When Tiro, the confidential secretary (and slave) of a Roman senator,
opens the door to a terrified stranger on a cold November morning, he
sets in motion a chain of events that will eventually propel his master
into one of the most suspenseful courtroom dramas in history. The
stranger is a Sicilian, a victim of the island's corrupt Roman
governor, Verres. The senator is Marcus Cicero -- an ambitious young
lawyer and spellbinding orator, who at the age of twenty-seven is
determined to attain imperium -- supreme power in the state.
Of all the great figures of the Roman world, none was more fascinating or charismatic than Cicero. And Tiro -- the inventor of shorthand and author of numerous books, including a celebrated biography of his master (which was lost in the Dark Ages) -- was always by his side.
Compellingly written in Tiro's voice, Imperium is the re-creation of his vanished masterpiece, recounting in vivid detail the story of Cicero's quest for glory, competing with some of the most powerful and intimidating figures of his -- or any other -- age: Pompey, Caesar, Crassus, and the many other powerful Romans who changed history.
Robert Harris, the world's master of innovative historical fiction, lures us into a violent, treacherous world of Roman politics at once exotically different from and yet startlingly similar to our own -- a world of Senate intrigue and electoral corruption, special prosecutors and political adventurism -- to describe how one clever, compassionate, devious, vulnerable man fought to reach the top.
It had been my intention to describe in detail the trial of Gaius
Verres, but now I come to set it down, I see there is no point. After
Cicero's tactical masterstroke on that first day, Verres and his
advocates resembled nothing so much as the victims of a siege: holed up
in their little fortress, surrounded by their enemies, battered day
after day by a rain of missiles, and their crumbling walls undermined
by tunnels. They had no means of fighting back. Their only hope was
somehow to withstand the onslaught for the nine days remaining, and
then try to regroup during the lull enforced by Pompey's games.
Cicero's objective was equally clear: to obliterate Verres's defenses
so completely that by the time he had finished laying out his case, not
even the most corrupt senatorial jury in Rome would dare to acquit him.
He set about this mission with his usual discipline. The prosecution team would gather before dawn. While Cicero performed his exercises, ...
The first half of the book is taken up with Cicero's prosecution of the former governor of Sicily, Gaius Verres, a truly nasty piece of work whose gross injustices against the people of Sicily still make the blood boil two-thousand years after the fact; the second half is taken up with Cicero's political battles to get himself elected. Both are grippingly brought to life with wonderful human touches such as the great military leader, but oratorical klutz, Pompey stumbling through his first Senate speech with a a "bluffer's guide to procedure written out for him by the famous scholar Varro".
(Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).
Full Review (1254 words).
49-year-old Robert Harris, the son of a printer, was brought up in
Nottingham, England. He studied history at Cambridge where he was
president of the Cambridge Union and editor of the student newspaper, Varsity. He has been a television correspondent with the BBC and a
newspaper columnist for the London Sunday Times and The Daily
His novels have sold more than ten million copies and have been translated into
thirty languages. He lives in Berkshire, England, with his wife and four
He got started as a writer of books when he won a contract to write a biography of John le Carré; but le Carré said the book could not be published until his death, so Harris started roughing out a novel ...
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