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A new history of the Roman Republic and its collapse In Mortal Republic, prizewinning historian Edward J. Watts offers a new history of the fall of the Roman Republic that explains why Rome exchanged freedom for autocracy. For centuries, even as Rome grew into the Mediterranean's premier military and political power, its governing institutions, parliamentary rules, and pol A new history of the Roman Republic and its collapse In Mortal Republic, prizewinning historian Edward J. Watts offers a new history of the fall of the Roman Republic that explains why Rome exchanged freedom for autocracy. For centuries, even as Rome grew into the Mediterranean's premier military and political power, its governing institutions, parliamentary rules, and political customs successfully fostered negotiation and compromise. By the 130s BC, however, Rome's leaders increasingly used these same tools to cynically pursue individual gain and obstruct their opponents. As the center decayed and dysfunction grew, arguments between politicians gave way to political violence in the streets. The stage was set for destructive civil wars--and ultimately the imperial reign of Augustus. The death of Rome's Republic was not inevitable. In Mortal Republic, Watts shows it died because it was allowed to, from thousands of small wounds inflicted by Romans who assumed that it would last forever.


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A new history of the Roman Republic and its collapse In Mortal Republic, prizewinning historian Edward J. Watts offers a new history of the fall of the Roman Republic that explains why Rome exchanged freedom for autocracy. For centuries, even as Rome grew into the Mediterranean's premier military and political power, its governing institutions, parliamentary rules, and pol A new history of the Roman Republic and its collapse In Mortal Republic, prizewinning historian Edward J. Watts offers a new history of the fall of the Roman Republic that explains why Rome exchanged freedom for autocracy. For centuries, even as Rome grew into the Mediterranean's premier military and political power, its governing institutions, parliamentary rules, and political customs successfully fostered negotiation and compromise. By the 130s BC, however, Rome's leaders increasingly used these same tools to cynically pursue individual gain and obstruct their opponents. As the center decayed and dysfunction grew, arguments between politicians gave way to political violence in the streets. The stage was set for destructive civil wars--and ultimately the imperial reign of Augustus. The death of Rome's Republic was not inevitable. In Mortal Republic, Watts shows it died because it was allowed to, from thousands of small wounds inflicted by Romans who assumed that it would last forever.

30 review for Mortal Republic: How Rome Fell into Tyranny

  1. 4 out of 5

    Sumit RK

    "No Republic is eternal. It lives only as long as its citizens want it.” In Mortal Republic, historian Edward J. Watts offers a new history of the fall of the Roman Republic that explains the collapse of democracy in the Republic and the rise of an autocratic Roman Empire. At its peak, Rome was the world’s only democratic power of its time. Its governing institutions, parliamentary rules, and political customs successfully fostered negotiation and compromise. Rome judged each man’s by his m "No Republic is eternal. It lives only as long as its citizens want it.” In Mortal Republic, historian Edward J. Watts offers a new history of the fall of the Roman Republic that explains the collapse of democracy in the Republic and the rise of an autocratic Roman Empire. At its peak, Rome was the world’s only democratic power of its time. Its governing institutions, parliamentary rules, and political customs successfully fostered negotiation and compromise. Rome judged each man’s by his merit and service to the roman state as repaid with honor. By the 130 BC, however, Rome's leaders began increasingly pursuing individual gain and obstruct their opponents. As the dysfunction grew, arguments between politicians gave way to political violence in the streets. Roman politics became a zero-sum game in which the winner reaped massive rewards and losers often paid with their lives. The stage was set for destructive civil wars--and ultimately the imperial reign of Augustus. The book offers a highly detailed political history of Rome. Mortal Republic covers a period of roughly 300 years From the 280 BC and 27 BC, from the victory of Rome in the Second Pyrrhic War to Octavian seizing complete power and marking the end of the Roman Republic. This is not a military history but rather the political history of Rome and rulers of that time and detailing the events occurred and how it affected the Republic. From the opponents of Tiberius Gracchus who legitimized violence against political opponents to Sulla's using Roman army against it’s own citizens to Caesar usurping all power, Roman Republic died bit by bit every time a political procedure was misused or political opponents were intimidated. The death became inevitable when ordinary citizens either supported or refused to condemn people like Sulla, Marius, Ceaser and Augustus who destroyed the democratic institutions bit by bit. Ultimately the Republic died, from thousands of small wounds inflicted by Romans who assumed that it would last forever. Unlike most historical books, this book aims to educate the readers without overwhelming them with facts, dates & jargon. The writing was excellent and the narration is free-flowing. But where the book succeeds the most, is that is makes you introspect about the striking similarities between the political situation in the Roman Republic then and the political situation in most democracies now. The Roman republic teaches the citizens of its modern descendants the incredible dangers that come along with condoning political obstruction and courting political violence. It could not more show that when citizens look away as their leaders engage in these corrosive behaviors, their republic is in mortal danger. Unpunished dysfunction prevents consensus and encourages violence. In Rome, it eventually led Romans to trade their republic for the security of an autocracy, This Is how a republic dies. As citizens, are were condoning political obstruction and courting political violence? Has the political divide now become so wide, that we have abandoned all attempts at building a consensus? Are we destroying the democracy we cherish by our stubbornness, whichever side of the political divide you may be. In the end the book leaves you with a grim reminder: A Republic is a thing to be cherished and protected. If it fails, an uncertain and dangerous future awaits on the other side. Many thanks to NetGalley and Basic Books and the author for this ARC.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Michael Perkins

    I've already read two excellent books on this topic, "Rubicon: The Last Years of the Roman Republic" by Tom Holland and "The Storm Before the Storm: The Beginning of the End of the Roman Republic," by Mike Duncan. So I'm treating "Mortal Republic" as a refresher. But if you are reading about this topic for the first time, or the first time in a long time, I recommend comparing this book with the two books linked below. ================= "But there was a real long-term cost Romans paid for the stab I've already read two excellent books on this topic, "Rubicon: The Last Years of the Roman Republic" by Tom Holland and "The Storm Before the Storm: The Beginning of the End of the Roman Republic," by Mike Duncan. So I'm treating "Mortal Republic" as a refresher. But if you are reading about this topic for the first time, or the first time in a long time, I recommend comparing this book with the two books linked below. ================= "But there was a real long-term cost Romans paid for the stability of Augustus’s empire. The Roman Empire of Augustus ensured peace and stability under good emperors— and Rome would have many such emperors. But it lacked the capacity to prevent cruel or mentally unstable autocrats such as Caligula, Nero, and Commodus from taking the lives and property of Romans simply because they wanted to do so. In moments like those, Romans such as Plutarch and Cassius Dio looked back on the Republic with a sort of nostalgia that celebrated a type of liberty that they had collectively lost— and which Augustus had ensured could never return...... Rome’s republic, then, died because it was allowed to. Its death was not inevitable. It could have been avoided. Over the course of a century, thousands of average men, talented men, and middling men all willingly undercut the power of the Republic to restrict and channel the ambitions of the individual, doing so in the interest of their own shortsighted gains, die. When citizens take the health and durability of their republic for granted, that republic is at risk." Interview with the author.... https://www.vox.com/2019/1/1/18139787... ============ https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/9... https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3...

