Here in the United States we think that our politics have got petty, well it is nothing compared to Rome. The time frame is 180 BC to 44 BC. In the Book “The Storm Before the Storm” by Mike Duncan, we are taken through the last years of the Roman Republic, before it became the Roman Empire.
Back before the Civil War, the United States Congress would have some fist fights, in some cases people were killed (fatal duel). After the Civil War our Congress became more tame. A great deal of the United States government structure was modeled after the Romans, obviously it was changed some, but the foundation was there for the government we have today.
Roman Republic Government
However we may view the chaos with our governments, it was nothing compared to the times of Roman dominance, especially 146 BC to 44 BC. People would be murdered without thinking about it. The Roman Republic Government was setup with a Senate and then a Consul.
The Consul was the one that had the ultimate power in both civil and military matters. Consuls were also the one that would appoint new Senators. They were usually military generals before taking on the Consul position.
The Senate was the ones that would issue decrees, or advice, to magistrates in the surrounding cities. Their main focus was on the states budget and foreign policy, which usually carried over to any military conflicts going on (which was pretty much all the time). A person became a Senator based on who they knew and the prestige of their family or how they were known in society.
The Plebs were the general Roman citizens that were not part of the ruling class. Although one would think that these people would have little impact on the Roman Republic, they actually did. Many times the Senate and even the Consuls wanted to keep this class of citizens happy. The biggest way to keep them happy was to make sure that it was easy for the Plebs to get grain or that it was relatively cheap. As the Roman Republic was expanding, Rome could not afford to have strife at home.
When I was reading this book, the whole time I was trying to figure out what this book was leading to. Even when I was getting close to the very end, I was wondering what this book’s ending was going to be. Roughly, 4 pages to the end, I found what the ending of this book was about.
A bunch of info is packed into this book. There are a lot of names I didn’t recognize, which is good, because that means I was learning something. This is one of those books that you almost want to read while you have access to a map, so you can get a good understanding of all the battles and locations of people.
What this book does a good job of is giving an understanding of the chaos that ensued each year when a consul was elected. Many times the consuls were war heros and loved by the people, but then within a few short years, would become exiled by a new consul. Sometimes the ones that were exiled would make a return.
A good chunk of the book talks about Gaius Marius, he was given the name third founder of Rome and had 7 consulship. Just like many other consuls he was exiled and came back, there was conflict and lots of bloodshed. In several cases he received more credit in military victories than he should have.
I enjoyed the book and found it very informative. Roman history is something I don’t know a whole lot about. Like I mentioned before, this is one of those books you want to have a map handy so you can see where all these locations are. Many of these locations have different names now, so that made it a bit more challenging. You also get a good understanding of the chaos that when on in the world at this time. I would recommend this book.