every alternative had been exhausted, specially appointed magistrates would be mandated to climb to the temple of Jupiter, where the books were kept in conditions of the tightest security. The scrolls would be spread out. Fingers would trace the faded lines of Greek. Prophecies would be deciphered, and advice taken on how best to appease the angered heavens.

And advice was always found. The Romans, being a people as practical as they were devout, had no patience with fatalism. They were interested in knowing the future only because they believed that it could then better be kept at bay. Showers of blood, chasms spitting fire, mice eating gold: terrifying prodigies such as these were regarded as the equivalent of bailiffs' duns, warnings to the Roman people that they stood in arrears with the gods. To get back in credit might require the introduction of a foreign cult to the city, the worship of a divinity who had hitherto been unknown. More typically, it would inspire retrenchment, as the magistrates desperately sought to identify the traditions that might have been neglected. Restore the past, the way that things had always been, and the safety of the Republic would be assured.

This was a presumption buried deep in the soul of every Roman. In the century that followed its establishment, the Republic was repeatedly racked by further social convulsions, by demands from the mass of citizens for expanded civic rights, and by continued constitutional reforms--and yet throughout this turbulent period of upheaval, the Roman people never ceased to affect a stern distaste for change. Novelty, to the citizens of the Republic, had sinister connotations. Pragmatic as they were, they might accept innovation if it were dressed up as the will of the gods or an ancient custom, but never for its own sake. Conservative and flexible in equal measure, the Romans kept what worked, adapted what had failed, and preserved as sacred lumber what had become redundant. The Republic was both a building site and a junkyard. Rome's future was constructed amid the jumble of her past.

The Romans themselves, far from seeing this as a paradox, took it for granted. How else were they to invest in their city save by holding true to the customs of their ancestors? Foreign analysts, who tended to regard the Romans' piety as "superstition,"1 and interpreted it as a subterfuge played on the masses by a cynical ruling class, misread its essence. The Republic was not like other states. While the cities of the Greeks were regularly shattered by civil wars and revolutions, Rome proved herself impervious to such disasters. Not once, despite all the social upheavals of the Republic's first century of existence, had the blood of her own citizens been spilled on her streets. How typical of the Greeks to reduce the ideal of shared citizenship to sophistry! To a Roman, nothing was more sacred or cherished. After all, it was what defined him. Public business--res publica--was what "republic" meant. Only by seeing himself reflected in the gaze of his fellows could a Roman truly know himself a man.

And by hearing his name on every tongue. The good citizen, in the Republic, was the citizen acknowledged to be good. The Romans recognized no difference between moral excellence and reputation, having the same word, honestas, for both. The approval of the entire city was the ultimate, the only, test of worth. This was why, whenever resentful citizens took to the streets, it would be to demand access to yet more honors and glory. Civil unrest would invariably inspire the establishment of a new magistracy: the aedileship and tribunate in 494, the quaestorship in 447, the praetorship in 367. The more posts there were, the greater the range of responsibilities; the greater the range of responsibilities, the broader the opportunities for achievement and approbation. Praise was what every citizen most desired--just as public shame was his ultimate dread. Not laws but the consciousness of always being watched was what prevented a Roman's sense of competition from degenerating into selfish ambition. Gruelling and implacable though the contest to excel invariably was, there could be no place in it for ill-disciplined vainglory. To place personal honor above the interests of the entire community was the behavior of a barbarian--or worse yet, a king.

In their relations with their fellows, then, the citizens of the Republic were schooled to temper their competitive instincts for the common good. In their relations with other states, however, no such inhibitions cramped them. "More than any other nation, the Romans have sought out glory and been greedy for praise."2 The consequences for their neighbors of this hunger for honor were invariably devastating. The legions' combination of efficiency and ruthlessness was something for which few opponents found themselves prepared. When the Romans were compelled by defiance to take a city by storm, it was their practice to slaughter every living creature they found. Rubble left behind by the legionaries could always be distinguished by the way in which severed dogs' heads or the dismembered limbs of cattle would lie strewn among the human corpses.3 The Romans killed to inspire terror, not in a savage frenzy but as the disciplined components of a fighting machine. The courage they brought to service in the legions, steeled by pride in their city and faith in her destiny, was an emotion that every citizen was brought up to share. Something uniquely lethal--and, to the Romans, glorious--marked their way of war.