  3. 4 out of 5

    Arybo ✨

    The past is no Oracle and historians are not prophets, but this does not mean that it is wrong to look to antiquity for help understanding the present. This was intense. No republic is eternal. It lives only as long as its citizens want it. As soon as I finished the book I thought it would be a labor of Hercules to make a comprehensive review, especially because the book is exhaustive in itself. Romans had avoided political violence for three centuries before a series of political murders rocked The past is no Oracle and historians are not prophets, but this does not mean that it is wrong to look to antiquity for help understanding the present. This was intense. No republic is eternal. It lives only as long as its citizens want it. As soon as I finished the book I thought it would be a labor of Hercules to make a comprehensive review, especially because the book is exhaustive in itself. Romans had avoided political violence for three centuries before a series of political murders rocked the republic in the 130s and 120s BC. I will give a speech that, in my mind, seems coherent enough. First fact: this book is really well done. It has numerous sources, has a large bibliography, a large number of notes and more informations to the text. Second fact: while maintaining the chronological order of events, the author analyzes them, compares them to each other and compares them to the events of the future and the past, as to give a true examination of history. Third fact: the book is divided into sections, chapters, which mark the various degrees of transition between the Republic and what will then be called empire. It takes into consideration a large number of facts, going specifically to each of them, studying them with a magnifying glass. To do this, the author based his work on direct and indirect sources. The direct sources, as I call them, are the commentaries and the things written by the contemporaries to the events. The indirect sources, however, on the other hand, are biographies and monographs presented by authors who live in years away from the events. It is important to underline that the author always reports when he takes the information from authors who lived a century later or more than the events he narrates. Fourth fact: Roman history is always fascinating, full of intrigues and struggles. Unfortunately, it is precisely because of these intrigues and struggles that the Roman republic has fallen. The author does an excellent job in studying the causes and consequences of the actions of politicians, commanders and senators. Fifth fact: The main hypothesis of this book is that the republic has fallen due to numerous exceptions to the idea of ​​the Republic, the res publica, which means “common thing”. Individualisms have won over the importance of the community and the common good. I can only share this vision. Sixth fact: the book takes into consideration a great period of time. It speaks in depth of the Punic Wars, of the Italic wars, of the social and civil wars. It speaks of personalities who have entered world history, such as Sulla, Marius, Cicero, Ceasar, but also Fabritius and Scipio, or Crassus, Lepidus, Brutus, Catilina. The author has succeeded in not making the whole book seem like a great boring speech, indeed it has made the reading interesting and compelling, adding facts and historical curiosities (or at least shared the ones by ancient historians). Seventh fact: as a lover of the period between the first century before Christ and the first century after Christ, I can say that this section of the book is really well done. Exciting and full of interesting notions. And now we come to the only negative think: the beginning is slow. The whole part of the Punic Wars seemed to me slow and heavy, but this may also depend on my singular extraneousness to the facts of that period. Equipped with images and maps, this book is even better than the one on which I studied Roman history at university. This, said by a student from Rome, means a lot. Congratulations to the author for doing this immense work, well orchestrated and well organized, engaging and rewarding. My brain thanks. I would recommend this book in universities and schools, precisely for its completeness. *Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher For sending me a free digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

  4. 5 out of 5

    Faith

    This is an interesting overview of the history of the Roman republic. It might be useful for a high school or college class. However, given the length of the period covered, and the brevity of the book, there is a lot of detail omitted. The introduction to the book led me to believe that there would be some comparisons drawn between the collapse of the republic and current events. However, there is none of that analysis in this book. I found the narrator of the audio book to be overly dramatic, This is an interesting overview of the history of the Roman republic. It might be useful for a high school or college class. However, given the length of the period covered, and the brevity of the book, there is a lot of detail omitted. The introduction to the book led me to believe that there would be some comparisons drawn between the collapse of the republic and current events. However, there is none of that analysis in this book. I found the narrator of the audio book to be overly dramatic, especially at the beginning of the book. I’ve rounded 3.5 stars up to 4. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Karl

    I have this scene playing in my head of some book publisher checking his Twitter in 2018 and declaring “Books about the fall of republics are hot right now! Get me a Roman historian.” This book promises an analysis and description of the violent end of the Roman Republic, an always worthy and interesting subject. My complaint then is that the author provides little analysis and the description is too high level for the reader to draw their own conclusions. In fact, it is hard to figure out who t I have this scene playing in my head of some book publisher checking his Twitter in 2018 and declaring “Books about the fall of republics are hot right now! Get me a Roman historian.” This book promises an analysis and description of the violent end of the Roman Republic, an always worthy and interesting subject. My complaint then is that the author provides little analysis and the description is too high level for the reader to draw their own conclusions. In fact, it is hard to figure out who the intended audience for this book is. This is a short book to cover the period from 264BC to AD17, and necessarily leaves a lot out, but the nuances are necessary for the subject matter here. Edward Watts talks about the events of the Jugurthine War in passing. He mentions how Gaius Marius had undercut the commanding general Quintus Metellus, but he does not convey its significance, or how that places Marius on the political landscape. Watts mentions Sulla’s proximity to the capture of Jugurtha, but not how Sulla’s attempt to exploit that for political advantage alienates him from Marius, and ultimately contributes to alienating Marius from the nobiles. The Cimbrian invasion gets only a few short paragraphs. Watts mentions the purges following Sulla’s second march on Rome, but he does not convey the terror of a daily list of purged citizens being nailed to the rostrum every morning, and just how deeply it scarred Roman politics going forward. There is no description of the rampant alienation and cynicism of the post-Sulla generation, a generation often remarked to be different in the dress, attitudes, mores, and manners from their more stoic and earnest ancestors. He talks of Pompeii’s conquests in the east, but he never explains what they are. A reader does not feel just how exhausted the Roman and Italian people were with politics and war by the start of the 40’s B.C., and yet unmentioned is the way the Roman people groaned (so Appian tells us) when they saw the depictions of Lucius Scipio and Cato the Younger in Caesar’s triumph of the African campaign. A reader may miss the idea that this is a people who may have loved the Republic, loved its ideals of liberty and honor, and yet rationally chose the dictatorship of Caesar. The best authors on this subject make it clear to their readers that they would probably make the same bargain in similar circumstances today. Maybe this book is intended for readers who are already familiar with the subject and are looking to draw lessons from an analysis of the period. Except there is no analysis in this book aside from a few unsupported assertions. If most of history is accident, some is trend, and a tiny bit is law, then an author needs to step out of the historical narrative long enough to make comparisons with other times and places to figure out which is which. This telling of the fall of the Republic sticks strictly to a birds-eye-view of events and Watts does not discuss which facts of the story fall into which category. It would be wrong to say that there is no commentary contained in the book, but if it were all condensed, it would probably fill no more than a page or two and does not take the form of rigorous argumentation. The singular comparison to the modern world is offered as a bromide in the last paragraph of the book: “When citizens take the health and durability of their republic for granted, that republic is at risk. This was true in 133BC or 82BC or 44 BC as it is an AD 2108. In ancient Rome and in the modern world, a republic is a thing to be cherished, protected, and respected. If it falls, an uncertain dangerous, and destructive future lies on the other side.” Before I sound too negative, there are a few things that are very interesting in this book. Edward Watts is clearly a knowledgeable professional historian who has a great depth and familiarity with this subject, and his characterizations of events that he glosses over demonstrate his understanding of subjects he chooses not to write about. Watts spends more time talking about the economics of the republic than other authors and discusses the effects of the currency and credit markets at different points in its history. He also relies upon archeological evidence to correct some of the exaggerations of the ancient historians, for instance that the countryside had become totally dominated by rich landowners by the 140’s BC, as he points out that the demographic trends and migration patterns strongly suggest that the diminishing fortunes of the family farmer resulted from same amount of land was being divided among more and more children every generation. I would be very interested in reading some of his more focused and scholarly works. In short: This is not the best book on the subject.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    This is a interesting book — one with a very relevant message.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Marks54

