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Rome's Revolution: Death of the…
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Rome's Revolution: Death of the Republic and Birth of the Empire…

by Richard Alston

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This book is a narrative of that period of Roman history between the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 BC and the death of Augustus and accession of Tiberius in 14 AD. It is an oft-told tale and the author does not specify what audience he has in mind. However, as he inserts elementary explanatory matter into his text (see for example p. 45 on the praetorship), I take it he has the undergraduate and possibly also the general reader in mind.

A number of issues merit separate comment. It is refreshing to discover that, contrary to what many believe, Caesar had no real notion what to do with the republic. On Augustus, too, Alston is good as he demonstrates that the emperor, when necessary, could be as ruthless as the triumvir. We all know that Augustus proceeded in a pragmatic fashion as he inserted himself into the republican system, but Alston demonstrates how precarious, at times, his position could be. We do need to remember, though, that he succeeded; here a comparison with Caligula might be useful. Augustus was circumspect, Caligula extravagant so that one died in his bed, the other was assassinated. Good, too, is Alston's treatment of the love-affairs of Augustus' daughter, Julia (pp. 321-325). Too often in this and similar cases, we meet with a magisterial dismissal, such as 'mere gossip' from those who have not weighed the evidence or taken account of curial life. But Alston is judicious and, rightly in my view, concludes that there is a basis of fact here. Less successful, perhaps, is his attempt to claim that his predecessors downplayed the violence of these years, although I, at least, would not quarrel with the notion that in the republic the nobility controlled the business of state, while under the empire they did so by one man's leave. Alston also likes to speak of the upper classes of Rome as forming a network. To me, this wears a somewhat anachronistic air, making the rulers of Rome sound like twenty-first century entrepreneurs or thrusting young academics. The excesses of some of its less skilled practitioners, together with changes in scholarly fashion, mean that prosopography is no longer utilised as much as it once was, but its proper application here would have served to highlight the nexus of relationships which bound the Roman military together. Alston also speaks of distribution of reserves. Perhaps 'patronage' might be a more appropriate term?
 
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0199739765, Hardcover)

On March 15th, 44 BC a group of senators stabbed Julius Caesar, the dictator of Rome. By his death, they hoped to restore Rome's Republic. Instead, they unleashed a revolution. By December of that year, Rome was plunged into a violent civil war. Three men--Mark Antony, Lepidus, and Octavian--emerged as leaders of a revolutionary regime, which crushed all opposition. In time, Lepidus was removed, Antony and Cleopatra were dispatched, and Octavian stood alone as sole ruler of Rome. He became Augustus, Rome's first emperor, and by the time of his death in AD 14 the 500-year-old republic was but a distant memory and the birth of one of history's greatest empires was complete.

Rome's Revolution provides a riveting narrative of this tumultuous period of change. Historian Richard Alston digs beneath the high politics of Cicero, Caesar, Antony, and Octavian to reveal the experience of the common Roman citizen and soldier. He portrays the revolution as the crisis of a brutally competitive society, both among the citizenry and among the ruling class whose legitimacy was under threat. Throughout, he sheds new light on the motivations that drove men to march on their capital city and slaughter their compatriots. He also shows the reasons behind and the immediate legacy of the awe inspiringly successful and ruthless reign of Emperor Augustus. An enthralling story of ancient warfare, social upheaval, and personal betrayal, Rome's Revolution offers an authoritative new account of an epoch which still haunts us today.

(retrieved from Amazon Fri, 17 Jul 2015 03:12:54 -0400)

"On March 15th, 44 BC a group of senators stabbed Julius Caesar, the dictator of Rome. By his death, they hoped to restore Rome's Republic. Instead, they unleashed a revolution. By December of that year, Rome was plunged into a violent civil war. Three men--Mark Antony, Lepidus, and Octavian--emerged as leaders of a revolutionary regime, which crushed all opposition. In time, Lepidus was removed, Antony and Cleopatra were dispatched, and Octavian stood alone as sole ruler of Rome. He became Augustus, Rome's first emperor, and by the time of his death in AD 14 the 500-year-old republic was but a distant memory and the birth of one of history's greatest empires was complete. Rome's Revolution provides a riveting narrative of this tumultuous period of change. Historian Richard Alston digs beneath the high politics of Cicero, Caesar, Antony, and Octavian to reveal the experience of the common Roman citizen and soldier. He portrays the revolution as the crisis of a brutally competitive society, both among the citizenry and among the ruling class whose legitimacy was under threat. Throughout, he sheds new light on the motivations that drove men to march on their capital city and slaughter their compatriots. He also shows the reasons behind and the immediate legacy of the awe inspiringly successful and ruthless reign of Emperor Augustus. An enthralling story of ancient warfare, social upheaval, and personal betrayal, Rome's Revolution offers an authoritative new account of an epoch which still haunts us today." -- Publisher's description.… (more)

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