Even so, it took time for the other states of Italy to wake up to the nature of the predator in their midst. For the first century of the Republic's existence the Romans found it a struggle to establish their supremacy over cities barely ten miles from their own gates. Yet even the deadliest carnivore must have its infancy, and the Romans, as they raided cattle and skirmished with petty hill tribes, were developing the instincts required to dominate and kill. By the 360s bc they had established their city as the mistress of central Italy. In the following decades they marched north and south, crushing opposition wherever they met it. By the 260s, with startling speed, they had mastered the entire peninsula. Honor, of course, had demanded nothing less. To states that humbly acknowledged their superiority, the Romans would grant such favors as a patron condescends to grant his clients, but to those who defied them, only ceaseless combat. No Roman could tolerate the prospect of his city losing face. Rather than endure it, he would put up with any amount of suffering, go to any lengths.

The time soon came when the Republic had to demonstrate this in a literal struggle to the death. The wars with Carthage were the most terrible it ever fought. A city of Semitic settlers on the North African coast, dominating the trade routes of the western Mediterranean, Carthage possessed resources at least as great as Rome's. Although predominantly a maritime power, she had indulged herself for centuries with bouts of warfare against the Greek cities of Sicily. Now, poised beyond the Straits of Messina, the Romans represented an ominous but intriguing new factor in Sicily's military equation. Predictably, the Greeks on the island could not resist embroiling the Republic in their perennial squabbles with Carthage. Equally predictably, once invited in, the Republic refused to play by the rules. In 264 Rome transformed what had been a minor dispute over treaty rights into a total war. Despite a lack of any naval tradition, and the loss of fleet after fleet to enemy action or storms, the Romans endured over two decades of appalling casualties to bring Carthage, at last, to defeat. By the terms of the peace treaty forced on them, the Carthaginians undertook a complete withdrawal from Sicily. Without ever having intended it, Rome found herself with the nucleus of an overseas empire. In 227 Sicily was constituted as the first Roman province.

The theater of the Republic's campaigning was soon to grow even wider. Carthage had been defeated, but not smashed. With Sicily lost, she next turned her imperial attentions to Spain. Braving the murderous tribes who swarmed everywhere in the mountains, the Carthaginians began to prospect for precious metals. The flood of wealth from their mines soon enabled them to contemplate resuming hostilities. Carthage's best generals were no longer under any illusions as to the nature of the enemy they faced in the Republic. Total war would have to be met in kind, and victory would be impossible unless Roman power were utterly destroyed.

It was to achieve this that Hannibal, in 218, led a Carthaginian army from Spain, through southern Gaul and over the Alps. Displaying a mastery of strategy and tactics far beyond that of his opponents, he brought three Roman armies to sensational defeat. In the third of his victories, at Cannae, Hannibal wiped out eight legions, the worst military disaster in the Republic's history. By every convention and expectation of contemporary warfare, Rome should have followed it by acknowledging Hannibal's triumph, and attempting to sue for peace. But in the face of catastrophe, she showed only continued defiance. Naturally, at such a moment, the Romans turned for guidance to the prophecies of the Sibyl. These prescribed that two Gauls and two Greeks be buried alive in the city's marketplace. The magistrates duly followed the Sibyl's advice. With this shocking act of barbarism, the Roman people demonstrated that there was nothing they would not countenance to preserve their city's freedom. The only alternative to liberty--as it had always been--was death.

And grimly, year by year, the Republic hauled itself back from the brink. More armies were raised; Sicily was held; the legions conquered Carthage's empire in Spain. A decade and a half after Cannae Hannibal faced another Roman army, but this time on African soil. He was defeated. Carthage no longer had the manpower to continue the struggle, and when her conqueror's terms were delivered, Hannibal advised his compatriots to accept them. Unlike the Republic after Cannae, he preferred not to risk his city's obliteration. Despite this, the Romans never forgot that in Hannibal, in the scale of his exertions, in the scope of his ambition, they had met the enemy who was most like themselves. Centuries later statues of him were still to be found standing in Rome. And even after they had reduced Carthage to an impotent rump, confiscating her provinces, her fleet, her celebrated war-elephants, the Romans continued to dread a Carthaginian recovery. Such hatred was the greatest compliment they could pay a foreign state. Carthage could not be trusted in her submission. The Romans looked into their own souls and attributed the implacability they found there to their greatest foe.


From the Hardcover edition.

