A stunning trilogy. Robert Harris has accomplished what many historical authors may aspire to but few attain. He has created an ancient Rome alive with the sights, the sounds, the smells of a city towards the latter years of the republic. He has painted a picture in my mind of warring commanders: Pompey, Caesar, Crassus. He has allowed me to view both the beauty of Rome from the aristocratic Palatine to the stench of the inner-city streets. He shows Romans as a people obsessed with wealth, and from wealth flows power, influence, and the ultimate prize a position in the senate leading to first consul adoration.
Pompey the great commander, the chief general in the state….” A large chair was carried in for the Imperator, and he settled himself into it. An ivory pointer was placed in his hand. A carpet was unrolled at his feet into which was woven a map of the east, and as the senators gazed down he began gesticulating at it to illustrate his achievements”…. Caesar, the chief priest, adored by all the masses, fresh from military success, biding his time as he waits, panther like, moulding the men of influence to attend to his every whim. These two together with the wealthy Crassus form the triumvirate, a power base for them to dictate and manipulate. It is however a dangerous thing to allow so much “imperium” into the hands of the few.
Cicero’s year as 1st consul is drawing to a close, and some of his finest accomplishments are now just a distant memory. When he faces a direct threat on his life it is to his wealthy companions that he turns for help and support, but such friendship will always require payback. Robert Harris shows not only the strong side of Cicero but his weaknesses. His aspirations to climb the social ladder, result in a questionable decision when he borrows money to purchase a grand property owned by Crassus in the exclusive Palatine hill. As the candle slowly fades on a glittering senatorial career, and as the influence of a few wealthy men starts to emerge, the scene is set for a bloody conflict. Rome should have learnt the lessons of the past that it is a grave mistake to leave so much power in the hands of a powerful minority.
A wonderful story, the subtle blending of fact and fiction makes Lustrum an essential read…the final chapter “The Dictator” now awaits me” Highly recommended.