    There is an often repeated saying attributed to Mark Twain but probably apocryphal that “history doesn’t repeat itself but it does rhyme” - or something like that. The author is a senior history professor at Cal-San Diego who has written an account of the death of the Roman Republic and the rise of the Roman Empire with the death of Julius Caesar and the rise of Augustus as emperor. The story is an old one that is often told. I first ran into it watching “I Claudius” on public television. Watts p There is an often repeated saying attributed to Mark Twain but probably apocryphal that “history doesn’t repeat itself but it does rhyme” - or something like that. The author is a senior history professor at Cal-San Diego who has written an account of the death of the Roman Republic and the rise of the Roman Empire with the death of Julius Caesar and the rise of Augustus as emperor. The story is an old one that is often told. I first ran into it watching “I Claudius” on public television. Watts puts a particular spin on the story, however, and that is what makes this book worth reading. Shortly after the ascent of Augustus, the empire suffered a string of terrible calamities in 22 BCE that were comparable to or surpassed the traumas of the recently completed civil war. In response, the people of the empire did not demand a return to the Republic and repudiate the recent death of the Republic and the installation of autocracy. On the contrary, the response was to lament that Augustus needed more titles and more power and that the salvation of the people was to be found in the empire. The question motivating the story is how did the Republic come to die unloved and its place be taken by the Empire, to which the people of Rome submitted? How did that unfortunate series of events come about? The story is thus one of how the Republic worked when it was working - who had responsibility, how were decisions made, how was accountability exercised, and how were excesses addressed? Then the historical account becomes how the republican model failed, what went wrong and when, what was the time line that prepared the way for the Civil War and the death of the Republic? It is a great story and readers who do not know it should learn if they are able. The punchline, of course, is the current state of democracy in the West in the mid-2010s - you know, Trump, Brexit, Putin, Poland, populism, and the lot of it. Those who fail to learn from the past ... While I grant the similarities with Rome, the differences are also there and the Europeans at least have lots of experience with what can go wrong with democracy. The same with the US. Still the story is a good one and the author, even if preaching, does his preaching well. This is a fine book.

  8. 4 out of 5

    raffaela

    Another of WORLD's recommendations. Watts gives a succinct, well-paced play-by-play of how the Roman Republic gradually deteriorated as power-hungry men, made wealthy by Rome's conquests, stretched the bounds of the law for their personal benefit. Eventually, the frayed Republic came to be at the mercy of such men, and the civil wars fought in the 100s BC were more a question of who would become tyrant rather than whether the republic could survive. The details of that broad timeline are fascina Another of WORLD's recommendations. Watts gives a succinct, well-paced play-by-play of how the Roman Republic gradually deteriorated as power-hungry men, made wealthy by Rome's conquests, stretched the bounds of the law for their personal benefit. Eventually, the frayed Republic came to be at the mercy of such men, and the civil wars fought in the 100s BC were more a question of who would become tyrant rather than whether the republic could survive. The details of that broad timeline are fascinating, and Watts does an excellent job at telling the story. The only caveat I'd give is that the reader needs to have a broad idea of Rome's history, as that makes the flow of the book easier to understand and puts events in context.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Sourbh Bhadane

    When citizens take the health and durability of their republic for granted, that republic is at risk. This book narrates the downfall of the Roman Republic. As one would expect, this didn't happen all of a sudden. Through an easy-to-follow and brief sequence of events, Watts walks us through how the Roman Republic showed signs of corrosion much earlier than its actual downfall. Like any good history book, he lays more emphasis on implications rather than lengthy battle descriptions. Given that When citizens take the health and durability of their republic for granted, that republic is at risk. This book narrates the downfall of the Roman Republic. As one would expect, this didn't happen all of a sudden. Through an easy-to-follow and brief sequence of events, Watts walks us through how the Roman Republic showed signs of corrosion much earlier than its actual downfall. Like any good history book, he lays more emphasis on implications rather than lengthy battle descriptions. Given that the book was published 2 years into Trump's presidency, there's no escaping comparisons with the current state of affairs. At the same time, the fact that we are in a radically different time where structures of modern Republics are more refined can make comparisons seem unfair at first glance. But I'd still argue that there are plenty of lessons that the story of the Roman Republic teaches us that might seem obvious, but are still not ingrained within us. The biggest that I took away is to not take the immortality of the Republic for granted, and to strive, as Watts puts it, "to cherish, protect and respect the Republic".

  10. 4 out of 5

    David

    Available as a 10.5 hour audio download. If possible, get the version with an accompanying .pdf which has helpful maps and pictures.The republic did not need to die. A republic is not an organism. It has no natural life span. It lives or dies soley on the basis of choices made by those in charge of its custody.The audiobook has an especially touching and dramatic few minutes, including the quote above, and also states plainly that those standing by and doing nothing in the face of corruption and Available as a 10.5 hour audio download. If possible, get the version with an accompanying .pdf which has helpful maps and pictures.The republic did not need to die. A republic is not an organism. It has no natural life span. It lives or dies soley on the basis of choices made by those in charge of its custody.The audiobook has an especially touching and dramatic few minutes, including the quote above, and also states plainly that those standing by and doing nothing in the face of corruption and abuse of power are also responsible of their own loss of liberty. On a practical level, the many names of politicians and places go zooming by pretty fast in this narrative, so I think that this audio book might be better for a long drive or two, rather than a few minutes here and there, as I did. Still, very moving and very informative.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Shoshana