Revue de presse

“Stunning. . . . Holland keeps his narrative moving at chariot-race speed.” –Newsday

“This gripping narrative resurrects some of the half-forgotten personalities and events that shaped who we are. . . . It enables the reader to relive the slow, bloodstained collapse of a system, not only as a fascinating drama in its own right but as a morality tale.” –Anthony Everitt, author of Cicero

“A fascinating picture of Roman city life. . . . In every aspect of this story, Holland expertly makes the Romans, so alien and yet so familiar, relevant to us.” –Los Angeles Times

“Tremendously intelligent, vibrant and witty.” –The Washington Times

“The crispest and most compelling account. . . . A historical thrill ride.” –The Seattle Times

“Splendid. . . . Rich. . . . Holland writes history with a sense of immediacy, and with the passion and pacing of a novelist. . . . His absorbing, witty narrative captures the scope and drama of the republic and shapes its labyrinthine elements into a single continuum.” –Houston Chronicle

“[A] book that really held me, in fact, obsessed me. . . . Narrative history at its best.” –Ian McEwan, The Guardian, Books of the Year

“Very readable. . . . Witty, literate. . . . [It] outlines as no other story in history can the perils and misadventures that bring down democratic governments.” –St. Petersburg Times

“Gripping and hugely entertaining. . . . It is a story crammed with drama and spectacle, but the real attraction of Holland’s book is the wit and contemporary sensibility that he brings to his often bloody tale.” –The Sunday Times (London), Top 5 History Books of the Year

“Lucid, stylish and witty, and interesting in its analysis. . . . Informative, balanced, and accessible, Holland’s compelling brand of narrative history is a praiseworthy rendition of one of the most complex periods in history.” –BookPage

“A lively, popularly written history. . . . Holland’s book is full of memorable characters.” –World

“Explosive stuff. . . . Seriously intelligent history written with élan and gusto.” –BBC History Magazine

“Lively, readable, briskly paced. . . . Thoroughly grounded in the relevant source material. . . . Seamless, forward-moving. . . . Not only a gripping account of the Roman past, but an important perspective on the current American moment. . . . Rubicon succeeds brilliantly.” –Claremont Review of Books

“Richly resonant. . . . Ancient history lives in this vivid chronicle.” –Booklist (starred review)

“A terrific read and a remarkable piece of scholarship. As an introduction to Roman history, it is unlikely to be bettered.” –Daily Mail

“Holland brings a novelist’s eye to the ancient republic’s collapse. . . . [He] also draws a fascinating portrait of the social life of Rome and the republic in the first century B.C. . . . Written with flair, wit and solid historical research, Rubicon is grand history and grandly entertaining.” –Flint Journal

