The Pugnacious Fulvia: RUBICON, pp. 365 – 366

TRIGGER WARNING: PHYSICAL BRUTALITY, MAIMING OF CORPSES

At this point in Tom Holland’s Rubicon: The Triumph and Tragedy of the Roman Republic, Julius Caesar has been murdered and Rome is descending into anarchy. The murder of the great man was a tad anti-climactic, mebbe because self read that section on the same night that the United States dropped its most powerful (non-nuclear) bomb on Afghanistan? #SMH

In one of those super-ironic, stranger-than-fiction developments, the 18-year-old boy who showed up unannounced at Cicero’s villa, a few pages earlier, the one who turned out to be the designated heir of the murdered Caesar, exhibits great stores of determination. He manages to raise his own army (selling his own property in order to do so) and marches on Rome to assert his rights as Caesar’s heir. Just a month earlier, the kid was on the border with Parthia, fighting in one of those expeditionary Roman legions. Now, he has Rome on its knees? Go figure.

The murder of Caesar is as nothing compared to the execution of Cicero. Cicero had sided with the plotters. He had a chance to flee and join the forces of Brutus and Cassio, but his ship was delayed by a storm. And while waiting out the storm, Cicero then made what Holland calls the most courageous decision of his life, which was NOT TO FLEE.

His executioners caught up with him while he was heading to one of his villas, whereupon Cicero stuck his head out of his palanquin and offered his own throat up.

When the head and hands of Cicero were brought to the Capitol, the widow of one of Cicero’s enemies, one Fulvia, hurried to inspect the grisly souvenirs. Whereupon she spat on Cicero’s head, and pulled his tongue out with a hairpin.

Now married to Marc Antony (who was off dawdling with Cleopatra in the East), the “ever pugnacious Fulvia” attempted to stir up a rebellion in Italy. Her opponent, the boy Caesar, was able to quell the rebellion (but just barely). His revenge on Fulvia was to pen “abusive verses on the subject of her nymphomania.”

Let’s get this straight: the woman pulled out Cicero’s tongue with a hairpin (granted, the man was already dead); she tried to start a rebellion against Caesar’s heir; and on top of all that, she was a nymphomaniac? What next?

You can see why the murder of Julius Caesar, his stabbing by senators in the Forum, is really small potatoes compared to what happens after.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

The Fine Calibration of Favors: RUBICON, p. 140

There was a rich guy named Crassus and he just wanted to be Caesar, okay?

He was sort of a skinflint.

Reading Tom Holland’s Rubicon, self is reminded that only stupid people never grant any favors. People who refuse categorically to grant any favors are not only stupid, they’re thinking strictly short-term. The granting of favors pays off big time in the future. It’s called leverage.

Back to the reading for the day:

p. 140:

Crassus knew a Greek philosopher, Alexander, who occasionally came over to stay (Holland says the hospitality Crassus extended was “grudging”). Alexander “would be lent a cloak for journeys then required to give it back.” (No mention by Holland of how many times Alexander borrowed a cloak; after the first time, it would seem only natural for Alexander to provide himself with his own cloak: but no. Perhaps he was just as much of a skinflint as Crassus. And this guy was a philosopher).

Alexander was “Greek, and therefore did not have the vote. Had he been a citizen, then he would have been encouraged to borrow far more than a cloak. The more eminent his status, the more spectaculary he would have been encouraged to fall into debt.”

#Nice #pointsTomHolland

Tom Holland, RUBICON, p. 120

We learn about the importance of outward appearance in Rubicon, p. 120:

Julius Caesar was forced to flee Rome because of a power struggle in which he ended up on the wrong side, saved from assassination only by his mother’s family ties to some of Rome’s richest and wealthiest.

While in Rome, young Caesar raised eyebrows when he wore “his belt too loosely. In the courts of Eastern kings, however, stylish dressers were much admired, and the provincial authorities were quick to realise that the patrician dandy would be ideally cut out for diplomatic missions. Caesar was accordingly dispatched to Nicomedes, the King of Bithynia — who was indeed charmed by his Roman guest. Too charmed . . .  Nicomedes was believed to have demonstrated his appreciation of Caesar by taking him as a lover.”

By the time Julius Caesar returned to Rome, “not only had he” managed to keep “Nicomedes sweet . . . he had managed to borrow much of Nicomedes’ fleet.”

Those Romans, though! #SMH

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Tom Holland’s RUBICON, p. 90 – 91

Italy’s “Warlord” period:  A general named Sulla vs. the son of a defeated general, Marius. Marius’s son is 26. Upon hearing that the temple of Jupiter in the Rome’s Capitol has been set ablaze, the 26-year-old rushes to the scene, ignores the statue of Jupiter and the recorded predictions of the Sibyls, but hauls away “temple treasures” that he uses to pay to raise “more legions” to fight for him.

The tide of battle favors Sulla. He is joined by an army led by a boy — Pompey, “barely twenty-three.” But what a boy. He was referred to as the “teenage butcher.” He killed not with the passion of youth, but with cold ruthlessness.

Sulla knew how to destroy his enemies: if he suspected them of disloyalty, he would provoke them into rebellion, then massacre them, all the while assuming the mantle of the defender of law. This was how he wiped out a mountain people called the Samnites, who wore “gorgeous armour and high-crested helmets.” While Sulla was battling his way across Italy, the Samnites headed for an unprotected Rome. And there, “before the Collins Gate,” Sulla caught up with them and engaged in the “late afternoon” — the battle lasted into dawn. Sulla’s ferociousness had everything to do with the fact that no conqueror had ever entered Rome, and he threw everything he had against the Samnites.

Then Holland breaks from the battle to discuss the seven classes of citizen, and how voting was determined by voting blocs. The rich had the most voting blocs, the poor practically none: “Disproportionate voting power” is how Holland describes it. OMG, so many parallels.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

#amreading Tom Holland: RUBICON

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Rubicon: The Triumph and Tragedy of the Roman Republic, by Tom Holland

Finalist for the Samuel Johnson Prize

One of the Guardian’s Books of the Year

Published 2003 by Abacus, an imprint of Little, Brown Book Group

Self is hugely enjoying the narrative sweep. Holland will not give you dates on every page, but you will learn much about narrative rhythm.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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