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The Storm Before the Storm

The Beginning of the End of the Roman Republic
Written by: Mike Duncan
Narrated by: Mike Duncan
Length: 10 hrs and 13 mins
5 out of 5 stars (160 ratings)
Price: CDN$ 31.27
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Publisher's Summary

The creator of the massively popular, award-winning podcast series The History of Rome brings to life the story of the tumultuous years that set the stage for the fall of the Roman Republic.

The Roman Republic was one of the most remarkable achievements in the history of civilization. After its founding in 509 BCE, the Romans refused to allow a single leader to seize control of the state and grab absolute power. The Roman commitment to cooperative government and peaceful transfers of power was unmatched in the history of the ancient world.

But by the year 133 BCE, the republican system was unable to cope with the vast empire Rome now ruled. Almost as soon as they had conquered the Mediterranean, Rome became engulfed in violent political conflicts and civil wars that would destroy the Republic less than a century later.

Chronicling the years 133-80 BCE, The Storm Before the Storm is a rollicking deep dive into the bloody battles, political machinations, and human drama that defined a dangerous new political environment - a stark warning for modern listeners about what happens to a civilization driven by increasing economic inequality, political polarization, and ruthless ambition.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2017 Mike Duncan (P)2017 Hachette Audio

What members say

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Brilliant, especially for beginners like myself

The author manages to be very informative while going slowly enough that a novice can follow. Amazing, exciting, I learned a lot.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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"Cease quoting laws to those of us with swords"

Wealth inequality, citizenship and voting rights, and a rising tide of populism combine to bring about the end of one of History's greatest democracies.

Don't be surprised at tomorrow's headlines, it happened to the Romans two thousand years ago.

Times change and technology advances, but human nature and politics both seem to stay the same.

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Great Listen

For the audio itself, the narrator could be a bit stilted occasionally, but overall it was a great listen. They did a good job of conveying an objective, but not a-tonal story of Rome's great men during a tumultuous period of its history.

The story is compelling, merging legitimate history with pop-history; the listener is reminded occasionally that the sources passed down to modern times are not always reliable.

The author mostly skips the touchy subject of "Is the United States the new Rome?" The only mention of it is near the beginning, and then never again. I appreciate the author's ability to let the listener come to their own conclusions about the relationships and similarities between ancient and modern politics.

In sum, I do recommend.

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Fantastic

I had high expectations and they were, of course, succeeded. 100% recommend. Mike Duncan is so great at summing up the parts that need to be summed up succinctly and going into greater detail when we want more.

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Entertaining, Interesting, Educational

Mike Duncan and his podcast "The History Of Rome" is what got me into podcasts and audiobooks, so I was delighted to hear him return to Rome with this book. It offers a very detailed account of a period of Roman history that often only gets a cursory glance. There's an amazing amount of detail in this book, and Mike Duncan delivers it masterfully. I definitely recommend it to those who love Roman history.

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Mike Duncans narrative adventure

Mike Duncans telling of the rise of the populari uprisings in early rome is excellent

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Strong storytelling makes the Classics accessible.

I wonder if we have a new mash-up word for Mr. Duncan's book. Classissible, perhaps?

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Fantastic

This book put me into a frenzy of learning about the histoy Rome, and into his podcasts.

however the audio quality is worse than the podcasts

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I love it

Loved the book and love his pod cast. It's a great story, relatable to today.

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The History of Rome revisited

Mike Duncan has returned to Rome after having completed his monumental survey of that state's history. His telling of the half century between Tberius Gracchus and Sulla is as intriguing as ever.
Highly recommended for lovers of the past and present political machinations.

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  • Aria
  • 2017-11-14

Interesting, albeit a bit dry

This is a very well-researched book, and if you’re already interested in Roman history, and have an active imagination, you’ll really enjoy the read. Unfortunately, while the story is dramatic, the writing is a bit dry. This is like a fantastic lecture from a great professor, but it’s still a lecture. Overall, I learned a ton, and I’d recommend this to any lover of history, but perhaps not someone new to nonfiction writing.

24 of 24 people found this review helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 2017-11-02

A masterful and relevent book.

I powered through this book in only a few days and sessions. I am already a big fan of Mike Duncan's previous work on History of Rome and Revolutions. This seems like a natural and logical extension of his work. As he points out this is an understudied period of Roman History often only mentioned as a prelude to the stories of Caesar, Pompey, and Crasus. As Mr. Duncan points out in the intro to his book many peoplr including himself (myself included) see comparisons and similarities between Rome and the contemperary US. This book covers the events of the era I find most similar to our current political situation. Those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it, and it is clear the Mike Duncan takes this to heart and was cognisent of it while writing this book.
Ever true to his witty and relatable style, his book is a must read for fans of Roman history and those concerned about current political and societal trajectoies.
It gets an absolute reccomendation from me.

