BookBrowse Reviews Imperium by Robert Harris

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Imperium

A Novel of Ancient Rome

by Robert Harris

Imperium by Robert Harris
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2006, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    Jul 2007, 496 pages

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Politics and corruption Roman-style. Not to be missed. Historical Fiction

Robert Harris's first three books were all set in the 20th century. For his fourth book he broke his own mold by taking readers back in time to the eruption of Vesuvius in the extremely enjoyable Pompeii; and it appears that he's planning to stay in the Roman Empire for sometime to come, as Imperium is the first volume of a projected trilogy that will span the last 25 years of the Roman republic. Imperium is narrated by the elderly Tiro (103 - 4 BC) formerly slave/secretary to the famous orator, statesman and political theorist Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) - an inspired touch as not only did Tiro exist, he was also the inventor of shorthand, a system he invented (or at least refined) in order to record Cicero's speeches verbatim, and there is evidence that he did actually write a biography of Cicero (which was sadly lost sometime in the Middle Ages).

We first ...

Did you know?

  • Tiro's system of shorthand is referred to as Tironian notes. The system was in use in monasteries up until the Medieval period, with the original 4,000 or so signs extended to about 13,000. It declined in use around 1100 AD but still existed in part as late as the 17th century. At least one symbol still lives on - the Tironian symbol for et (and) which looks a little like the number 7 is still used in Irish Gaelic as an abbreviation for "and".
  • You probably know that a Triumph (triumphus) was the highest honor that a military leader could be given. If awarded a Triumph the victor could enter the city riding on a chariot drawn by four horses, to the sound of a trumpet fanfare and would be crowned with a laurel wreath; but did you know that the second-class award was an Ovation (from the Latin "to rejoice"), in which the victor walked in on foot to the ...

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