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Cicero: The Life and Times of Rome's Greatest Politician

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“All ages of the world have not produced a greater statesman and philosopher combined.” —John Adams He squared off against Caesar and was friends with young Brutus. He advised the legendary Pompey on his somewhat botched transition from military hero to politician. He lambasted Mark Antony and was master of the smear campaign, as feared for his wit as he was for exposing his “All ages of the world have not produced a greater statesman and philosopher combined.” —John Adams He squared off against Caesar and was friends with young Brutus. He advised the legendary Pompey on his somewhat botched transition from military hero to politician. He lambasted Mark Antony and was master of the smear campaign, as feared for his wit as he was for exposing his opponents’ sexual peccadilloes. Brilliant, voluble, cranky, a genius of political manipulation but also a true patriot and idealist, Cicero was Rome’s most feared politician, one of the greatest lawyers and statesmen of all times. Machiavelli, Queen Elizabeth, John Adams and Winston Churchill all studied his example. No man has loomed larger in the political history of mankind. In this dynamic and engaging biography, Anthony Everitt plunges us into the fascinating, scandal-ridden world of ancient Rome in its most glorious heyday. Accessible to us through his legendary speeches but also through an unrivaled collection of unguarded letters to his close friend Atticus, Cicero comes to life in these pages as a witty and cunning political operator. Cicero leapt onto the public stage at twenty-six, came of age during Spartacus’ famous revolt of the gladiators and presided over Roman law and politics for almost half a century. He foiled the legendary Catiline conspiracy, advised Pompey, the victorious general who brought the Middle East under Roman rule, and fought to mobilize the Senate against Caesar. He witnessed the conquest of Gaul, the civil war that followed and Caesar’s dictatorship and assassination. Cicero was a legendary defender of freedom and a model, later, to French and American revolutionaries who saw themselves as following in his footsteps in their resistance to tyranny. Anthony Everitt’s biography paints a caustic picture of Roman politics—where Senators were endlessly filibustering legislation, walking out, rigging the calendar and exposing one another’s sexual escapades, real or imagined, to discredit their opponents. This was a time before slander and libel laws, and the stories—about dubious pardons, campaign finance scandals, widespread corruption, buying and rigging votes, wife-swapping, and so on—make the Lewinsky affair and the U.S. Congress seem chaste. Cicero was a wily political operator. As a lawyer, he knew no equal. Boastful, often incapable of making up his mind, emotional enough to wander through the woods weeping when his beloved daughter died in childbirth, he emerges in these pages as intensely human, yet he was also the most eloquent and astute witness to the last days of Republican Rome. On Cicero: “He taught us how to think." —Voltaire “I tasted the beauties of language, I breathed the spirit of freedom, and I imbibed from his precepts and examples the public and private sense of a man.” —Edward Gibbon “Who was Cicero: a great speaker or a demagogue?” —Fidel Castro From the Hardcover edition.

