Review: The Storm Before the Storm

The Storm Before the Storm: The Beginning of the End of the Roman RepublicThe Storm Before the Storm: The Beginning of the End of the Roman Republic by Mike Duncan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was first introduced to the work of Mike Duncan through his well-known podcast The History of Rome which was sent my way by a friend who thought I might be interested in listening to it. I was and did, and am so glad that I did. Duncan subsequently moved on to another podcast series entitled Revolutions which I am slowly catching up on the back episodes.

The Storm Before the Storm is Duncan’s first book and is written in a style that is immediately recognisable to those followers of his podcasts. The phrasing of his narrative, and the way he approaches his subject matter, is immediately translatable from the spoken word to the written word, and I kept hearing his voice, a voice I am very familiar with, echoing in my head as I worked my way through this book.

The subject matter is one with which Duncan is very familiar, and while limited to the immediate period up to and including the dictatorship of Lucius Cornelius Sulla, this book is a well-researched and very well-written tome on Roman history written by someone who has a very clear love for and understanding of Rome and its history.

From the dust jacket:

The Roman Republic was one of the most remarkable achievements in the history of civilization. Beginning as a small city-state in central Italy, Rome gradually expanded into a wider world filled with petty tyrants, barbarian chieftains, and despotic kings. Through the centuries, Rome’s model of cooperative and participatory government remained remarkably durable and unmatched in the history of the ancient world.

In 146 BC, Rome finally emerged as the strongest power in the Mediterranean. But the very success of the Republic proved to be its undoing. The republican system was unable to cope with the vast empire Rome now ruled: rising economic inequality disrupted traditional ways of life, endemic social and ethnic prejudice led to clashes over citizenship and voting rights, and rampant corruption and ruthless ambition sparked violent political clashes that cracked the one indestructible foundations of the Republic.

Chronicling the years 146-78 BC, The Storm Before the Storm dives headlong into the first generation to face their treacherous new political environment. Abandoning the ancient principles of the forbearers, men like Marius, Sulla, and the Gracchi brothers set dangerous new precedents that would start the Republic on the road to destruction and provide a stark warning about what can happen to a civilization that has lost its way.

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