Mortal Republic: How Rome Fell into Tyranny

Mortal Republic: How Rome Fell into Tyranny

by Edward J. Watts

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Overview

A new history of the Roman Republic and its collapse

In Mortal Republic, prize-winning historian Edward J. Watts offers a new history of the fall of the Roman Republic that explains why Rome exchanged freedom for autocracy. For centuries, even as Rome grew into the Mediterranean's premier military and political power, its governing institutions, parliamentary rules, and political customs successfully fostered negotiation and compromise. By the 130s BC, however, Rome's leaders increasingly used these same tools to cynically pursue individual gain and obstruct their opponents. As the center decayed and dysfunction grew, arguments between politicians gave way to political violence in the streets. The stage was set for destructive civil wars—and ultimately the imperial reign of Augustus.

The death of Rome's Republic was not inevitable. In Mortal Republic, Watts shows it died because it was allowed to, from thousands of small wounds inflicted by Romans who assumed that it would last forever.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780465093816
Publisher: Basic Books
Publication date: 11/06/2018
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 80,144
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

Edward J. Watts holds the Alkiviadis Vassiliadis Endowed Chair and is professor of history at the University of California, San Diego. The author and editor of several prize-winning books, including The Final Pagan Generation, he lives in Carlsbad, California.

Table of Contents

Maps viii

Preface 1

Chapter 1 Autocratic Freedom 5

Chapter 2 The New World Order 13

Chapter 3 Empire and Inequality 45

Chapter 4 The Politics of Frustration 69

Chapter 5 The Rise of the Outsider 97

Chapter 6 The Republic Breaks 119

Chapter 7 Rebuilding amid the Wreckage 145

Chapter 8 The Republic of the Mediocre 169

Chapter 9 Stumbling Toward Dictatorship 191

Chapter 10 The Birth and Death of Caesar's Republic 219

Chapter 11 The Republic of Octavian 241

Chapter 12 Choosing Augustan Liberty 271

Notes 283

Index 323

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Mortal Republic: How Rome Fell into Tyranny 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Michaela_Reviewer More than 1 year ago
I usually battle to enjoy history books that deal with the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire - they are just too confusing and boring. THIS book is different. I actually enjoyed reading it. The writing is clear and accessible, the subject straightforward, and the relevance of that subject to the current political climate highlighted. Mortal Republi covers the Roman Republic period between 280 BC and 27 BC, when the Roman Senate formally granted Octavian overarching power and the new title Augustus, effectively marking the end of the Roman Republic. This book is not a biography of any particular set of Romans nor is it exclusively a military history. It does however successfully weave together politics, military, social and biographical details, along with the how and why events occurred and what this meant for the Repbulic in the long term. In addition to a general history of the Roman Republic, Watts attempts to understand the current political realities of our world by studying what went wrong in the ancient Roman Republic, upon which many modern republics are based. The author makes evident that serious problems arise from both politicians who disrupt a republic's political norms, and from the citizens who choose not to punish them for doing so. In the end, Romans came to believe that liberty - political stability and freedom from domestic violence and foreign interference - could only exist in a political entity controlled by one man. This book explores why one of the longest-existing republics traded the liberty of political autonomy for the security of autocracy. I found this book to be enjoyable, well-written and providing a new perspective on an old topic.
sumit Rk More than 1 year ago
No Republic is eternal. It lives only as long as its citizens want it.” In Mortal Republic, historian Edward J. Watts offers a new history of the fall of the Roman Republic that explains the collapse of democracy in the Republic and the rise of an autocratic Roman Empire. At its peak, Rome was the world’s only democratic power of its time. Its governing institutions, parliamentary rules, and political customs successfully fostered negotiation and compromise. Rome judged each man’s by his merit and service to the roman state as repaid with honor. By the 130 BC, however, Rome's leaders began increasingly pursuing individual gain and obstruct their opponents. As the dysfunction grew, arguments between politicians gave way to political violence in the streets. Roman politics became a zero-sum game in which the winner reaped massive rewards and losers often paid with their lives. The stage was set for destructive civil wars--and ultimately the imperial reign of Augustus. The book offers a highly detailed political history of Rome. Mortal Republic covers a period of roughly 300 years From the 280 BC and 27 BC, from the victory of Rome in the Second Pyrrhic War to Octavian seizing complete power and marking the end of the Roman Republic. This is not a military history but rather the political history of Rome and rulers of that time and detailing the events occurred and how it affected the Republic. From the opponents of Tiberius Gracchus who legitimized violence against political opponents to Sulla's using Roman army against it’s own citizens to Caesar usurping all power, Roman Republic died bit by bit every time a political procedure was misused or political opponents were intimidated. The death became inevitable when ordinary citizens either supported or refused to condemn people like Sulla, Marius, Ceaser and Augustus who destroyed the democratic institutions bit by bit. Ultimately the Republic died, from thousands of small wounds inflicted by Romans who assumed that it would last forever. Unlike most historical books, this book aims to educate the readers without overwhelming them with facts, dates & jargon. The writing was excellent and the narration is free-flowing. But where the book succeeds the most, is that is makes you introspect about the striking similarities between the political situation in the Roman Republic then and the political situation in most democracies now. The Roman republic teaches the citizens of its modern descendants the incredible dangers that come along with condoning political obstruction and courting political violence. It could not more show that when citizens look away as their leaders engage in these corrosive behaviors, their republic is in mortal danger. Unpunished dysfunction prevents consensus and encourages violence. In Rome, it eventually led Romans to trade their republic for the security of an autocracy, This Is how a republic dies. As citizens, are were condoning political obstruction and courting political violence? Has the political divide now become so wide, that we have abandoned all attempts at building a consensus? Are we destroying the democracy we cherish by our stubbornness, whichever side of the political divide you may be. In the end the book leaves you with a grim reminder: A Republic is a thing to be cherished and protected. If it fails, an uncertain and dangerous future awaits on the other side.
Nicholas_Bourbaki More than 1 year ago
Very informative book. Currently I'm about 1/2 way thru it. Although I thought I knew something about the Roman Republic, Watts fills in a lot of detail that I simply haven't found elsewhere. I was originally a little unimpressed by his incomplete description of his 1st illustrated Roman coin : no metallurgy is given (I assumed bronze, not silver) no denomination is given, & no weight is given. However from this start the book picks up considerably and goes into some of the economics of the times. Additional coin descriptions (silver deanrii) are much more complete. The book shows how the Republic became transformed so that the Republic of the 1st century BC was very different than the more prestige driven Republic of the 3rd century BC.