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“All ages of the world have not produced a greater statesman and philosopher combined.” —John Adams He squared off against Caesar and was friends with young Brutus. He advised the legendary Pompey on his somewhat botched transition from military hero to politician. He lambasted Mark Antony and was master of the smear campaign, as feared for his wit as he was for exposing his “All ages of the world have not produced a greater statesman and philosopher combined.” —John Adams He squared off against Caesar and was friends with young Brutus. He advised the legendary Pompey on his somewhat botched transition from military hero to politician. He lambasted Mark Antony and was master of the smear campaign, as feared for his wit as he was for exposing his opponents’ sexual peccadilloes. Brilliant, voluble, cranky, a genius of political manipulation but also a true patriot and idealist, Cicero was Rome’s most feared politician, one of the greatest lawyers and statesmen of all times. Machiavelli, Queen Elizabeth, John Adams and Winston Churchill all studied his example. No man has loomed larger in the political history of mankind. In this dynamic and engaging biography, Anthony Everitt plunges us into the fascinating, scandal-ridden world of ancient Rome in its most glorious heyday. Accessible to us through his legendary speeches but also through an unrivaled collection of unguarded letters to his close friend Atticus, Cicero comes to life in these pages as a witty and cunning political operator. Cicero leapt onto the public stage at twenty-six, came of age during Spartacus’ famous revolt of the gladiators and presided over Roman law and politics for almost half a century. He foiled the legendary Catiline conspiracy, advised Pompey, the victorious general who brought the Middle East under Roman rule, and fought to mobilize the Senate against Caesar. He witnessed the conquest of Gaul, the civil war that followed and Caesar’s dictatorship and assassination. Cicero was a legendary defender of freedom and a model, later, to French and American revolutionaries who saw themselves as following in his footsteps in their resistance to tyranny. Anthony Everitt’s biography paints a caustic picture of Roman politics—where Senators were endlessly filibustering legislation, walking out, rigging the calendar and exposing one another’s sexual escapades, real or imagined, to discredit their opponents. This was a time before slander and libel laws, and the stories—about dubious pardons, campaign finance scandals, widespread corruption, buying and rigging votes, wife-swapping, and so on—make the Lewinsky affair and the U.S. Congress seem chaste. Cicero was a wily political operator. As a lawyer, he knew no equal. Boastful, often incapable of making up his mind, emotional enough to wander through the woods weeping when his beloved daughter died in childbirth, he emerges in these pages as intensely human, yet he was also the most eloquent and astute witness to the last days of Republican Rome. On Cicero: “He taught us how to think." —Voltaire “I tasted the beauties of language, I breathed the spirit of freedom, and I imbibed from his precepts and examples the public and private sense of a man.” —Edward Gibbon “Who was Cicero: a great speaker or a demagogue?” —Fidel Castro From the Hardcover edition.

30 review for Cicero: The Life and Times of Rome's Greatest Politician

  1. 5 out of 5

    Kalliope

    I am not sure it was a good idea to read Cicero’s biography, by a historian, right after reading a fictionalized account by a reporter and novelist (especially if the fictionalized account is not yet complete –only two volumes of the trilogy have been published – Robert Harris). A great deal of the curiosity awakened in my ignorance has been damped. But it has also been gratifying to compare views and strengthen notions. Although an academic, Anthony Everitt knows how to represent drama. The open I am not sure it was a good idea to read Cicero’s biography, by a historian, right after reading a fictionalized account by a reporter and novelist (especially if the fictionalized account is not yet complete –only two volumes of the trilogy have been published – Robert Harris). A great deal of the curiosity awakened in my ignorance has been damped. But it has also been gratifying to compare views and strengthen notions. Although an academic, Anthony Everitt knows how to represent drama. The opening of the book is certainly brilliant. He starts with an engrossing account of Julius Caesar assassination in which the attending Cicero is the only one who is innocent of the bloody plot and yet for whom, and for what he represented, is the deed done. This is the sort of opening to which one goes back to reread after finishing the book. In this account, Everitt does a good job in showing Cicero’s complex nature. He was someone who had to juggle between his ideas and his political role. And it was precisely this wavering which put his life at risk several times. It was not always clear to his friends and foes, whether it was the theoretical expositions or the Realpolitik practice, which were enlightening or dangerous. Cicero was essentially a conservative who firmly believed that by persuasion and negotiation the former and idyllic Republic could come back to Rome and a healthy democratic society could be reinstated. And yet, in his politics he more than once supported and sided with the autocrats whose aim was precisely to do away with the Republic and the traditional political structures. Following his life has provided me with a useful framework in which to place his writings, and indeed the chapters in which Everitt discusses these were for me more interesting than following the political intrigue. From the earlier transcriptions of the political speeches that Cicero composed as a youngish and aspiring politician, he moved at a somewhat later stage to more meditative musings on a balanced life, duty, and friendship, bequeathing to posterity his accumulated wisdom. And in his more advanced age, when his personal interests and emotional ties had loosened, he summoned the courage to produce the final acerbic, consistent and continuous attack on the Republic’s latest enemy. The fourteen Philippicae chant the swan song of a disappearing epoch in the history of Rome and of Cicero’s own life. It seems Everitt’s main aim in writing this was to recover the central place that Cicero has had until relatively recently in the education of the layman. I wonder whether he will succeed in this ambitious aim, but he certainly has awakened my interest in this author. Through his pen Cicero emerges as a likeable and closer figure from whom we have a great deal to learn today, and who should stay out of the Olympus of Forgotten Figures and of the Myth of the Boring Classics. “Caesar remarked that Cicero had won greater laurels than those worn by a general in his Triumph, for it meant more to have extended the frontiers of Roman genius than of its empire”