“A vivid social portrait of the Roman world.” –Sunday Telegraph

Détails sur le produit

  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 3009 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 464 pages
  • Editeur : Abacus; Édition : New Ed (21 avril 2011)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ISBN-10: 034911563X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0349115634
  • ASIN: B004YD1RYM
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real enjoyment. I learned a lot. He made the ramans close and totally alien to us, altogether. Puzzling , captivating. I decided to purchase the other books from Holland.
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1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 "In truth nothing better illustrated the ambiguities of Rome than the fact that ... 20 mai 2017
Par daveyd - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché Achat vérifié
Chapter 1 is a well written descriptive of living and surviving, as an inhabitant of the republic of Rome; as a soldier of raised armies, of holding Sicily, and of legions conquering Spain's Carthage empire.
As page 16 narrates: "In truth nothing better illustrated the ambiguities of Rome than the fact that she was both the cleanest and the filthiest of cities."
The B.C. era was punctuated with endless wars, atrocities, betrayals, tortures, and brutalities against any and all opposing forces. Even hardened cynics would be challenged to define humanity as directly descended from any virtuous god. Military, political and social bellicosities were simmering behind the scenes of many conflicts in Greece and in Rome. Some war some where always seemed imminent. Disease must have been rampant, especially STD's; Germs had not yet been identified and sexual dalliances were prolific.
One example of the brutalities, butchery and carnage of the time is told in some detail on page 94 as a military conqueror reminded his audience in a Senate address that he was the favorite of the gods. As such he proceeded to massacre each of his war prisoners: "The massacre was total...corpses were dragged...flung into the Tiber, clogging the banks and bridges with pollution..."
The murder and desecration of the remains of renowned orator Marcus Antonius is detailed "as his body was fed to birds and dogs. His head was displayed in the Forum". Another example of how prisoners were disposed by their victors. Beheading was in vogue long before Islam become a contemporary focus.
Perhaps this book's most important message will be found on Preface page XVII: "...everything that happens in the world at any time has a genuine
resemblance to what happened in ancient times".
The author devotes most of his manuscript to historical plunders and events, reserving pages of Rubicon largely for metaphoric legend and interpretation. The other chapters, however, are filled with noteworthy names, and events, many familiar to readers, some not, such as Alexander the Great, Alexandria, Marcus Antonius, Mark Antony, Caesar Augustus, Marcus Brutus, Julius Caesar, Marcus Cicero, Cleopatra, Hannibal, Machiavelli, Octavian, Pompey. Ptolemy, Rufus Rutilius, Clodius, Sibyl Spartacus, Trojans, Venus, Vesuvius and many more.
Sometime in the 2nd century B.C. Gauls, and Romans, found something quite satisfying to both merchants and consumers: wine. A slave for one jar of wine. It became a big and lucrative market. Wine was more precious than gold to Gallic chieftains.
It as at this historic period that elites wanted more entertainment forums so they invented, developed, and parlayed gladiators into public spectacles. In the first century A.D. the colosseum was an amphitheater built in Rome to hold gladiator and other public events.
Rubicon is a book title in search of an identity. The word is found only a few times throughout some 400 pages. This sparsity, however, does not diminish the metaphorical power of river Rubicon. On page XIV of the preface Caesar decides to either surrender his command under existing law, or he could cross the Rubicon and risk the unknown consequences of engulfing the world into war and collapsing the Roman empire. Would he cross the Rubicon? The answer is to found on page XV of the Preface.
To this writer the word Rubicon has a certain mystery, a swagger attached to it, a blending of royalty, a foreboding, suspense, legends, and treasures.
Indubitably.
7 internautes sur 7 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Good book but not an entry-level read on the Romans 22 novembre 2015
Par Amazon Customer - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché Achat vérifié
Great book and packed with information, but I feel that to get the most out of it the reader must come with a more than passing level of knowledge about the time period. I found myself constantly looking to Wikipedia or some other source for background information or context for people and locations in the book.
3 internautes sur 3 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Fantastic, Critical, and Entertaining 4 octobre 2015
Par Frank S. Scalise - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché Achat vérifié
An excellent read on the lead up to Julius Caesar's fateful decision to cross the Rubicon, and of the events that immediately followed. Essentially, from Sulla's dictatorship to Augustus' victory. Holland explores the politics, but also the social elements in play, as well as the personalities of the men and women on this pivotal stage in Roman history.

Unlike some historians, Holland's prose is anything but dry. He captures the essence of what it meant to the Romans to be Roman, and what the motivations likely were for all of the involved parties as they played out this real human drama. Very well done!
1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 It reads more like an adventure novel than a book on history 3 juillet 2016
Par Dennis Mincey - Publié sur Amazon.com
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In this book, Holland does a marvelous job of taking the reader through not only what happened in @ the last 100 years of the republic as a real Roman state, but also what was going on in the minds of its principal actors in the process. History is a peculiar thing. It usually seeks only to tell what happened and who did it, and maybe why, but Holland has taken the admittedly risky tactic of taking the reader into the minds of the principal actors in a way that is refreshing and, in my opinion, fascinating and very much illustrative of what made Rome, Rome. It brings into sharp focus how the values and ethics (what there was of them) shaped the republic, and eventually wound up bringing it down. He does not take the stance of trying to instruct the reader, but allows the reader to see the reasonings at work on all sides. This, along with his writing style, make the book one you just don't want to put down. I read until 2:00 a.m. one night! It's a captivating tale, made all the moreso by Holland's writing style and his insights into the minds of the actors involved in every major event. It reads more like an adventure novel than a book on history!

It helped me understand why Christianity came along just when it did, and why the timing was so right for the world at that time. It makes Biblical stories more understandable when the motives and morals of the Romans are understood more fully. I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in Roman history, world history, politics, philosophy, and in Christianity. It's truly pregnant with insights, and easy to read and understand. I loved it!
4.0 étoiles sur 5 "Rubicon" covers all the key players and events in the ... 21 mai 2017
Par Timothy D. Allison - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Format Kindle Achat vérifié
"Rubicon" covers all the key players and events in the fall of the Roman Republic. It is written in a very readable and engaging manner, and Tom Holland does an admirable job bringing all of the characters to life. Since there are a lot of written sources of the time period, this is possible, but really what you get are Tom Holland's vividly portrayed perspective of the primary sources. Another historian almost undoubtedly views any number of the characters quite differently. Hopefully, "Rubicon" motivates you to read those sources yourself. I deducted one star because I found his writing a bit too hyperbolic, but then he is describing some of history's strongest characters.
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