A popular podcaster delivers a wry and rollicking deep-dive into Rome during the years 135-80 BCE-the beginning of the end of the Roman Republic, just before the rise of Julius Caesar-and asks: if America is Rome, where are we now on the historical timeline?
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 consuls voluntarily handed power to their successors. Not once did a consul give in to the temptation to grab absolute power and refuse to let it go.
It was a run of political self-denial unmatched in the history of the world. The disciplined Roman republicans then proceeded to explode out of Italy and conquer a world filled with petty tyrants, barbarian chieftains, and despotic kings.
But the very success of the Republic proved to be its undoing. The republican system was unable to cope with the vast empire Rome ruled. Bankrolled by mountains of imperial wealth and without a foreign enemy to keep them united, ambitious Roman leaders began to stray from the republican austerity of their ancestors.
Almost as soon as they had conquered the Mediterranean, Rome would become engulfed in violent political conflicts and civil wars that would destroy the Republic less than a century later.
The Storm Before The Storm tells the story of the beginning of the end of the Roman Republic--the story of the first generation that had to cope with the dangerous new political environment made possible by Rome's unrivaled domination over the known world. The tumultuous years from 133-80 BCE set the stage for the fall of the Republic.
The Republic faced issues like rising economic inequality, increasing political polarization, the privatization of the military, endemic social and ethnic prejudice, rampant corruption, ongoing military quagmires, and the ruthless ambition and unwillingness of elites to do anything to reform the system in time to save it-a situation that draws many parallels to present-day America. These issues are among the reasons why the Roman Republic would fall. And as we all know, those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
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.
"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
"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
"Never has a book about history that's two millennia old been so timely. Duncan, in the sort of narrative prose that caused his podcasts to electrify history lovers everywhere, tells the story of the decay of Republican Rome-and its contemporary relevance drips off every page. The Storm Before the Storm has everything from vividly portrayed populist demagogues exploiting economic and social inequality to the failure of calcified republican institutions to adapt to changing circumstances. You'll learn as much about the problems we face today from this book as from any newspaper."--Benjamin Wittes, editor-in-chief of Lawfare and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution
"Written with the humor and the storytelling instincts that made him such a popular podcaster, Duncan brilliantly answers a vital question that is rarely asked: What weakened the late Roman Republic enough that it collapsed under the ambitions of the Caesars? This is history as it should be-compelling, witty, and ultimately revealing."--Lars Brownworth, author of In Distant Lands: A Short History of the Crusades
"Remarkably engaging."--Washington Post
"This companionable and sprightly book captures the political drama and human passion of that extraordinary story."
"A stark warning about what can happen to a civilization that has lost its way."--Smithsonian Online
"A fantastic primer on the causes behind... the things we must be so careful about in our own politics today. Why norms must be respected. Why problems can't be kicked down the road. Why populism is so dangerous. Definitely read this book."--Ryal Holiday, media strategist, writer, and author of The Obstacle Is the Way, Ego Is the Enemy, The Daily Stoic and Perennial Seller
"A lively, extremely well-informed chronicle of nearly seven decades of Roman political and social life... Drawing on ancient sources as well as modern histories, the author reveals chilling parallels to our own time... Crucial decades in the history of the ancient world vividly rendered."
"Disentangles well some complex events others neglect."--Wall Street Journal
"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!"--National Public Radio, Best Books of 2017
"Mike Duncan turns his talent for clear and engaging exposition to an underappreciated period of Roman history: the last days of the Republic, before the rise of Caesar and the agonizing civil wars that yielded the Roman Empire. Duncan's readable and witty style, and his eye for the telling detail and memorable anecdote, carry the reader through a gripping narrative."--Peter Adamson, professor philosophy, LMU Munich, and host of History of Philsophy
"Written in Duncan's usual congenial style. He zeros in on Rome's polarization between 'optimates' (conservatives) and 'populares' (populists), the disintegration of participatory democracy, and the concomitant rise in inequality, uncivil discourse, and violence. The parallels with modern times, and particularly contemporary America, leap off the page."
"Marvelous... A highly enjoyable historical narrative that reads almost like a modern political thriller."--New York Journal of Books
"If you're a fan of Roman history, you will dig this. And if you're just a fan of good storytelling, you will dig this."--Jonah Keri, host of CBS Sports' The Jonah Keri Podcast
"An amazingly enjoyable history... With his fresh approach, Mike Duncan shows that it is important to understand what happened two thousand years ago to understand what is happening now and in the coming centuries."--Washington Book Review
"Excellent... Award-winning podcaster Duncan proves to be just as effective at working in a written medium, presenting historical personalities and complex situations with clarity and verve."--Library Journal