35 of 36 people found this review helpful

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  • Jordan J Yoder
  • 2018-01-21

Mike Duncan Returns to Rome

Would you consider the audio edition of The Storm Before the Storm to be better than the print version?

Mike Duncan is an excellent narrator, and the way he delivers his own material makes the audiobook worth checking out.

Any additional comments?

Thought’s on the audiobook version of: The Storm Before the Storm: The Beginning of the End of the Roman Republic

I’ve been following Mike Duncan for around five years, first by listening to the completed The History of Rome podcast and then the equally interesting and currently ongoing Revolutions. Duncan has provided excellent and detailed retellings of historical stories on a near weekly basis for a such a wide amount of time and has honed his craft over the years.

That is reflected here. The Storm Before the Storm is Duncan at the top of his game here, years away from his early narration struggles during the early entries of The History of Rome podcast. Duncan is clear spoken, and his rhythmic style is as engrossing as a great professor would be. The only thing that is missing is the often dry humor and sarcasm that he sprinkles throughout his other works, which while not necessarily matching the tone he is setting for his first authorial work, would benefit the fairly one-note style here. That being said, Duncan sets a high standard throughout, just barely missing out on some of the top tier voice-over acting that I have heard. He lacks the drama of podcaster Dan Carlin and does not quite have the range of a lot of fiction authors, but given he task here he nails it.

The content itself is some of my favorite. The Storm Before the Storm takes place during some of my favorite portions of Roman history. I have personally fallen in love with the time period between Hannibal and the Second Punic War (218 BC) through the first Roman Emperor Augustus (14 AD), in my opinion it is some of the most interesting and consequential history to take place, not just through Rome but through the world. The book itself shaves about 75ish years off both ends of this time scale and focuses on the events in between. Duncan covers the rapid inflation of might and wealth Rome received after becoming the most dominant Mediterranean power after the Second Punic War, and how a lot of this wealth centralized more and more in the hands of Senatorial men who were unwilling to share and spread what they accumulated. The natural response to this were the Gracchi Brothers, who seized upon populism to address the growing need of common folk. Their most important idea was land redistribution, the goal being to move from large estates owned by the rich and worked by slaves to more common men working the fields themselves. This was important for many reasons, but besides economic reasons, it enfranchised more men with political power and would have expanded the military Rome would draw upon (to serve in the military, land ownership was a necessity). Instead both of the Gracchi brothers were murdered and not given burial rights, despite the fact that they were to be untouchable as Tribunes of the Plebs, a position of office that was to literally be sacrosanct.

Duncan then follows this to Gaius Marius, an incredibly ambitious novus homo, or “new man” with no strong familial history, who seeks glory and power. Marius has great military success in Africa and follows this up by engaging the Teutones, Ambrones, and Cimbri who had crushed several large Roman armies in the few previous years near the northern bordern. The Romans, terrified of all Gaulic tribes since their city had been destroyed several centuries earlier by a group of barbarians, put Marius in charge to defeat these barbarians that had seen Rome’s biggest losses since the Battle of Cannae a century earlier. Marius easily defeated these tribes. After this he was given his unprecedented sixth Consulship, and was so great a figure that he was referred to as “the third founder of Rome”.

Unfortunately for Marius, his lust for glory was never satiated. Throughout the Marius storyline Duncan explores one of his subordinates, Lucius Cornellius Sulla, who Marius would often grow jealous of but who was so talented he could hardly be brushed aside. Sulla was often given credit for the capture of Jugurtha, something that Marius felt should be credited to himself as he was the commander at the time. And so as Marius’s star faded and Sulla’s grew, he became anxious to re-prove himself as one of the greatest figures in Roman history. He would, but his actions would be infamous, and upon his death his rival Sulla would spread his bones across the land and try to erase as much of him from the history book as he could.

Duncan covers the dynamic that plays out between the two during the social war through the civil war that was to follow. In an abuse of power Marius is given command of Sulla’s army. Sulla of course marches on Rome with said army, reinstates the Senate, and causes Marius to flee. But only a couple of years later Marius would return to Rome with yet another army while Sulla was once again away. He would be partially responsible for the death and destruction of many Romans, leading to his seventh “election” to Consulship. But it would not matter, Marius would day of old age only weeks later.

