Crassus: The First Tycoon (Ancient Lives)

by Peter Stothard

Hardcover, 2022



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Yale University Press (2022), 184 pages


The story of Rome’s richest man, who died a humiliating desert death in search of military glory Marcus Licinius Crassus (115–53 BCE) was a modern man in an ancient world, a pioneer disrupter of finance and politics, and the richest man of the last years of the Roman republic. Without his catastrophic ambition, this trailblazing tycoon might have quietly entered history as Rome’s first modern political financier. Instead, Crassus and his son led an army on an unprovoked campaign against Parthia into what are now the borderlands of Turkey, Syria, and Iraq, losing a battle at Carrhae which scarred Roman minds for generations. After Crassus was killed, historians told many stories of his demise. Some said that his open mouth, shriveled by desert air, had been filled with molten gold as testament to his lifetime of greed. His story poses both immediate and lasting questions about the intertwining of money, ambition, and power.… (more)

Media reviews

"What Stothard’s book offers is a quickly exposed snapshot of that changing world’s ‘clash of ego and ambition’ as it spiralled into dysfunction."
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"But his aim is not to paint a picture of SPQR. It is to focus on a man who will be barely known to most readers. And also worryingly familiar. That he has done — and done well."
"In this slim book aimed at the general reader, Peter Stothard successfully pulls off the challenge of making a compelling subject out of surely one of the most unattractive personalities thrown up by the death agonies of the Roman Republic in the first century BC."


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Physical description

184 p.; 8.5 inches


0300256604 / 9780300256604

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