    What a fascinating and timely book this is. This is the history of how the Roman Republic transmuted into an autocracy; going from an austere, honor-driven, consensus based society to an unimaginably wealthy oligarchy which rested on the shoulders of one man. Well-written and beautifully flowing, this is a hard book to put down. Watts describes the early Republic, with its interlocking system of mutual responsibility, where the most sought after goods; that is, honors and public acclaim, were the What a fascinating and timely book this is. This is the history of how the Roman Republic transmuted into an autocracy; going from an austere, honor-driven, consensus based society to an unimaginably wealthy oligarchy which rested on the shoulders of one man. Well-written and beautifully flowing, this is a hard book to put down. Watts describes the early Republic, with its interlocking system of mutual responsibility, where the most sought after goods; that is, honors and public acclaim, were the prerogative of the state. Individual wealth did not bring prestige, although it undoubtedly made people’s lives comfortable. He also makes clear that Rome was a regional power until the time of the Second Punic War. In order to defend itself from Carthage, and its greatest general, Hannibal, Rome had to recast itself, and in doing so the seeds of its destruction were planted. As time goes along, Watts shows us the cracks in the Republic. Because the Roman polity was based on tradition and especially consensus, eventually there were men who decided to advance themselves by breaking the consensus and promoting violence in order to get their way. This led to crisis upon crisis, and eventually to civil war. The outward forms of the Republic remained, but inwardly the system of government was hollow and led, almost inevitably, to Augustus and autocracy. I found this book to be thought provoking and a bit frightening. The parallels between our own time and the destruction of the Republic are far too close for comfort. We have as our leader a man who also refuses to accept the norms of our society and government, who lies incessantly, who proclaims that he alone can fix our problems, although he is the source of many of them, who provokes violence to get his own way, and who appeals to the mob in order to force his decisions on the rest of us. The Roman Republic was not sturdy enough to withstand the selfishness of greedy men, will the American Republic be strong enough to withstand Donald Trump? My one real criticism of this book is the use of the now somewhat dated “BC” instead of the more inclusive “BCE,” which stands for Before the Common Era. It has always seemed sort of silly to me to describe ancient societies as Before Christ, when those societies existed in their own time. For those who are interested, the use of “AD,” Anno Domini, or In the Year of Our Lord, is likewise anachronistic and should be replaced with “CE,” meaning Common Era. I recommend this book to anyone interested in Roman history, or indeed, to anyone who is worried about the fate of Western Civilization. I received an ARC from the publisher and NetGalley for my honest opinion.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Gordon

    The Roman Republic, an imperfect sort of democracy, collapsed amid civil war as the armies of competing members of a failed triumvirate battled it out. The victor was the nephew and adopted son of Julius Caesar, Octavian. As the only man left standing after his defeated fellow autocrat, Marc Antony, committed suicide along with Queen Cleopatra, Octavian returned to Rome with his armies and settled in as dictator for life. This status was eventually formalized when the Roman Senate bestowed the t The Roman Republic, an imperfect sort of democracy, collapsed amid civil war as the armies of competing members of a failed triumvirate battled it out. The victor was the nephew and adopted son of Julius Caesar, Octavian. As the only man left standing after his defeated fellow autocrat, Marc Antony, committed suicide along with Queen Cleopatra, Octavian returned to Rome with his armies and settled in as dictator for life. This status was eventually formalized when the Roman Senate bestowed the title of "Augustus" on him, and he became the first Roman Emperor, ruling to great old age. And so ended 500 years of the Roman Republic. It was a long slow slide, taking the better part of two hundred years. Arguably, one of the key factors that started the decline was Rome's victory in the Second Punic War, when the Romans finally defeated the great Carthaginian general Hannibal. Yes, the one who crossed with the Alps into Italy with his elephants and his army, and then proceeded to humiliate the Romans in a series of crushing victories, even when greatly outnumbered. But it proved to be the Romans who had the greater staying power, eventually taking the war to the Carthaginian homeland in North Africa where Hannibal's military genius finally deserted him and he lost the decisive battle of Zama to another great general, the Roman, Scipio Africanus. When the Punic Wars began, Rome was a small regional power, whose borders did not even include all of present day Italy. By the time the wars ended some decades later, Rome's territories extended from Portugal to the Middle East, and all around the entire Mediterranean. What had been a country with a small citizen army had become an empire in all but name, with a huge standing army, much of which was no longer loyal to the Republic but to the individual commanders who led its forces. The civil-military balance was forever undermined, and increasingly it was military commanders who imposed their will on the governing institutions of Rome, and not the other way around. The first Roman general to defy the Senate and bring his army into Rome itself, where Romans killed fellow Romans, was Sulla. He proceeded for the remainder of his rule to slaughter his opponents, reward his friends with the spoils of kleptocracy, and trample on the old institutions of Rome. He was the first of many. If this book holds any lessons for today, it is that liberty depends on institutions of government, on the rule of law, and on holding political violence in check. When violence and the threat of violence came to be legitimized as a means of seizing political power, when governing came to be seen as the means to self-enrichment, when the political class could be bought and sold, and when the traditions of republicanism and rule of law were increasingly ignored, the Roman Republic fell. It wasn't barbarian invaders who finished off the republic; it was the Romans themselves who did the deed.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Paige McLoughlin

    I read this in 2018 and it was highly relevant then and is even more relevant since. The founders had an eye as the Roman Republic as a model when building our institutions. I fear we may be recapitulating its demise. Street violence, ambitious strong men, an old story about how republics are done in. Anyway, historical understanding even of remote times and places can shed light on our own times. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=-ZAPm8c... I read this in 2018 and it was highly relevant then and is even more relevant since. The founders had an eye as the Roman Republic as a model when building our institutions. I fear we may be recapitulating its demise. Street violence, ambitious strong men, an old story about how republics are done in. Anyway, historical understanding even of remote times and places can shed light on our own times. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=-ZAPm8c...

  14. 5 out of 5

    Casey

    A good book, providing a history of the decline and eventual fall of the Roman Republic and its rebirth as the Principate. The first few chapters provide a great, but rushed, overview of the workings of the Republic and its initial success. Unlike Mike Duncan’s book on the same topic, “Storm Before the Storm”, Professor Watts in this book rushes through the dynamic 2nd Century and really starts in detail with Marius’ Civil Wars at the start of the 1st Century. Though the chaotic reform attempts A good book, providing a history of the decline and eventual fall of the Roman Republic and its rebirth as the Principate. The first few chapters provide a great, but rushed, overview of the workings of the Republic and its initial success. Unlike Mike Duncan’s book on the same topic, “Storm Before the Storm”, Professor Watts in this book rushes through the dynamic 2nd Century and really starts in detail with Marius’ Civil Wars at the start of the 1st Century. Though the chaotic reform attempts of the Gracchi Brothers and the drastic wealth increases from conquests of the East are mentioned, they don’t necessarily get the level of investigation which matches their role in the fall of the Republic. The Civil Wars of Marius, Sullus, Pompey, and Caesar are important, but the Republic was already at its decline by then. This lack of 2nd Century detail is rectified by the author, somewhat, in the detailed afterward, through his pointing out how the lackadaisical actions of the previous generations allowed for increased mutilation of norms during the Civil Wars. But, overall, it seemed the author was more interested in getting to and explaining how Augustus’ Principate attempted to recreate elements of the Republic rather than providing an autopsy of why that recreation was allowed to happen in the first place. Overall this was a good book for understanding how citizens can be weaned away from a Republic through the lure of stability. Recommended for those wanting to know more about the Republican Civil Wars and the main personages involved.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Matt McCormick

