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The Storm Before the Storm: The Beginning of the End of the Roman Republic Hardcover – October 24, 2017
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"Mike Duncan's popular podcast, The History of Rome and Revolutions, packed facts, dry humor and historical parallels into easily digestible 20-minute episodes. His new book, The Storm Before The Storm, focuses on the decades that led up to the fall of the Republic. From income inequality to questions about who does and doesn't deserve citizenship to the rise of populism, it's consistently surprising how the issues we're facing today were relevant two millennia ago. And if you're worried about those parallels, this book provides a dose of reassurance. We're divided, but hey, at least we're not laying siege to our political rivals' cities just yet!"―Scott Detrow, NPR, Best Books of 2017
"Remarkably engaging."―Ishaan Tharoor, Washington Post
"Disentangles well some complex events others neglect."―Wall Street Journal
"This companionable and sprightly book captures the political drama and human passion of that extraordinary story."
"Marvelous... A highly enjoyable historical narrative that reads almost like a modern political thriller."―New York Journal of Books
"A stark warning about what can happen to a civilization that has lost its way."―Smithsonian Online
"The Storm Before the Storm is massively entertaining and relevant to our own time. All times, in fact. War, politics, money, power, corruption, and class warfare seem to overwhelm the republican Roman political system and the results are horrifying. Huge personalities like Marius and Sulla cast a large shadow, but forces beyond anyone's control seem to drive the narrative. A chilling reminder of what can happen in any republic. Masterfully told."―Dan Carlin, host of Hardcore History podcast
"An impressively well written, exceptionally informative, inherently fascinating historical study, The Storm Before the Storm is an extraordinary read from beginning to end."―Midwest Book Review
About the Author
Mike Duncan is one of the foremost history podcasters in the world. His award winning series The History of Rome chronologically narrated the entire history of the Roman Empire over 189 weekly episodes. Running from 2007-2012, The History of Rome has generated more than 56 million downloads and remains one of the most popular history podcasts on the internet. Duncan has continued this success with his ongoing series Revolutions--which so far has explored the English, American, French, and Haitian Revolutions. Since debuting in September 2013, Revolutions has generated more than 12 million downloads. Thanks to the worldwide popularity of his podcasts, Duncan has led fans on a number of sold-out guided tours of Italy, England, and France to visit historic sites from Ancient Rome to the French Revolution. Duncan also collaborates with illustrator Jason Novak on informative cartoons that humorously explain the historical context for current events. Their work has been featured in the New Yorker, Paris Review, Awl, and Morning News.
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Though it's easy to draw parallels to modern day shenanigans, to his credit author Mike Duncan for the most part lets the historical narrative speak for itself without opining much. He has a knack for inserting entertaining and insightful quotations at just the right moments. He manages to make things like the passing of an ancient law on land distribution genuinely suspenseful. And the time period itself hasn't been done to death (in fact he says that's why he picked it to write about). What I appreciated most, though, is that we aren't treated to graphic accounts of people being hacked to death in battles, a current literary trend. Duncan writes more about the workings of the Roman government and the people and circumstances that shaped laws and traditions that still resonate in consequence right down to our day. This book would be perfectly appropriate for a teen, or even preteen (it will have to be a smart preteen. Which of course your own is, naturally. Dumb people don't research books on Ancient Rome!).
Flaws? Not many. It is as mentioned a little dry, which to me is not really a downside. If I'm reading right before bed I don't want anything too electrifying because then I can't sleep. More of a problem (and what keeps this from being five stars) is that the figures in this book have long Latin names that sometimes sound alike and Duncan doesn't always do the best job differentiating them from one another. I also would have appreciated a graph in the beginning outlining the differences between the quaestors, praetors, consuls, etc. in both the scope and power of the various jobs. He does go over it, but you basically have to memorize the order and job details to understand the subsequent goings-on. A easy-to-refer-to chart would have been nice.
Other than that, not a bad job at all and a fun read, for the right mind. A strong fours stars and rating overall:
Unfortunately despite the great content, there exist several quality control problems with the English rendition. Some words (such as ethnically and technically) have an "Ú" rather than the expected "hn" interjected into the spelling of the word. I've attached a few photos to clarify the issue. Hopefully this issue will be corrected with future releases, so others won't dismiss the content based on the lack of QA. I would love to give this book five stars based on the content, but seeing 4 errors within ~50 pages puts a damper on an otherwise gem.
At times the narrative gets lost in the recounting of the political actors. As we follow careers from the legions to consul, only to have the individual die and the world move on, without adding much to the greater context.
By far the weakest points of the book come towards the end as Duncan's narrative becomes increasingly fragmented and clearly rushed with the end itself coming rather abruptly and with little synthesis.
I am not entirely sure what the author intended for me to take away from the read. While some would praise a historical work of nonfiction for not overanalyzing or moralizing-at times I was left feeling as though segments of the book had been surgically removed. While we are given fact and context, little is given in the ways of original analysis or commentary.
The history itself is highly relevant and the dilemma posed by the devolving mos maiorum leaves the reader with much to chew on.
All in all I think the greatest thing I can praise this book for is reigniting my curiosity and encouraging me to dive further into Roman and classical history, a subject that many authors are unable to bring to life and one which Duncan has a clear passion for.
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But it certainly did match up with what Jesus warned before 70 C.E.Read more