The rotting phoenix that was Rome, dissected here for the reader's pleasure, instruction, and possible moral uplift. Perowne, an eminent amateur historian and antiquarian (Caesars and Saints. The End of the Roman World, and most recently Jerusalem), documents the ""decay, both of character and fabric"" which led to the death of the Roman Republic in 30 B.C. and its instant reincarnation as Empire. This is the time of Cato, the Cracchi, Pompey and Crassus, Julius Caesar, Antony and Cleopatra, Cicero the last republican, and the advent of Augustus. The struggle for power--and its inevitable tendency to corrupt (which Perowne stresses)--is depicted clearly. It is a time also of ""callous capitalists and a brutalized rabble"" who sacrifice the republic to attain their own interests. Perowne's survey is readable. Sometimes the author supplements his ""cold prose"" with more dramatic passages (and a few Britishisms), but he relies too heavily on limited primary and secondary sources. Hence as scholarship the book is lacking; as popular history, it is quite adequate.