Thursday, February 10, 2005

Rubicon, by Tom Holland

The subtitle of this book - The Last Years of the Roman Republic - was enough to get me to pick it up off the library's shelf and take it home.

Author Tom Holland writes with a good dose of good humour about the fall and decline of democratic Rome into dictatorship and utter political disarray. His juicy asides and penchant for gossip provide the reader with much to lick their lips with. Along with the main narrative of political skulduggery and intrigue, we are provided with portraits of comics and drag queens, pithy street slang and gossip.

There are many parallels to today's USA. This quote sums up much:

'Enthusiasts for empire argued that Rome had a civilising mission; that because her values and institutions were self evidently superior to those of barbarians, she had a duty to propagate them; that only once the whole globe had been subjected to her rule could there be a universal peace. Morality had not merely caught up with the brute fact of imperial expansion, but wanted more.'

This history and its witty narrative has whetted my appetite for more, especially after reading some of the quotes from Cicero. One I particularly remember ran something like this, It is disturbing how so many men who have great talent and ability also have an endless lust for power.

Then there is this from Cicero, on the last page:

'The fruit of too much liberty is slavery.'

A cautionary tale indeed.

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