For scholars of ancient history.

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CROSSING THE RUBICON

CAESAR'S DECISION AND THE FATE OF ROME

An academic study centered on the events of 49 B.C.E., when Julius Caesar marched his army into Rome and destroyed the republic.

Fezzi (Roman History/Univ. of Padua) begins with more than most readers want to know about Roman governmental structure. Although a republic (a nation without a king), it barely qualified as a democracy. Every citizen could vote, but in its complex, corrupt electoral system, only the very wealthy could win high-level positions, which were unpaid. Being a victorious general has been a vote-getter throughout history, and Caesar took full advantage. By the first century B.C.E., murderous generals dominated the republic, which was on its last legs. Fezzi examines the period after 60 B.C.E., an era that featured three strong men: Caesar, then engaged in conquering Gaul; Pompey, an older general already famous for his victories; and the fabulously wealthy Crassus. They cooperated only as far as it served their interests. Fezzi’s favorite source, Cicero, was a senator and lawyer who sometimes opposed Caesar. As a lawyer, he often prosecuted or defended and then wrote about it. Trials in ancient Rome were often open-air spectacles where crowds occasionally rioted and killed participants. Aiming to leave no stone unturned, the author recounts so many of Cicero’s legal actions that readers may lose track and likely interest. Matters came to a head in 49 B.C.E., with Crassus dead and Pompey and the Senate scheming against Caesar, still occupied in Gaul. Ordered to return, he was obligated to come alone because no general could bring his army into Italy—at that time bounded on the north by the river Rubicon. Apparently fearing for his life, he brought his army, beginning a vicious civil war that ended with his victory and, a year later, assassination. General readers take note: This is a dense, bookish history; Tom Holland’s Rubicon delivers a far more lucid but still intelligent account of this period.

For scholars of ancient history.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-24145-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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