    The book is a fine overview of 300-years of Roman history to the end of the Augustinian age. Watts writes well and this chronological description of the Empire was interesting and easily digested. What it lacked, and what I was looking for, was a compelling analysis of the "why". Why did the Republic allow freedom to vanish and autocrats to rule? I think readers will simply infer, based on their own prejudices, the causes. This isn't to say that Watt's doesn't provide some thoughts on the subject The book is a fine overview of 300-years of Roman history to the end of the Augustinian age. Watts writes well and this chronological description of the Empire was interesting and easily digested. What it lacked, and what I was looking for, was a compelling analysis of the "why". Why did the Republic allow freedom to vanish and autocrats to rule? I think readers will simply infer, based on their own prejudices, the causes. This isn't to say that Watt's doesn't provide some thoughts on the subject. It's just that his "whys" are awfully broad, general and often just supported by the example of a bad actor acting badly. To the book's defense, it does remind the reader why modern democracies created checks and balances. Give a demagogue and army and he'll use it for horrible purposes. Give the elected the right to control elections and they'll give you themselves. Create a weak-kneed legislature and the executive will call all the shots. I'm not discouraging anyone from picking it up - rather just trying to set expectations. Watt's writes well enough that I may look at another of his books.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Anne Morgan

    A study of several hundred years of ancient Rome, “Mortal Republic” tries to analyze why it became vulnerable to dictators and eventually fell. I found the writing style largely dry and often too repetitive, reading like a basic history textbook than anything else. As fascinating as the subject should be, this was often more of a slog of recited dates, names, and battles than the political study I was expecting. Watts’ conclusion, that the Republic fell to tyrants like Julius Caesar and eventual A study of several hundred years of ancient Rome, “Mortal Republic” tries to analyze why it became vulnerable to dictators and eventually fell. I found the writing style largely dry and often too repetitive, reading like a basic history textbook than anything else. As fascinating as the subject should be, this was often more of a slog of recited dates, names, and battles than the political study I was expecting. Watts’ conclusion, that the Republic fell to tyrants like Julius Caesar and eventually Augustus, was an interesting one- namely, that the average citizen allowed it to happen over centuries and in the end was willing to give up working for a republic, and give up many of their freedoms, to gain basic stability and safety. For all the senators and consuls working the system for their own selfish purposes, Watts believes it is the average citizen who allowed them to do this, and so allowed their republic to disintegrate. While he isn’t subtle about the parallels he makes between the fall of the Roman Republic and today’s political climate, perhaps there is no subtle way to do it. A thought provoking, if dry, read.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Harry B

    A very informative book. Compared to Duncan's The Storm Before the Storm, Watts managed to weave a story based purely on the politics of the Roman Republic on its death throes. It illuminated what little I knew about this period, and caught me off guard when it reached Caesar's time and what he did during his dictatorship. The pacing was measured, homing in on important points and speeding through the military bits. A great read but for one thing. Watts alluded to some comparison between the sub A very informative book. Compared to Duncan's The Storm Before the Storm, Watts managed to weave a story based purely on the politics of the Roman Republic on its death throes. It illuminated what little I knew about this period, and caught me off guard when it reached Caesar's time and what he did during his dictatorship. The pacing was measured, homing in on important points and speeding through the military bits. A great read but for one thing. Watts alluded to some comparison between the subject matter of the book to that of the USA's political situation in or around 2018. I was hoping some sort of evaluation would be made between the two, but alas Watts only ended by only stating the obvious: that republics die when the people let it die, and doing so would only bring despair and destruction, as it did in the past and as it may in the future. Nonetheless, a must read for people who wish to learn about the political evolution of Rome from republic to principate, and the remarkable dynamic of characters which brought it about. Anyone can learn a thing or two about themselves if they they try to place themselves in the shoes of people like Sulla or Pompey, or the Gracchi and Caesars.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    All of the facts are here, and told in an easily understandable if somewhat dry way. However, the Roman Republic was not a guarantor of "liberty" as elites such as Brutus or Cato the Younger spoke of, but merely a playground for the 1% of Rome to carry out their endless schemes of glory and enrichment. Rome was governed by a few dozen wealthy and powerful families, with a handful of occasional "new men." Its institutions had evolved to provide checks and balances on ambition and power but as for All of the facts are here, and told in an easily understandable if somewhat dry way. However, the Roman Republic was not a guarantor of "liberty" as elites such as Brutus or Cato the Younger spoke of, but merely a playground for the 1% of Rome to carry out their endless schemes of glory and enrichment. Rome was governed by a few dozen wealthy and powerful families, with a handful of occasional "new men." Its institutions had evolved to provide checks and balances on ambition and power but as for governing, they were better suited for a goofy country club than a Mediterranean-wide empire, and because of the annual turnover, no attempt was made to modernize the state until Augustus. For 99%+ of the Roman people it had never been a Republic but always a tyranny of the rich and powerful.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    Dense, and it takes about 80 pages to stop careening amongst so very many facts and details before it straightens itself out into a more linear narrative, but ultimately - worth it. On the surface it's an oft repetative recount of ambitious men similarly violating good faith in government for their own gains (tale as old as time), but the author is simply detailing the factual journey to the destruction of the Roman republic. The author's voice that comes through apart from the historical recoun Dense, and it takes about 80 pages to stop careening amongst so very many facts and details before it straightens itself out into a more linear narrative, but ultimately - worth it. On the surface it's an oft repetative recount of ambitious men similarly violating good faith in government for their own gains (tale as old as time), but the author is simply detailing the factual journey to the destruction of the Roman republic. The author's voice that comes through apart from the historical recounting of how it all went down is what you should be listening for, because it's the voice warning about how this can all be repeated.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Ann Joyce

    It took me a long time to get through this book as it is a fairly straightforward retelling of the last 100 years of the Roman Republic. What hangs over this telling is our current national emergency. Without being heavy-handed, the author effectively highlights the similarities between the declining Roman Republic and our current predicament.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Christopher Knight

    Excellent writing. The only major flaw is the author presumes the reader to have a great deal of knowledge about the government of the Republic particularly its explicit and implicit checks and balances.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Elentarri

