Thursday, August 3, 2017

Cicero: The Life and Times of Rome's Greatest Politician by Anthony Everitt (2003)

Writing about people that have been dead for 2,060 years and making them inhale and exhale is tough work.   Probably the person we know the most about is Cicero, because he was not only a prolific writer, but (like modern politicians often are) a relentless self promoter who made sure every little thing he ever wrote was published for the world (at least the literate Latin-speaking world) to read.  But even a book about Cicero is padded with anecdotes and biographical information about the cast of characters who were players on the same stage as he - Caesar, Pompey, Clodius Pulcher, Catalina.  I guess they constitute the "times" of the title.  Not that I'm complaining - this group of men (and, even what little we know of them, women - Cleopatra, Fulvia) have come down through the annals of history as one of the most fascinating groups of political cutthroats in the history of the entire world.  Caesar and Cicero would run circles around Grand Poohbah of Orange and his court of flunkies.

Everitt certainly has a way of making each and every one of them sound like they could be currently serving in Congress; as if he were writing a modern piece of long form journalism on the Speaker of the House.

Cicero: The Life and Times of Rome's Greatest PoliticianCicero: The Life and Times of Rome's Greatest Politician by Anthony Everitt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Everitt has great source material which he uses to his advantage: Cicero, like most politicians was a relentless self-promoter, and also a prolific writer. Most of what Cicero wrote was published in his lifetime or just afterwards; and has basically been in print ever since. (Everitt should light a candle of thanks and gratitude to all those nameless medieval monks.) He is able to weave this source material into nonfiction that is both informative and interesting. Of course, this group of men (and, even what little we know of them, women – such as Cleopatra or the fighting Fulvia) have come down through the annals of history as one of the most fascinating groups of political cutthroats in the history of the entire world. Everitt takes a 2,100 year old political saga and makes it seem quite modern. Caesar and Cicero could almost be in the halls of the United States Congress.


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