Mike Duncan is an American podcaster. The History of Rome aired between 2007 and 2012 and covered Roman history from its founding to the fall of the Western Roman Empire. The History of Rome won best educational podcast at the 2010 podcast awards, and was listed among the best podcasts of 2015 by Apple. “The Storm Before the Storm” entered the New York Times Bestseller list Hardcover Non-Fiction at the eighth place in November 2017.
Duncan has written a highly enjoyable survey of the Roman Republic, stretching back to its legendary foundation through to its dissolution. He places Sulla at the centre of the storm that gave rise to Julius Caesar and the end of the republic. It is an interesting argument. Like Caesar, Sulla was declared dictator for life. Unlike Caesar, he appears to be ready to step down after a set period.
Duncan shows how the republic rose through its military prowess, but this had the dual effect of securing the republic by destroying its enemies. It also had the impact of creating a class of generals – Sulla, Pompey, Crassus and Julius Ceasar, who could and did take power, with nothing more than brute force.
Duncan is readable and enjoyable in describing the often lurid details of Roman history. It is simply a great introduction to the back ground to Julius Ceasar. Read in conjuction with Crossing the Rubicon by Tom Holland, it provides a great foundation for studying Roman history.
At times, the names can be confusing, but Duncan does his best to keep the narrative flowing. It is inevitable that it draws comparison to the United States. which has consciously modeled itself on the republic and the empire. Duncan answers the question as well as anyone, and give a reasonable response. Reading the book, it is impossible to not see links between the two empires, and the conclusion is not a happy one. As Duncan told The Washington Post, “Once you zoom into this period there are a lot of familiar problems: growing economic inequality, intransigent elites more focused on petty political one-upmanship than addressing the needs of their citizens, endemic social and ethnic prejudice, the breakdown of unspoken political norms — very fertile ground if you want to study how it could all go horribly awry if we’re not careful.” The Roman republic ended with a strong Roman Emperor. The resonances with the upsurge of right wing populism are chilling.
For more information read: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2017/10/30/how-the-republic-starts-to-fall/