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"Imperium" by Robert Harris

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In "Imperium" Robert Harris has brought out a fictionalized biography of the Roman lawyer and statesman, Cicero. Well, it actually only brings us up through the events which culminate in his election to the consulship in 63BC. (I'm just discovering as I write this that there is already one sequel, and a full trilogy is planned.)

This story brings us very effectively to a front-row seat in ancient Rome, as, through a series of ill-advised precedents and sheer brute force, the Republic begins to crumble. All the personalities are on intimate display: besides the immortal Cicero (warts and all), we have Pompey the Great, rich-beyond-measure Crassus, the haughty aristocrats of the Senate, and the already-plotting Julius Caesar.

I am attracted to all things ancient Rome; I love to be placed in the city, and feel the world-changing events take place. Harris clearly does not disappoint. This book (mostly) lacks the physical danger that Harris so vividly protrays in "Pompeii" (one of my favorite book-length treatments of ancient Rome), and does not quite capture the immediacy of Rome the way Steven Saylor does. It is, however, quite passable on both counts. Its main strength deals with the very human emotions and thought-processes of Cicero himself. Harris does a very nice job of making us believe what happened, through the minds and hearts of the politicians who brought the epoch-making changes about. For anyone interested in Republican or Imperial Rome, I recommend this as an interesting, entertaining treatment of Cicero's part in it. For anyone interested particularly in Cicero, this is must-read stuff.
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Abdelghafour

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