I very much enjoyed Harris' last book Pompeii, but this venture into Ancient Rome fell a little flat for me.
Imperium is a fictional biography of the great Roman Senator and orator Cicero. It is told from the view point of his slave/secretary Tiro, credited with inventing modern shorthand. The book follows Cicero's pursuit of a political career, and the many machinations and double dealings that occurred in the Roman Republic during this time(79-64 BC).The first half of the book deals with Cicero prosecution of a thoroughly corrupt and evil governor of Sicily, while pursuing a seat in the Senate and a Praetorship. The second half of the book deals with Cicero's pursuit of consulship. The portrait of Cicero is pretty much a warts and all depiction, showing his ability to justify his actions when politically motivated and often involve not always doing âgood' over the politically expedient.
Although obviously well researched I often felt overwhelmed with all the names of the characters, many of which had very little personality, often blending in my mind. I also found the most charismatic characters to be the villains, and the âgood guys' somewhat one dimensional. The appearance of a young and manipulative Julius Caesar was the most fascinating part of the story; unfortunately he appeared far too briefly. My understanding is that this is to be part of a trilogy, so I would like to see a further exploration of the relationship between Caesar and Cicero. I do like books set in this time period, so I would possibly continue on if there are two more books written.
this is the story of Cicero and his rise to power in ancient Rome,as told by his slave ,Tiro.he would not have made it to Consul if not for Tiro,who made up the first shorthand.
the middle drags a little but the end makes up for it! good read
Imperium is a great book. It's that simple. The story is told through the narrative of Cicero's ex-slave Tiro. Tiro takes us through Cicero's life up to the events leading into his Consulship. What Harris writes is based on truth and has some evidence to support the basics. The events Cicero finds himself a part of are quite full of power plays, intrigue, and political corruption. But to set the background, we first meet Cicero as a student of philosophy with a humble farmer background and a sharp mind and wit that has the unfortunate result of offending many of the wrong men. After his study of philosophy, we move with Cicero into his political career, where he climbs up the ladder of the state, gaining office as he becomes a champion of the people. The first half of the book involves Cicero taking on the case of Verres, a corrupt Sicilian governor who has friends in all the right places. Cicero's way with words and luck with evidence, attributed to his cleverness, leads to a resounding victory against all odds and popularity beyond words.
But not all is good with Cicero at this point- prosecuting Verres puts Cicero at odds with the aristocratic foundation of the Republic. After Verres comes the grand general Pompey (the guy Caesar chased out of Rome when he crossed the Rubicon much later) and his rivalry with Crassus. Cicero gives his support to Pompey and makes a powerful enemy of Crassus, who soon engages in vote buying at a high scale to pack the government in his favor. The plan is to arrange the government so that Crassus and Caesar will have an open door to increasing their own power. Pretty clever Crassus. Naturally, Cicero finds out about the plot and exposes them before the Senate, winning a victory for Consul at the youngest age allowed.
You have a lot of big names: Pomepy, Julius Caesar, Marc Antony, Piso, Metelleus. Since Imperium is about Cicero and his dealings, these characters are supportive in nature only and come and go as the story requires. This is just as well because there are volumes written about Caesar by everyone and their grandmother. It was quite amusing to see Caesar portrayed as a horny, shady, power hungry youngster and nothing more. Oh, I respect Caesar and am quite enamored with him as most are, but the turn of character was great. Usually Cicero is the annoying old man who won't shut up and Caesar is the charming hero. In Imperium Cicero was the hero, and a quite charming one at that.
What about the politics and history? Was it dry and full of historical detail? Historical yes, but dry it was definitely not. I don't think that this is a book for your Roman novice, though. For anyone not familiar with the various political offices, names, social classes, and Republican standards, the book may be difficult to grasp. I feel that my background in Roman history helped me a lot in reading through the book as a fluid novel rather than a pause and continue that requires a bit of Google searching to understand completely.