I just finished Tom Holland’s “Rubicon:” a narrative history of the end of the Roman Republic: i.e. the part where the senate mattered to the part where the senate didn’t matter any more (except to complain about stuff and get horses appointed to it) along with a lot of fighting. It was extremely fast paced and well done and if you want to delve into a little piece of Roman history (well, a big piece actually)– this is definitely a book to pick up. However, and this is no fault of Holland’s, one section of the book (right before the formation of the Triumvirate of Crassus, Caesar and Pompei) deals with so many historical figures with a name starting with ‘C’ that it becomes totally insane to keep track of them. I personally got Crassus and Cicero confused MOST of the time, which is ridiculous because they were drastically different people. Once you get to the next tier of players (Calius, Clodius). it’s almost comical trying to keep track of people and what they did before to lead up to what their doing (and eventually, of course, how they got killed). I only remembered Clodius because he’s the dude that dressed as a woman to hide in Caesar’s house during the women only ritual of the good goddess and got busted for it.
I would describe this phase of Roman history as the thug showdown at a massive scale. With the exception of Cicero and Cato, the rest of the bunch, including Octavian, were total gangster thugs when in Rome and pretty much the same outside of it. The sad fact was, however, that there was no way to survive at that level without being one FULLY. The last man standing, of course, was Octavian who, having spoken to people who lived through Marius/Sulla and the Caesar/Pompei showdowns was fully prepared to do what needed to be done to gain total power over the Republic. Anyway, give it a go. As narrative history, it’s written to not be boring dry micro history or entirely academical historiography, both of which have their place, but maybe not for you.