This is an exciting book that I literally could not put down. Oxford educated historian Tom Holland brings the whirlwind last years of the Roman republic to life — turning what normally is a dry recitation of names and places into a compelling drama. The machinations of Pompey, Cicero, Sulla, and, of course Caesar, are as complex and devious as anything imaginable. What stuck me most, however, was the many ways in which the last years of the Republic reflect our own modern society.Best wargaming bit: There are a few absolutely thrilling chapters that describe the rampaging Roman street gangs who, in support of one politician or another engaged in open warfare in Rome. It would make an outstanding game — especially when a politician opens his stable of gladiators, only to be countered by another’s private guard of legionnaires.
Aside from being a great general, politician — and perhaps even a great statesman (his handling of the varioius conquered tribes in Gaul speak to this), Jullius Caesar also was a top notch reporter. His report to the Senate on the campain in Gaul in 58 – 50 BC is one of the great pieces of military literature. While some argue that the works are little more than propaganda pieces, the detail with which he writes makes me think otherwise. Caesar’s style is powerful for its detail, and spare. My guess is that he no more would waste words than he would waste supplies, or political capital.
For miniature wargamers interested in ancient wargaming, this book is a must read. It is one of the few first-hand accounts of ancient warfare that have survived to the modern age. Most other works are second hand, at best.
Among his other talents, Julius Caesar also was a very good writer. The “Commentaries” on the Gallic and Civil Wars are classics of military literature, providing a unique insight into Caesar’s military campaigns. While it is true that there is an element of propaganda here, remember that history always is written by the victors. You can get the Commentaries in a free etext version here.