    I usually battle to enjoy history books that deal with the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire - they are just too confusing and boring. THIS book is different. I actually enjoyed reading it. The writing is clear and accessible, the subject straightforward, and the relevance of that subject to the current political climate highlighted. Mortal Republic covers the Roman Republic period between 280 BC and 27 BC, when the Roman Senate formally granted Octavian overarching power and the new title Au I usually battle to enjoy history books that deal with the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire - they are just too confusing and boring. THIS book is different. I actually enjoyed reading it. The writing is clear and accessible, the subject straightforward, and the relevance of that subject to the current political climate highlighted. Mortal Republic covers the Roman Republic period between 280 BC and 27 BC, when the Roman Senate formally granted Octavian overarching power and the new title Augustus, effectively marking the end of the Roman Republic. This book is not a biography of any particular set of Romans nor is it exclusively a military history. It does however successfully weave together politics, military, social and biographical details, along with the how and why events occurred and what this meant for the Repbulic in the long term. In addition to a general history of the Roman Republic, Watts attempts to understand the current political realities of our world by studying what went wrong in the ancient Roman Republic, upon which many modern republics are based. The author makes evident that serious problems arise from both politicians who disrupt a republic's political norms, and from the citizens who choose not to punish them for doing so. In the end, Romans came to believe that liberty - political stability and freedom from domestic violence and foreign interference - could only exist in a political entity controlled by one man. This book explores why one of the longest-existing republics traded the liberty of political autonomy for the security of autocracy. I found this book to be enjoyable, well-written and providing a new perspective on an old topic. NOTE: I received an Advanced Readers Copy of this book from NetGalley. This review is my honest opinion of the book.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Ruben

    The book covers roughly the last 300 years of the Roman Republic, from the establishment of its dominance in the Mediterranean until the end of the Republic and the start of the empire by Augustus. It is extremely dense in information but reads well and for me filled some important gaps in knowledge (Sulla and Marius, the Gracchi). It focuses on politics and in particular how strong man with control of armies are increasingly capable and willing to damage the Republic if that furthers their own The book covers roughly the last 300 years of the Roman Republic, from the establishment of its dominance in the Mediterranean until the end of the Republic and the start of the empire by Augustus. It is extremely dense in information but reads well and for me filled some important gaps in knowledge (Sulla and Marius, the Gracchi). It focuses on politics and in particular how strong man with control of armies are increasingly capable and willing to damage the Republic if that furthers their own careers... Certainly a lesson to be learned there anno 2019... Also very interesting to see that the author blames the vain Cicero and Cato for the fall of the Republic, whereas he acknowledges the genius of Caesar and Augustus as causes to make the transition to empire possible.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Charles Korb

    I am fairly familiar with the period but this does have a perspective a few degrees off from other books by focusing on the common Roman's reaction to events and trying to follow their mental journey to supporting autocracy I am fairly familiar with the period but this does have a perspective a few degrees off from other books by focusing on the common Roman's reaction to events and trying to follow their mental journey to supporting autocracy

  25. 5 out of 5

    David Williams

    Popular histories of the fall of the Roman Republic are not in short supply. There are excellent entries in this crowded field. One can look to Tom Holland’s Rubicon or the recent New York Times bestseller The Storm Before the Storm by popular podcaster Mike Duncan. Into this crowded field we have Mortal Republic by Edward J. Watts. Dr. Watts is Professor of History at the University of California, San Diego. His previous works have focused on the period of late antiquity and the clashes between Popular histories of the fall of the Roman Republic are not in short supply. There are excellent entries in this crowded field. One can look to Tom Holland’s Rubicon or the recent New York Times bestseller The Storm Before the Storm by popular podcaster Mike Duncan. Into this crowded field we have Mortal Republic by Edward J. Watts. Dr. Watts is Professor of History at the University of California, San Diego. His previous works have focused on the period of late antiquity and the clashes between pagan and Christian culture. In his newest work Dr. Watts examines the forces that brought about the end of the Roman Republic. This book does not start, as is common, with the rise of the Gracchi brothers. Those radical reformers whose lives and deaths plunged the Republic into short periods of chaos. Instead he begins in 280 BC, with the wars between Rome and the Greek King Pyrrhus. Why this period? He wants to show the nature of the Roman leaders in this period. Roman leadership was a duty that was held by men who held honor above wealth. This is an important point that will be seen throughout this book. In the early days of the Republic the nobles of Rome “agreed that virtue lay in service to Rome and that dishonor fell upon those who put their private interests above those of the Republic.” This noble ideal would become stressed as the Roman Republic grow in size, power and wealth. The change can be seen as the Romans fight the Carthaginians for control of Sicily. The Punic Wars spread Roman power abroad and soon the Republic had foreign territories to manage. With those territories came officials needed to run them. Those officials tended to become wealthy in those jobs. That wealth became the new motive for public service. Now honor gave way to avarice. As the quest for wealth and glory became the prime motivator factions began to arrive. Those factions would eventually wear away at the fabric of the Republic until it frayed and crumbled. As Dr. Watts puts it “The new economy produced great wealth for a few winners, but the frustration of the newly poor and the fear that some of the old elite were losing their grip on power created conditions in which a fierce populist reaction could occur. The great weakness in the Roman system was the reliance on personal honor to maintain itself. Tradition and honor were no defense against personal ambition and tremendous wealth. The populism ushered in by the Gracchi would be used as a weapon by one group of power Romans in order to gain control over the more traditionalists. The fight would rage back and forth for over a century. The ethics and values of the Romans devolved to the place where strong men like Marius, Sulla, Cataline, Clodius, Milo, Crassus, Pompey, and Caesar could tear it apart. The book is written for the general reader. One does not need a specialized background in Roman history to understand. The topic is indeed timely. In the Preface to the book Dr. Watts hopes “that this book allows its readers to better appreciate the serious problems that result both from politicians who breach a republic’s political norms and from citizens who choose not to punish them for doing so.” That is as far as he goes in trying to connect the past and the present. It is up to the readers to notice the signs and to take warning. These warnings are prescient. The United States was founded as a Republic with the Roman Republic very much in the conscious minds of the Founders. The book ends as did the Republic: with the reign of Augustus. For over half a century the Republic had been torn by one faction after another competing for power. What are we supposed to gather from this book? Why read another book on the fall of a government that fell 2,000 years ago? Because the freedoms and laws of a republic must continually be upheld and protected. Ronald Reagan famously said “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.” Perhaps the closing statement of the book sums it up best. “When citizens take the health and durability of their republic for granted, that republic is at risk. This was as true in 133 BC or 82 BC or 44 BC as it is in AD 2018. In ancient Rome and in the modern world, a republic is a thing to be cherished, protected, and respected. If it falls, an uncertain, dangerous, and destructive future lies on the other side.”

