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by Robert Harris

From the bestselling author of Pompeii comes the first volume in an exciting new trilogy set in ancient Rome — an imaginary biography of Cicero, Rome’s first and greatest politician.Of all the great figures of Roman times, none was more fascinating or attractive than Marcus Cicero. A brilliant lawyer and orator, a famous wit and philosopher, he launched himself at the age of twenty-seven into the violent, treacherous world of Roman politics. Cicero was determined to attain imperium, the supreme power in the state. Beside him at all times in his struggle to reach the top — the office of Consul — was his confidential secretary, Tiro. An accomplished man, Tiro was the inventor of shorthand and the author of numerous books, including a famous life of Cicero, unfortunately lost in the Dark Ages.In Imperium, Robert Harris recreates Tiro’s vanished masterpiece, recounting in vivid detail the story of Cicero’s rise to power, from radical young lawyer to first citizen of Rome, competing with men such as Pompey, Caesar, Crassus and Cato. Harris’s Cicero is an immensely sympathetic figure. In his introduction to this imaginary memoir, Taro states: “Cicero was unique in the history of the Roman republic in that he pursued supreme power with no resources to help him apart from his own talent... All he had was his voice, and by sheer effort of will, he turned it into the most famous voice in the world.”
Download Imperium epub
ISBN: 0091800951
ISBN13: 978-0091800956
Category: Literature
Author: Robert Harris
Language: English
Publisher: Hutchinson; First Edition edition (September 12, 2006)
Pages: 384 pages
ePUB size: 1453 kb
FB2 size: 1147 kb
Rating: 4.1
Votes: 972
Other Formats: lrf rtf mbr lit

You might be wondering, should I read Robert Harris’s “Imperium” or should I read Colleen McCullough’s “First Man in Rome”? Or maybe you have already decided to read both books, but you are wondering which one to read first. Both of them are first-rate books of historical fiction.

Colleen McCullough’s book is the initial book of a seven-volume series. It is 750 pages, meticulously-researched, and very scholarly. The book’s action covers the period from 110 BCE to 100 BCE. You will come away from this erudite novel feeling much smarter than before, and much more knowledgeable about Marius, Sulla and the politics and political machinations of the Late Republic. It will stand the test of time and will surely be read by students of the Classics for decades. As a book that brings to life the Roman world, I cannot imagine that it could ever be surpassed.

Robert Harris’s book is the initial book of a three-volume series. It is 300 pages, also assiduously-researched and covers the life and times of Cicero, specifically the period from 79 BCE to 64 BCE. (The later years of his life are covered in books two and three of the series.) Harris's book is refreshingly written in the first person, relatively unusual for historical fiction. It is part detective story, part courtroom drama and part political intrigue. The narrative is electrifying, the style is fast-paced, and starting from the very first page I had a difficult time putting the book down.

Which one should you read first, Harris or McCullough? A true “Buridan’s donkey” dilemma!
A good novel of historical fiction has to satisfy several criteria. First, the author must have thoroughly researched the historical background to the story--thereby adding to its authenticity. Next, the author carefully has to create events and actions which convince the reader that they could have happened. And finally, the author has to meld together the factual record with his fictional inventions into a smooth narrative, never forgetting that the story is the important element, and the novel is not an historical textbook. l believe the author here has satified these criteria in writing this novel which is the first installment of his trilogy on the life and activities of Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 B.C.).

I never get bored reading novels and historical studies of the ancient Romans, and given the profusion of tv shows, movies, and books focuing on them, I am apparently not alone. Cicero is of particular interest to lawyers such as myself because he is generally acknowledged to have been one of the finest litigators during the final stages of the Roman Republic and the introduction of the Triumvirates. However, the author is more interested in Cicero the politician than the lawyer. This was a particularly turbulent and corrupt period of Roman politics. And Cicero flourished because of his strategic and oratorical skills. In some ways, this period was somewhat like our own with demagoguery, manipulation of voters, corrupt alliances, and a lack of scruples. But Cicero flourished in this unhealthy environment, being elected counsel in 63 B.C. How he managed this feat despite powerful aristocratic opposition, is really the heart of the novel which concludes with his election.

I look forward to reading the remaining two volumes of the trilogy, including the final volume (Dictator) just published. The author is a skillful storyteller, really stripping the covering off of Cicero and how he operates, and he leaves me wondering if Cicero is a meritorious character or only another skillful political opportunist. I might add that a reader learns a good bit of Roman history along the way, much like reading Robert Graves' "I Claudius" novels. This engrossing novel helped me survive my home confinement during the great Washington blizzard of 2016. But I certainly will not need another snow storm to prompt me to read the remaining two volumes. I know from history that Cicero faces a very rough future ahead and I certainly do not want to miss it.
This novel is set just prior to the First Triumvirate (Julius Caesar, Pompey and Crassus.) As every schoolchild who is dragged through Latin class knows, there were two triumvirates and they always ended in two of the three getting bumped off by the third--in this case of course, Julius Caesar. But what was Rome like during the end of the Republic, leading up to this time? Author Harris creates the scenes of ancient Rome at the end of the senatorial rule with Cicero as the central character. The story is told by Cicero's amanuensis and slave Tiro. First, we follow the young and somewhat callow Cicero as he attempts to take down a tyrannical governor of Sicily who's flagrantly stealing artworks from temples and collectors, and accusing the victims of treason and espionage. He has been handily dispatching people without any restraint. A visit by one of his chief victims convinces Cicero that it's worth a dangerous battle to take down Verres and see that justice is done.

Cicero's wife Terentia is equally well drawn--she is a sort of Xanthippe, but underneath, despite her harshness, she admires Cicero and whips him (almost literally) into shape as Rome's most brilliant orator.

The characters are well-drawn, the historical scenarios are fresh as if they were happening today and the book is one you just can't put down. If you enjoyed "I, Claudius", you'll be likely to enjoy this book, set some decades before at the very last chapters of Rome's Republic.