  2. 4 out of 5

    Emma

    A decent, readable biography of Cicero that effectively situates his character within the framework of the turbulent times in which he lived. While not uncritically positive, Everitt clearly considers Cicero's actions as a changeable, deliberate response to political necessity, using the preface to set up the book as 'an exercise in rehabilitation' [x]. It's not entirely convincing, there's a significant amount of faffing about, second-guessing, and attention seeking throughout Cicero's career, A decent, readable biography of Cicero that effectively situates his character within the framework of the turbulent times in which he lived. While not uncritically positive, Everitt clearly considers Cicero's actions as a changeable, deliberate response to political necessity, using the preface to set up the book as 'an exercise in rehabilitation' [x]. It's not entirely convincing, there's a significant amount of faffing about, second-guessing, and attention seeking throughout Cicero's career, with energy and clear direction only seeming to arrive in his wrangling with Antony, highlighted by the Philippics. He's very much a man of words rather than action, successful in small bursts that often seem more luck than judgement, and very susceptible to the currents surrounding more powerful men. That he had 'clear aims' which he 'very nearly realised' [x] seems a stretch. Nevertheless, Cicero's skills an orator and writer are obvious, the volume of extant sources attest to that. If it sometimes seems that his usefulness might be more as a chronicler of the time than a politician, well, just don't say it in front of Everitt.... While there's nothing new or challenging here, and despite his book coming across as a bit of an apologia, Everitt provides an engaging story for a general readership. For those wanting more, there's a selection of sources at the back of the book, and of course, there's Cicero's own works there for the reading.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Darwin8u

    “The radicals seem not to have had a clear set of proposals and seized opportunities as they came along.” ― Anthony Everitt, Cicero: The Life and Times of Rome's Greatest Politician Not as good as Everitt's biography of Augustus, but better than his biography of Hadrian. Everitt is clearly passionate and good at classical narratives. His biographies are quick, easy, and summarize the subjects well. He doesn't add much new to the history. He isn't challenging or overthrowing assumptions about Cice “The radicals seem not to have had a clear set of proposals and seized opportunities as they came along.” ― Anthony Everitt, Cicero: The Life and Times of Rome's Greatest Politician Not as good as Everitt's biography of Augustus, but better than his biography of Hadrian. Everitt is clearly passionate and good at classical narratives. His biographies are quick, easy, and summarize the subjects well. He doesn't add much new to the history. He isn't challenging or overthrowing assumptions about Cicero or the other major players, but he weaves a nice story and makes classical history approachable. Everitt does a fine job of balancing the different aspects of Cicero. His skill as an orator, his hits and misses as a politician, his defense of the Republic, his rationality all get their time and moment. Everitt blends in Cicero's weaknesses: his vanity, his missteps/vacillation in politics, his zeal in persecuting Mark Anthony, and his cowardice. The weakness of this biography is while Everitt might be aiming at a form of historical rehabilitation, I'm not sure Cicero was ever really in need of rehabilitation. While he was often unlucky during his life (unlike Julius Caesar the birds never seemed to be on Cicero's side) after his 'good death' Cicero seems to have flourished. The volume and quality of Cicero's writings that survived the fall of Rome have made Cicero into one of the hero/gods of the Roman Republic. His genius survives. Cicero will always be known more now for what he wrote and thought than for what he did. Caesar may have been deified by decree of the Roman Senate on 1 January 42 BC, but Cicero's own writings have made him immortal. He lives on in Machiavelli, John Adams, Abraham Lincoln, and Winston Churchill. As Emperor Augustus observed to one of his grandsons upon seeing him reading a book by Cicero: "An eloquent man, my child, an eloquent man, and a patriot." Not a bad epitaph from the Caesar who had you killed.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Riku Sayuj

