By Tom Holland
Review by Alice (Classics)
When I started A Levels I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to do Economics at uni, which was a new and exciting subject for me, or stick with Classics, which was my favourite subject but one that I wasn’t sure would still interest me for another three or four years. This book single-handedly convinced me that Classics was the right choice. I hadn’t read very much at all about Greek or Roman history before, despite it being a big part of most Classics courses, but Rubicon proves that it is definitely worth doing not only to improve your knowledge for when you apply, but also to read amazing books like this one.
Rubicon covers the time period of 91-29 BC, during which the Roman Republic suffered from political scheming and civil war multiple times and was eventually replaced by the Roman Empire. The title refers to a river in the north of Italy which Julius Caesar crossed in 49 BC, starting the civil war, which led to him taking control of Rome and eventually famously being assassinated. Julius Caesar is just one of many well-known historical figures who appear in the book – Sulla, Pompey, Crassus, Cicero, Mark Antony and Octavian/Augustus, the first Roman Emperor, are all in there as well. If you are interested in this important and very famous period of Roman history (which appears on the syllabus of pretty much every Classics course), or any of these particular people, this book is definitely worth a read.
What really makes Rubicon so enjoyable is Tom Holland’s very approachable, fluid style of writing. He doesn’t go into deep analysis of his source material, so the book is very easy to read for a newcomer to history, and he writes in a narrative style that flows so well that you hardly notice his progression from one point to another. The result is a very vivid and entertaining book that gives you all the information you could want about this historical period if you’re applying and/or preparing for interview. I was asked a lot about Cicero in my interview because I wrote about him in my application, and Rubicon definitely came in handy when I was thinking of what to say!
If you want to read more about Roman and Greek history, Holland also wrote Dynasty, which is about the first Roman Emperors, and Persian Fire, which is about the Persian invasion of ancient Greece. I can’t recommend any of them enough – they’re all so much fun to read that I could hardly put them down!
Rubicon by Tom Holland