Cicero was full of shit.
Though I did some Classics in the 80s, I barely read any Cicero. (This was out of personal indolence, not the fault of my courses...) He is one of the people from the Graeco-Roman world I really would like to read a bit more of than I did back then - probably in translation on a long National Express coach journey, or something. The impression I retain of Cicero is attractive: someone vain, voluble, companionable, and - crucially - warm; somewhat larger than life, volcanic by temperament, capable of being quite formidable. I think he was like some figures in the performing arts up and down my lifetime, certain directors - I can't even name names right now - rather than politicians I can think of who are active now. I'm sure I've met something of him in a number of people. I dare say the bar still accommodates people with his talents and personality and virtues - I have just known very few people who work there.
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.
I loved listening to these two books! Therefore, I am incredibly disappointed to see that Hoopla does not have the third in audio. I will definitely have to check other sources - and get them all in paper format to read again. Great stuff!
Funny thing, I only started reading these because I am writing about Reginald Pole and he made his own annotated book of the writings of Cicero, so I thought I should get an idea of what Cicero was like. If these novels are any indication, I like him just as much as good old Reggie did.
‘If only you will look on high,’ the old statesman tells Scipio, ‘and contemplate this eternal home and resting place, you will no longer bother with the gossip of the common herd or put your trust in human reward for your exploits. Nor will any man’s reputation endure very long, for what men say dies with them and is blotted out with the forgetfulness of posterity.’
All that will remain of us is what is written down.
I have not read Imperium (Book #1) or Lustrum (Book #2), yet, but if this last book in the trilogy is anything to go by, I am going to enjoy the first two books very much.
Dictator was not exactly what I had expected: Yes, it was a historical novel based on the life of Marcus Tullius Cicero, but it did not read like the usual run down of a sequence of events and dates that I had for some reason feared it might be. In fact, the biographical facts are taking a back seat in this book and exist to provide a framework of what I can only describe as tense political thriller - which I guess is even more gripping if you don't know Cicero's biography.
Harris chose a tone of narration that does not try to emulate what we imagine speech patterns or use of words to have been like in Ancient Rome, but instead reflects a more modern approach, and he makes it work. At least, I liked it, even if I can see that it may seem like it might deprive the book of some of that "ancient" setting. The politicking, intrigue, treason, madness, revenge plots make up for it in way that is less I, Claudius and more House of Cards (the UK version!).
In a way it feels like Harris took an old story and set it in the arena of modern politics. Maybe he wanted to show that not that much has changed in 2000 years of politics?
If that is what he tried, I think he succeeded.
Another aspect, Harris succeeded in is the portrait of the main characters - Cicero, Caesar, Marc Antony, Octavian, and all of the senators we meet along the lines.
Historical accuracy may vary, of course, but overall I could not say that any one character was portrayed as one-dimensional.
I also really liked that part of the intrigues were spun by the wives, sisters, widows of the main players and that these were shown as an integral part of Roman society.
I look forward to reading the rest of the series.
I have been wondering about the cover design of this edition, but now it makes sense:
"From that point onwards Caesar’s funeral followed the pattern of Clodius’s. The body was supposed to be burned on a pyre already prepared on the Field of Mars. But as it was being borne down from the rostra, angry voices cried out that it should instead be cremated in Pompey’s Senate chamber, where the crime was committed, or on the Capitol, where the conspirators had taken refuge. Then the crowd, with some collective impulse, changed its mind and decided that it should be burned on the spot.
Antony did nothing to stop any of this but looked on indulgently as once again the bookshops of the Argiletum were ransacked and the benches of the law courts were dragged into the centre of the Forum and stacked in a pile. Caesar’s bier was set upon the bonfire and torched. The actors and dancers and musicians pulled off their robes and masks and threw them into the flames. The crowd followed suit. They tore at their own clothes in their hysteria and these along with everything else flammable went flying on to the fire."