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Crassus in Parthia, Hideyoshi in Korea

At the very end of the Roman Republic, Marcus Licinius Crassus was one of the three most powerful people in Rome. He was the wealthiest man in Rome, and arguably, the wealthiest man the Western world had ever seen.

He also had tremendous power and influence, but he yearned to surpass his allies/rivals Julius Cesar and Pompeius Magnus. Following his election to consul in 55 BCE, he raised troops and set off on a tremendously unpopular war against the Parthians.

There, his legions were destroyed, his son died, and he died.

When you look at this event in history, with the 60 year old Crassus bringing himself to his doom, you have to stop and scratch your head. This was a man who had achieved an incredibly solid foundation and a marvelously successful in life. Yet, he was off against Parthia bringing himself to his end.

You can look likewise to the Unification of Japan under Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and his subsequent disastrous campaign in Korea that contributed significantly to the destruction of the Toyotomi, who had likewise been the most powerful in Japan.

Your First 70 Hours of Roman History

"I, Claudius" has rapidly become my second favorite historical fiction. It's written by the author as an 'autobiography' of the Emperor Claudius, who had all sorts of troubles in his life -- he was lame and could barely walk, was bullied often as a child and overlooked, his father was most likely killed by poisoning at a young age, he stuttered, and had a variety of other issues. And yet, he survived and became Emperor.

I want to recommend it, since it's excellent especially on audiobook (the narrator is awesome, hilarious, does voices well, understands drama, and obviously knew Roman history well enough himself to cover it very credibly).

But the more I thought about recommending the book, the more I realized you need a lot of background on Roman history to truly appreciate it. It's a great book for weaving together the pieces of Roman history from the end of Republic through to the establishment of the Empire, but you need the background on the Republic, Civil Wars, and early Empire first.

So I thought about it. Here's my recommended order for learning some Roman history, with a mix of links to podcasts, books, and audiobooks --

1. Hardcore History's The Death of the Roman Republic series: Hardcore History is my favorite podcast, with Dan Carlin really bringing history to life. This is the best place to dive into Rome, adn it explains all the tensions and conflict of the late Roman Republic which led to the Civil Wars, introduces you intimately to many of the personalities involved, and is really enjoyable and exciting in the process. It's entirely free, so start here.

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