Sulla would return and reconquer Rome. But unlike his first retaking of Rome, he was not a benevolent conqueror interested only in returning things to order. Hundreds and hundreds of Romans were purged, not just for being political enemies, but often for owning important properties, owning businesses, or having a great wealth that could be used…elsewhere. A young Julius Caesar almost met this same fate, but his mother pleaded with Sulla to spare his life. Sulla would remark that “Beware, for in this young Caesar there is many a Marius”. Sulla was elected dictator for several years while he made dramatic changes and restored many old Roman laws that would disempower the Gracchus/Marius Populares platform and restore much power to the Senate. But he would eventually give up the power of the office and retire to his own private estate before passing away.

Duncan ties this together by suggesting similarities on the Roman timescale with the modern United States. While he makes it clear that he is not suggesting that we are running parralell to this Roman timeline, he often gets the question of where the United States is in relationshion to Rome. He points out that the current United States has passed the mark of the Punic Wars that Rome was involved in, much like the Romans we became a dominant military and political power after World War Two. But we are not at the end of the Republic, there has been no Caesar, no Augustus, to single handedly rule. But we are living in the years in between, and to me its clear that the between the strong cult of personalities, populist politics, imbalance of power between the elite and the working class, and hyper partisanship places us around the same time. And while I don’t think that we are going to end up as Rome did, it is important to keep an eye on it.

14 of 14 people found this review helpful

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  • Ross
  • 2018-01-26

Dense yet enlightening

I have never read Mike Duncan's work before, so I wasn't sure what to expect from his latest book. It turns out that I quite enjoyed it.

Duncan is clearly an expert in Roman history. His depth of knowledge of names, relationships, and concepts is truly impressive, and it lends an air of credibility to the narrative that would be difficult to match. That credibility is, perhaps, the book's greatest strength. However, The Storm Before the Storm's greatest strength is also its greatest weakness.

Duncan does an admirable job of describing the political machinations, popular sentiments, and cultural shifts that led the Roman Republic toward its death--and toward the birth of the world's longest-standing empire. He masterfully describes how the breakdown in unwritten societal and political norms began to fray the threads that bound early Roman society, and he astutely connects those subtle breakdowns to the rise of dictatorship. In particular, he does an excellent job of capturing one of ancient history's most interesting (and least frequently told) stories: the rise of Lucius Cornelius Sulla, the man whose revival of the Roman dictatorship paved the way for Julius Caesar's ascension and the birth of the Roman Empire. And unlike most author-narrated audio books, he conveys his work well as a narrator.

The story told here by Duncan is an important one, and the timing of the publication certainly isn't an accident. There are many, many parallels between the story of the fading Roman Republic and the modern United States. However, Duncan's focus on historical details somewhat clouds these connections and the stories underlying them in a fog complexity that often distracts from the statement being made. The incredible amount of historical detail packed into Duncan's book is so dense that it can make it difficult to follow the narrative at times. I often needed to rewind certain sections to be sure I knew who was involved, and I occasionally found myself having to use Google to refresh my background knowledge enough to restore meaning to parts of the narrative. While this never fully hampered my enjoyment of the book, it did make me work harder than I might have liked to maximize that enjoyment.

Still, I found my time with The Storm Before the Storm valuable. I would recommend the book to others interested in political or Roman history. Just be warned that you may need to do some work to get the most out of the experience.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Fahad
  • 2017-11-09

Great book and narration. Can we have a sequel?

great book and seamless narrative that keeps you hooked until you finish the book. The world of Marius and Sulla, Senna and the Ghracai keep you engaged for this pivotal period before the final fall of the republic.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Patrick Mann
  • 2018-06-11

You'll Love His Podcast

I listened to Mike Duncan's Podcast "The History Of Rome", which is an expansive and engaging dive into roman history, and would recommend this book to any fans of his podcast series.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Linda C.
  • 2017-11-25

Wonderful

If you’re a fan on Roman history, or just a fan of Mike Duncan and his podcasts- you will not be disappointed. Well written and read, The Storm Before the Storm is a thought provoking look at a fascinating time in history (some might say made even more relevant by current events). Despite a thorough listening to The History of Rome podcast, I learned a lot and was thrilled to get new backstories and vantage points on some of Rome’s major (and minor) players. My older kids loved it as well, highly recommended.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Jared A. Garcia
  • 2017-11-18

Perfect

Amazing performance and description by Mike. One of the best and most interesting history books there

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Mary Farachcarson
  • 2017-11-17

Loved it!

Well paced and well told. Parts of all these characters live in today's counterparts. Give us more!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • randy
  • 2018-08-13

did not keep me interested

not happy with it could not finish it tried 3 times to finish it just could not

1 of 1 people found this review helpful