Imperium: A Novel of Ancient Rome (Cicero, #1)Imperium: A Novel of Ancient Rome by Robert Harris
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Despite being inundated with politics in this presidential election year, I found this to be a fascinating look at politics in ancient Rome. With impeccable historical research, Harris brings the people and places alive. Particularly interesting is the voice of Tiro, writing the biography of Cicero in his great old age. The first half of the book, which begins with the young Cicero becoming quaestor in 75 BC and his involvement with the corrupt Sicilian governor Verres, was riveting. I loved the description of his gathering evidence, his oratorical skills, persuading witnesses to testify, and finally winning the case in a dramatic court battle against the best lawyer in Rome. It got a bit boring after that, as we follow Cicero’s growing political career as he successively becomes aedile, praetor, and finally consul in 63 BC at the still young age of 43. And he accomplishes this without coming from a political or military family, or the wealth his rich wife won’t let him use, but on the strength of his oratory. It’s not a lot of comfort to realize that after 2000 years we still have not learned the dangers of too much money in politics. It is very uncomfortably familiar!

Description: Tiro, slave and secretary of the brilliant orator and senator Marcus Cicero, tells this tale of one man’s rise from obscurity to the most powerful position in the state. As the second-best lawyer in Rome, Cicero cunningly matches wits with the best when he takes on a case that attacks the amoral aristocracy. His victory catapults him into the realm of Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus. There he develops a consuming passion for this ultimately deadly political theatre. Harris presents a vividly realistic portrait of the quest for the consummate position of power.

Narrated by Simon Jones.