Friday, 26 October 2007


AUTHOR: Robert Harris


DATE READ: October 2007

NOTES: Another great read from Robert Harris. Imperium is narrated by Tiro, secretary and slave who relates the rise to power and fame of his master Cicero. It is really two books in one: the first part deals with Cicero’s early political life and in particular the lengthy and dangerous court battle against Gaius Verres whose corruption as governor of Sicily is challenged.

The second part deals with Cicero’s complex path to become a consul. The machinations of the Roman republic make a gripping tale. And although we know in advance that Cicero succeeds in his rise to power this comes at a cost to his principles. Cicero himself is brilliant portrayed and really came to life in this book.

There are obvious analogies to the modern world: the war on terror, political spin, the assumption of moral superiority by the imperial state, but Harris does this in a subtle way without labouring the issues.

Having only recently finished reading Tom Holland’s Rubicon this book made an ideal follow-up by fleshing out many of the characters of the time: Crassus, Pompey, Metellus, Cato and Julius Caesar. (Julius Caesar intriguingly only plays a very minor role – is Robert Harris planning a sequel that deals with the fall of the Republic?)

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