Rating: 4 out of 5
I enjoyed this narrative throughout though I was a bit surprised about the beginning — it felt more disjointed and forced in order to belong to the Republic’s story, and though it no doubt bears a very important part in how the later first century developed, it would have (perhaps) made more sense to have a separate book describing that period. There is definitely enough source material to warrant that.
Otherwise, Mr Duncan’s book was interesting but also memorable, especially some of the more modern thinking on Gaius Marius and his “reforms”. It was also refreshing to see a relatively light-hearted take on Sulla, but there is no doubt that this era was covered in a lot more depth than the rest of the sixty-year period that this book primarily features.
Indeed, it also seemed to me that a lot more “stories” were featured in the latter period, perhaps owing to the greater relative prominence of the writers from then. This, however, introduces plenty of intriguing moments to the reader and cannot be faulted in any way.
Overall, I think that this book is another great stepping stone in fomenting public interest in the Roman Republic and its end, with Tom Holland and Mary Beard other notable writers filling in the knowledge gap but with a slightly different focus.