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The Storm Before the Storm: The Beginning of the End of the Roman Republic

4.26  ·  Rating details ·  1,936 Ratings  ·  270 Reviews
The Roman Republic was one of the most remarkable achievements in the history of civilization. After its founding in 509 BCE, Rome grew from an unremarkable Italian city-state to the dominant superpower of the Mediterranean world. Through it all, the Romans never allowed a single man to seize control of the state. Every year for four hundred years the annually elected cons ...more
Hardcover, 327 pages
Published October 24th 2017 by PublicAffairs
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Jul 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
We truly live in an amazing age when someone can go from releasing a podcast about history before people really knew what podcasts were (2007) to getting a book publishing deal on the subject. If you have not been clued into Mike Duncan's amazing Roman History podcast series The History of Rome or his current one on various Revolutions you are truly missing out on some of the best audio experiences out there (and for the low, low price of free). Ever since he announced he was getting a Roman His ...more
Margaret Sankey
Jul 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a solid popular history of the generation and a half before the First Triumvirate--the period from the Gracchi brothers to the death of Sulla, which is usually simplified in popular forms or skipped in order to get to Julius Caesar or Augustus. Instead, this is an easily digestible account of the Lex Agraria, the changes to the Roman military, the Roman involvement in the breaking down of the Hellenistic kingdoms in Asia Minor, ramifications of limiting or increasing voting, the triggers ...more
Hilary Scroggie
Aug 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
"These echoes could be mere coincidence, of course, but the great Greek biographer Plutarch certainly believed it possible that 'if, on the other hand, there is a limited number of elements from which events are interwoven, the same things must happen many times, being brought to pass by the same agencies."

"But this was an age when a lie was not a lie if a man had the audacity to keep asserting the lie was true."

I'm not nervous you're nervous.
Aug 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
*4.5 stars*

At the time, everyone thought that just one more push for their personal agenda would win the day. Collectively, they ended up pushing the republic over the edge.

Oh, I'm sorry. This is Ancient Rome, not modern America. But here is the story of the fall of a republic as it gallops towards oblivion. The threads of the constitution fray and fray and fray and snap as simple reform bills turn into battles for personal glory which turn into riots in the forum which turn into civil war.

Aside: In prepping for this review to liken it (negatively) to Dan Carlin's Hardcore History podcast on The Roman Republic, I noticed that all the HH podcasts that I had rated and reviewed were NO LONGER IN MY BOOKS. The book pages seem to have all been recreated on Dec 27th.

WTF, Goodreads!??!?! NOT COOL. This doesn't exactly encourage review-writing or even rating, you know. And if non-book items are going to be deleted, then let's get rid of the book pages for ONLINE FANFICTION. Arrgh.


Michael Perkins
Nov 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
The shocking story of the Oligarchy ruthlessly cracking down on populists Tribunes (considered traitors), who advocated for the poor and disenfranchised masses (via the Lex Agraria).

The next era would bring the rise of Caesar and the virtual elimination of the middle class, with the reduction of most of the Roman population to plebeian status.

I should note how the massive inequality came about in Rome. As Rome became more involved in foreign wars and defeated the likes of Carthage and other enem
Jan 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was an exceptionally well written and concise outline of the history of the Roman Republic from the period of the Gracchi brothers to the death of Lucius Sulla. The author did a masterful job of describing to the reader in an organized fashion the myriad of events, personalities and issues. The Roman Republic was an extremely bloody, dynamic and complicated place where political questions were often settled through assassination and war. It would be very easy for a reader to get lost especi ...more
Darcia Helle
Dec 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I am endlessly amazed at the amount of detail uncovered from events that took place more than 2,000 years ago. Mike Duncan managed to piece together an entire narrative, introducing us to the main players in a society whose climb to greatness seemed to be its undoing.