  26. 4 out of 5

    Chao

    I enjoyed Watts' laying out the cultural and economic evolution of the Ancient Roman republic in the build-up to its end. In answering the question of why the Roman republic ended, this was the book to go to. On this, I do appreciate having read three different books on these questions and thus was exposed to three slightly different POVs. However, in almost all situations with people, it's usually not a single person but a group of people. Few are incidences when ONE person on the political stag I enjoyed Watts' laying out the cultural and economic evolution of the Ancient Roman republic in the build-up to its end. In answering the question of why the Roman republic ended, this was the book to go to. On this, I do appreciate having read three different books on these questions and thus was exposed to three slightly different POVs. However, in almost all situations with people, it's usually not a single person but a group of people. Few are incidences when ONE person on the political stage changed it all; instead, there are many others who caused/created the situation ripe for the change -- perhaps a decade ago or perhaps yesterday --, many others who supported or resisted the headline persons, and even more who actively diminished or exacerbated the change. So say in the instance with Tiberius Gracchus. I'd bet that if the Senate hadn't so forcibly denounced him without seemingly good reasons after Spain, I'm 100% sure Tiberius Gracchus would be more than happy to follow the old route of his father and grandfather and flow with the Senate, instead of going the populist route. (Now, of course, there were good reasons, and of course, it was all power play to pull down a future power player. And sounded like the Scipio family was likely knee-deep in it) Later Watts more or less called out Tiberius Gracchus on starting a bad precedent -- and Watts is not alone and so this is probably an established academic fact-- but I felt that it was really all of them, namely also the Senate, the associated elites, and especially Tiberius' cousin and his cohorts who actually took up the weapon and killed. Politics did not exist in a vacuum. And the threat of violence, while a very bad act (because it WILL inspire actual violence), was still not the same as actual murder; not to mention not only was the murderer not punished, but also the Senate used the same violent treatment against dissidents many more times after. It seemed like a brinkmanship gone absolutely horribly, but remember brinkmanship takes two. Change was as inevitable as the passage of time, and all of them were culpable for the breakdown. Anyway, this applied to some of Watts' later points too. Finally, this was an enjoyable and informative read. I took one star off — the book was quite good for me to only take one star off instead of two — because of 1) the reason above, and 2) some of the conclusions, for example the concluding remarks, were too idealistic and unrealistic. Of course people will watch out for their own self interest, no matter if it was Cato or Cicero or the guy who just took the bribe. That was true 2000 years before and is still true now. If the republic needs all citizens to be virtuous for it to survive, then I fear for its sake. But I think there’s hope, but we probably need a less idealistic route. The social reward system of the third century BCE seemed like a good place to start looking. And lastly I appreciated Beard pointing out that the history was written by the victors. // Compare to other books on Ancient Rome: -"SPQR" covered a longer time period (from "the" beginning to later Roman empire) and asked more big picture questions. The end of the republic and Caesar specifically were covered but not in-depth. However, Augustus was so fascinating that I'll find a book just on him in the future. - "The Storm Before the Storm" covered roughly the beginning of Ch 4 of this book to mid Ch 7. SBS took a more storytelling style compared to this book, and it ended with Sulla (so, before most of Pompey and Caesar's stage times). - "Mortal Republic" also, by nature of trying to focus its argument, skimmed over certain areas that were covered more in-depth in SPQR and/or SBS. - Also, reading SPQR and SBS made me want to read about Alexander the Great, just for the enormous influence he had on later people and culture. They weren't even Macedonians! - And after this book, Hannibal and Carthage. All three books -- SPQR, SBS, and MR -- are good but a bit different. If you want an easy to read, rousing good time story (though limited in scope), try SBS. If you want specifically how the republic ended, try MR; on this, SBS provided 1-2 answers but MR provided more clarity. If you want a more comprehensive picture of the Ancient Romans (though there were inevitably some pick and choose), try SPQR.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jack Hicks

    Mortal Republic, How Rome Fell Into Tyranny, Edward Watts, 2018 Does history repeat itself? The founding fathers of our republic fashioned our democracy after the ancient Roman Republic. Both the Roman Senate and the US Senate were designed as bodies of distinguished propertied citizens who would act as a moderating or leavening influence on the passions of the greater populous. The Roman Republic had an elected body called the counclium plebis which consisted of representatives from the 35 Itali Mortal Republic, How Rome Fell Into Tyranny, Edward Watts, 2018 Does history repeat itself? The founding fathers of our republic fashioned our democracy after the ancient Roman Republic. Both the Roman Senate and the US Senate were designed as bodies of distinguished propertied citizens who would act as a moderating or leavening influence on the passions of the greater populous. The Roman Republic had an elected body called the counclium plebis which consisted of representatives from the 35 Italian tribes. This would roughly correspond to our house of representatives with representatives elected from the various house districts. Each year the councilium elected 10 Tribunes who would propose laws that the councilium would vote on. Laws approved were called plebiscites. The Senate exercised an informal power by acting as an advisory body on all laws and legislation as well as conducting foreign policy and approving public expenditures. Magistrates were assembly-elected officials charged with carrying out laws. There was another assembly called the comitia centuriata which was made up of individuals, called equites, who possessed the required amount of property to serve in the military; 300 hectares, and whose main function was to elect Consuls and declare war. Consuls were elected as a pair, served a one-year term, and corresponded in a way to our executive branch as a management, policy proposing branch and as commander in chief of the armed forces. A successful Consul in order to guide successful legislation would have to determine what his colleague wanted, what the assemblies would approve and what the Senate would authorize. As Cicero once said; “We are all slaves of the laws so that we might be free”. “The Roman Republic did not encourage its leaders to seek complete and total victory. It was not designed to force one side to accept everything the other wanted. Instead, it offered tools that, like the American filibuster, served to keep the process of political negotiation going until a mutually agreeable compromise was found. But, in Rome as in our world, politicians could employ such devices to prevent the Republic from doing what its citizens wanted. The widespread misuse of these tools offered the first signs of sickness in Rome’s Republic”. The book follows the history of the Rome from the fourth to the first century BC, the almost constant wars in the 3rd and 2nd centuries and how the distractions of wars, empire and the vast accumulation of wealth corrupted its political system. The beginning Republic in 400 BC was a unique entity to that point in human history. For the first time a political entity offered freedom and opportunity to its citizens and that, “through a framework of laws, channeled the individual energies of Romans in ways the benefitted the entire Roman commonwealth”. As the centuries progressed “thousands of average men, talented men and middling men all willfully undercut the power of the Republic to restrict and channel the ambitions of the individual, doing so in the interest of their own shortsighted gains”. Selfless and honorable public service, Democratic traditions were replaced with the relentless pursuit of power and wealth at the expense of the majority. We all know where this ended; destructive civil wars, Caesar, Pompey, Augustus and a tyrannical dictatorship that lasted another 400 years. The book asks the question; Is our Republic now on a similar course? When Democratic traditions and laws are ignored and misused in the pursuit of power as is now the case, when misinformation and divisive tactics are used to claim political office, when vast wealth is used to influence elections, when all these behaviors become standard operating procedure, then one must say we are on a dangerous course, similar in many ways to what occurred in Rome over 2000 years ago. “When citizens take the health and durability of their republic for granted, that republic is at risk. This was true in 133BC or 82BC or 44BC as it is in AD2018”. JACK