I've read a lot about this period of history, but Duncan's unique approach gave me a different perspective on the unraveling of the empire. While academic, in the sense that this is not light reading, Duncan's writing style is enjo
Oct 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The late Roman Republic is one of the most studied and most familiar periods of history. Even the average American - famously ignorant of history - could probably tell you what happened to Julius Caesar or the name of Cleopatra's lover (thanks in no small part to Shakespeare's plays). But there's surprisingly little attention paid to the period before Caesar, the events that set the stage for the fall of the Republic. Mike Duncan, host of the excellent History of Rome Podcast, takes a stab, writ ...more
Michael Burnam-Fink
Oct 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Everybody know the story of the Fall of the Roman Republic. Julius Caesar, Mark Antony, Cicero, Cato, Octavian, Brutus, civil war, assassination, the last grasp of liberty, and the foundation of both tyranny and centuries of peace and prosperity. Roman politics are a common metaphor for our own times. In The Storm Before the Storm, veteran history podcaster Mike Duncan (Revolutions, The History of Rome), writes about one of his favorite periods, the Roman Republic between the Second Punic War an ...more
Omar Ali
Mar 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
A relatively short (265 pages), fast paced and lively account of the Roman Republic from 146 BC (the fall of Carthage and Corinth) to 78 BC (the death of Sulla), covering the period in which the Republic saw major social upheaval, conflict and civil war and in which many of the constitutional checks and balances of the Republic fell by the wayside, setting the stage for the final overthrow of the Republic by Julius Ceasar and his grand nephew, Augustus Ceasar. Duncan makes the case that the decl ...more
Katie Lumsden
Apr 26, 2018 rated it liked it
An interesting look at certain parts of Roman history, but a little too narrative-driven for me. I found the audiobook hard to follow and concentrate on at times, but I still feel a learn a few new things.
Amanda Leon
Great, simple to understand and engaging
Nic Morgan
Oct 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved this book. While it's a great story about the civil war between Marius and Sulla, and the events that lead up to it, it's also presented masterfully as a case study in how the erosion of norms can create irreparable cracks in a political system. As norms and customs that form the bedrock of a system give way to crises and the expediency of the moment, norms are subsequently weakened, or worse, new a precedent is set and the unintended consequences ripple from there. There is a ...more
Andrew Glos
Mar 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
This is largely a reworking and polishing up of Mike Duncan's podcast, "The History of Rome". If you haven't heard this podcast, put your device down now and go subscribe to it and start listening to it. It's one of the best ever done. If you don't have a devise for podcasts or an app to listen to them, then go get one just so you can listen to his podcast. Yeah, it's just that good. Just do it. Seriously. Stop reading my review.

If you are still here, then I'll get back to m review. This book i
Zack Clemmons
Mar 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, classics
Exceptional, engaging history writing. Given my present occupation, I'm woefully inadequate when it comes to Roman history. Yet thus far, any attempts I've made to remedy my relative ignorance dead end in the tedium and obscurantism toward which so much classics writing tends. But Duncan, so far as I can tell, is a diligent classicist and a gifted writer. His podcast slowly but surely honed his storytelling skills, and this book successfully threads between the Scylla of historical treatment so ...more
Peter Mcloughlin
The Roman Republic wasn't destroyed in a day. It was a process. Starting around the time of the destruction of Carthage up to the prosciptions of Sulla or 133bcce. to about 80bce. Romes conquests with all the riches degraded the fabric of the Republic as ambitious men bit ripped apart the seams of their institutions in pursuit of glittery prizes of power. As money flowed into Rome the rich got richer and the poor got poorer which made a more desperate populace with less and less respect for inst ...more
Nov 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Been a big Mike Duncan fan for a long time, and this book does not disappoint. Very readable, about a period that generally gets the "Gracchi, Marius, Sulla, yada yada yada" treatment.

There's a little too much tick-tock of "and then X happened and then Y happened and then Z happened" and not quite enough analysis of WHY, or of the larger implications of the events. But that's a minor complaint, especially since the book is generally successfully largely because it doesn't try to do too much. The
Vincent Li
May 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
I was a little suspicious at first. I don't tend to trust people who wear vests in their bio photographs or are described as "one of the foremost history podcasters in the world." On the whole a well written book, though I'll parrot what some of the other reviewers have said, that by the end the center does not hold, and things fall apart.

The book is essentially a synthesis of the ancient sources (Polybius, Livy, Cicero, Plutarch, Sallust) on the period between the third Punic war and right bef
Rob Conner
Nov 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
So to start, I read this book for a very interesting reason. Normally I would have no need to read this book. I know enough about the beginning of the fall of the Republic from Roman History. I don't know if I would need to read about in a book that gives a cursory telling like this book does. However, I would say the REASON I know about this time period of History is because I am an avid fan of the History of Rome Podcast by Mike Duncan.

This reading was done as a fan of the Podcast and a suppo
Feb 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018-books
This is a history book that covers a period of Roman Republic from around 146 BC to 78 BC. This is the period after the Third Punic War when Rome finally defeated Carthage until close to the end of the Republic, with the rise of Julius Caesar, Pompey the Great and Crassus, before turning into The Roman Empire. One would learn about the times when the Gracchi brothers were making reforms, the feud between the Marius and Sulla and the great Civil War.