  28. 4 out of 5

    Terry Tucker

    In the introduction, the author states that his aim is to help us understand the challenging and occasionally alarming political realities of our world. Later in the first chapter, (kindle location 137) the author states that this book explains why Rome would trade the liberty of political autonomy for the security of autocracy. “[This book].. is written at a moment when modern readers need to be particularly aware of both the nature of republics and the consequences of their failure.” The autho In the introduction, the author states that his aim is to help us understand the challenging and occasionally alarming political realities of our world. Later in the first chapter, (kindle location 137) the author states that this book explains why Rome would trade the liberty of political autonomy for the security of autocracy. “[This book].. is written at a moment when modern readers need to be particularly aware of both the nature of republics and the consequences of their failure.” The author presents a detailed account of Roman history beginning about 280 BC. This is a good starting point as it is 44 years after the death of Alexander the Great and 44 years into the Diadochi power struggle - the confluence of which is the rise of Rome. The history of anxiety about growing economic inequality between the Roman politcians and its concerned citizens does not compare well with contemporary history. The Western World current Middle Class statistics as it is stated in the Brookings Institution ( https://www.brookings.edu/blog/future... ) states as of 2018: “For the first time since agriculture-based civilization began 10,000 years ago, the majority of humankind is no longer poor or vulnerable to falling into poverty. By our calculations, as of this month, just over 50 percent of the world’s population, or some 3.8 billion people, live in households with enough discretionary expenditure to be considered “middle class” or “rich.” Although we have a long way to go in providing for the homeless; the debate over inequality is overstated. However, there are two similarities with the author that I agree with. The first similarity with Roman history with the author that I agree with is the sense of something profoundly wrong in the Republic. However this has been going for at least 10 years now (I am referring to the book: A time for Outrage, published in 2011.). Contemporary politicians are urging people to violence and to take vengeance on those that do not agree with their ideology. That they, the citizens, have been duped by a cabal of the elite. That the House and Senate, like its ancestors, the Roman Tribunals, have worked suspiciously slowly, or suspiciously quickly, to convict and that the investigations are conducted with bitterness, rumor and irrational passions stoked to dangerously high levels. Secondly, like Rome, we are perhaps gripped by an anti-establishment fever, and no one is more corrupt than the political party one points a finger at. The rise of Independents and far left, or far right candidates are not so much a testament of those persons capabilities but rather how they represent the feelings of segments of society they claim to represent. Our politics and politicians no longer serve for the honor and reputation of office - or that virtue lie in service to country (because of it did the behavior of certain politicians during the SOTU address in Feb of 2019 would not have been so conspicuously and arrogantly disrespectful of the Office. * What we have abandoned is the politics of consensus. * What we have adopted is a politics of zero tolerance - winner take all intimidation. * What politicians have created is an atmosphere of reckless abandon that they can no longer control so they continue to stoke the flames of rhetoric higher - They have cultivated a politics of violence and humiliation. What politicians and politics have cultivated are a sense that decisions and sentiments of the political system are the whims of a single master and not for the benefit of the community. Todays current political conditions are more aptly a war between the values of liberals vs conservatives. All in all this is a good book, however, the historical comparisons are mostly inferred. A lot has changed in just over 2000 years - yet again, a lot remains the same.

  29. 5 out of 5

    John

    "Each of these men's selfish, individualized pursuits of glory ensured that Romans quickly returned to a form of elite political competition in which no limits were placed on the tools one would use to vanquish his opponents. And the fact that ordinary Romans did not immediately oppose all of these selfish acts and punish all of these actors by withholding their votes simply encouraged more and more extreme misbehavior. The Republic could have been saved. These men, and many others less famous t "Each of these men's selfish, individualized pursuits of glory ensured that Romans quickly returned to a form of elite political competition in which no limits were placed on the tools one would use to vanquish his opponents. And the fact that ordinary Romans did not immediately oppose all of these selfish acts and punish all of these actors by withholding their votes simply encouraged more and more extreme misbehavior. The Republic could have been saved. These men, and many others less famous than they, chose not to save it." So writes Edward J. Watts toward the end of this book, and this, to me, is the value of the book, even though it gets a little bogged down in an endless litany of Roman characters, events, and rivalries. The book is excellent history, but is dry reading; however, it is an important book because it describes Rome's slow transition from a Republic to dictatorship. If the above quote seems to have been written about the United States of current times, it's because it could have been. Mr. Watts traces the slow descent of Rome towards dictatorship; the man who was willing to upset accepted norms (in Rome this was Gracchus, in the U. S., it doesn't take much imagination); the political conflict and violence that followed as fellow Romans attacked and killed each other (sound familiar?); the political obstruction that caused stalemate (Rome = Cato; United States, again, not hard to figure out); the strong leader who comes on the scene and has the available manpower, money, and influence to restore peace and stability to the country, and the people willingly follow, tired of the violence and endless disagreements, and the next thing you know, the Republic is gone and Caesar Augustus stands alone with all the power. While I am not myself optimistic about the United States arresting its rapid descent into authoritarianism, perhaps it might be arrested, if people wake up to the political situation around them. However, like Rome, when 40% of the electorate stands behind a leader NO MATTER WHAT HE DOES, then the stage is set for the end of the Republic. History doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme, and the parallels between Rome and the United States are chilling.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Scott Martin

    (Audiobook) When we in America talk about the fall of Rome, we tend to look at the fall of the Western Empire, and in turn, we make parallels between the fall of their empire and any potential links/parallels to American actions. Yet, this work takes a different approach, looking to analyze how Rome went from a Republic to an Empire. Watts starts in the middle of Roman Republic, when Rome fought against Pyrrhus. When Pyrrhus offered Rome seemingly generous terms to end the war, the role of honor (Audiobook) When we in America talk about the fall of Rome, we tend to look at the fall of the Western Empire, and in turn, we make parallels between the fall of their empire and any potential links/parallels to American actions. Yet, this work takes a different approach, looking to analyze how Rome went from a Republic to an Empire. Watts starts in the middle of Roman Republic, when Rome fought against Pyrrhus. When Pyrrhus offered Rome seemingly generous terms to end the war, the role of honor and Roman pride overrode any political expediency. From there, as Rome expanded its holdings and influence, the strength of the Senate and the mechanisms that powered the Republic slowly started to weaken. By the time that Rome entered into its various Civil Wars and wars of succession between powerful men, the Senate was all but powerless to stop the dictators or save the Republic. Even men like Cato and Cicero, revered throughout the centuries as bastions of the Senate and political figures, could not save the Republic. The work ends with Caesar Augustus appointed as Emperor, and the Senate nothing more than a rubber stamp for Imperial decrees. The introductions and conclusions make clear that this analysis of Roman history is meant as as guide to the state of current political affairs, especially in America. Balancing domestic and international priorities, all while dealing with various personalities, and all while facing increased political posturing and gridlock...take away the names, and you might have trouble distinguishing between The Roman Republic and the United States. The writing is engaging, and while most Americans don’t have a great understanding of Roman history, a reader can easily follow this narrative. The reader does a good job with the material. Whether you believe that the US is heading down the path of the Roman Republic or not, you will at least get a good overview of Roman history.

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