According to the author's note at the beginnin
James Banzer
Jan 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It's a bit embarrassing to admit that in 75 years of lifetime, I've given scant effort to comprehending the period of the Roman Republic. I know I'm not alone in turning my back on much of this ancient history. The Storm Before the Storm provided me with an excellent outline of a sliver of the very last part of the b.c. time frame. It's a wonderful introduction to fascinating rulers and numerous wars..

Mike Duncan presents a wide array of very clever and interesting rulers of the time. As indicat
Jan 05, 2018 is currently reading it
The Lawfare podcast interviewed the author, and asked him to compare and contrast the subject of his book with the current United States situation, as well as a sampling of other "storms before" that did or did not lead to critical "storms".

The podcast blurb:
Political polarization, inequality, and corruption during the period 146 to 78 BC gravely weakened the Roman Republic in the years before its collapse. In his new book The Storm Before the Storm: The Beginning of the End of the Late Republic
Aaron Berkowitz
Oct 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful Popular History of an Often Ignored Era

This is a very readable and well done popular history of the first half of the Late Roman Republic, covering the period from the Gracchi to the death of Sulla, roughly 133-78 BC. The fall of the Roman Republic is a well known subject, but this volume focuses on the events that generally form the introductions to other popular accounts which tend to focus primarily on figures like Marcus Cicero and Julius Caesar. Instead, we get a comprehensive ove
Oct 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
It occurs to me that I’ve spent a lot of years waiting for Mike Duncan’s next episode. He was only at 10 or 11 episodes of The History Of Rome when someone, maybe Mefi or reddit, let me know what he was doing. I caught up that night and since then it’s been the first thing I listen to as I leave work every release day.

Lot of hours spent listening to him.

A large chunk of the appeal his Duncan’s editorial voice. I’ve listened to other history podcasts and none has really stuck. But his approach t
Mar 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a delightfully casual read about the period "before" the end of the Roman Republic. There are plenty of books on the end of the Republic, but this book does a great job of explaining events leading up to the period of Cicero, Pompey, Crassus, Caesar, Antony, Augustus and all those other household names.

The book is was a great refresher on the period and highlights the Gracchi, Marius, Sulla--- and even brings in how the Punic Wars started the "Beginning of the End". Of course, we have s
Apr 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
A history of the Roman republic from the Graciian brothers to Sullist. This time in Romes history gets far less attention than its sexier parts like founding,the Triumvirates, etc. but is crucial to understanding the rise of Ceasear as well as the fall of the republic.

This book was engaging and interesting throughout and it doesn't take a genius to be able to see the parallels or more accurately the shadows of the parallels between this period in Roman history and modern happening in the US and
Josh Derrick
Nov 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: worlds-that-were
My internal monolouge of reading this book was in Mike Duncan's voice. And that enough made this book extremely enjoyable for me.

In terms of content: what an eye opening read. The world of Rome is very different, but also so very similar to our own.It really is a shame that Marius, Sulla and the Gracchi brothers are overshadowed by the events that occurred half a century later. Duncan made these characters come to life, and although this book is not really long enough to delve into great detail
Dec 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Duncan's conversational tone and injection of humor make this an incredibly accessible book. Most interesting is the focus on political machinations over military engagements. While the battles are still covered (And it would be hard not to, Rome could not get enough of war in the first and second century BCE), he always comes back to the workings of the senate.

Duncan also matches the Great Man history that usually follows Rome with the greater social forces at work. And while Great Man history
Ben Stack
Feb 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wonderfully dense story

It took me ages to read this because it is so densely packed with information. I would become exhausted and fall asleep (I read in bed at night) I normally read light fiction or fantasy. I really enjoyed this epic. It s narrated in a similar voice to the podcasts. I would at times hear Duncan in my head while reading! Okay I'm gushing a little. I really enjoyed this book.
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Mike Duncan is one of the foremost history podcasters in the world. His award-winning series The History of Rome set the gold standard for episodic narrative history and inspired a generation of listeners. His current series Revolutions explores the great political revolutions of history and is one of the most popular history podcasts in the world.

Duncan's first book The Storm Before the Storm: T
More about Mike Duncan
“But as he stood watching Carthage burn, Scipio reflected on the fate of this once great power. Overcome with emotion, he cried. His friend and mentor Polybius approached and asked why Scipio was crying.

"A glorious moment, Polybiius; but I have a dread foreboding that some day the same doom will be pronounced on my own country." Scipio then quoted a line from Homer: "A day will come when sacred Troy shall perish, And Priam and his people shall be slain."

Scipio knew that no power endures indefinitely, that all empires must fall.”
“Thieves of private property pass their lives in chains; thieves of public property in riches and luxury.” 2 likes
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