    Now I badly need to read a comparative analysis of Caesar and Cicero - there is something amazing there.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    The funny thing is, I was glad enough to have been exposed to Cicero through Everitt's fine prose and superb scholarship but I don't care a bit to read more about the man. What Everitt does better than anything else is illuminate the earthy, visceral mayhem that was Rome. Ceasar, Crassus, Pompey, Octavian, Brutus. He makes everything come alive in a way that has gotten me hankering to tackle anything else that's going to give me the same primal, political fury and grandeur I got from these pages. The funny thing is, I was glad enough to have been exposed to Cicero through Everitt's fine prose and superb scholarship but I don't care a bit to read more about the man. What Everitt does better than anything else is illuminate the earthy, visceral mayhem that was Rome. Ceasar, Crassus, Pompey, Octavian, Brutus. He makes everything come alive in a way that has gotten me hankering to tackle anything else that's going to give me the same primal, political fury and grandeur I got from these pages. the thing that gets me is the juxtaposition between the utterly sophisticated and far-reaching intellectuality of the people who were out and about around 40 BC. How advanced they were- culurally, economically, politically, artistically. And yet....they lived in caves and had no public lighting and stabbed each other when they were drunk at parties. Wildness and mayhem taking place amid all the cool apollonian rationality and abstract calculation. A fascinating mix. Everitt does a splendid job of bringing this to life. Ironically, Cicero seems almost bland and tepid when contrasted with this vibrant and pulsating canvas. It says his next book will be about Augustus. I seriously cannot wait!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    As a Classicist, I've always had a soft spot for old Cicero. He was the first author I read in the Latin language and my fondness for him continues to this day. That being said, Cicero the man certainly had his flaws, which Everitt exposes well in this book. Cicero's one true desire was to be loved and accepted by the Senate. His inability to crack into the ultimate old boys' club, despite his talents, led to unfortunate grasping and timidity at the core of his character. Despite constantly aimin As a Classicist, I've always had a soft spot for old Cicero. He was the first author I read in the Latin language and my fondness for him continues to this day. That being said, Cicero the man certainly had his flaws, which Everitt exposes well in this book. Cicero's one true desire was to be loved and accepted by the Senate. His inability to crack into the ultimate old boys' club, despite his talents, led to unfortunate grasping and timidity at the core of his character. Despite constantly aiming for greatness, he too often equivocated or went too far in his policies, tone deaf with self-doubt. That being said, he was committed to the Roman constitution and constantly worked for reconciliation between the factions that ultimately destroyed the Republic with their quarrels. Everitt shows us the deeply-rooted conflicts and flaws that composed Cicero's character. With Cicero as his frame of reference, the events of the First Triumvirate and the Civil Wars appear less dashing than, say, Caesar would have you believe. Very interesting read, though not for everyone.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    The fundamental difficulty of writing a life of Cicero is that he's not the most interesting person in the story by a long shot. The trouble is that he has to share the stage with Caesar, who's bold, sexy -- every man's woman and every woman's man -- far-sighted enough to understand that the ship of the Republic had well and truly sunk, loyal to friends and merciful to enemies -- at least so long as they were potentially useful -- in short, one of the great men of history. Cicero, by way of cont The fundamental difficulty of writing a life of Cicero is that he's not the most interesting person in the story by a long shot. The trouble is that he has to share the stage with Caesar, who's bold, sexy -- every man's woman and every woman's man -- far-sighted enough to understand that the ship of the Republic had well and truly sunk, loyal to friends and merciful to enemies -- at least so long as they were potentially useful -- in short, one of the great men of history. Cicero, by way of contrast, was a bit of a ditherer, prone to dissembling and not committing to anything until the last possible moment (and then prone to changing his mind); he prosecuted or defended a number of high-profile court cases, but in most instances raw political power of the more important factions determined the outcome; and when he was briefly able to play a leading role after Caesar's assassination, it didn't exactly end well. Devoted enough to serving and preserving the Republic, he lacked the capacity or vision to realize its flaws and the need for radical reform. As a result, it would take a strong biographer not to take Cicero's life and turn it into a sort of synecdoche of the Republic, his own vacillation and weakness standing in for the ineffectiveness of a political institution on its last legs, contrasted with the magnetic, grasping dynamism of an Empire, personified by Caesar. Everitt, to his credit, avoids this temptation, but does so by taking the puzzling approach turning his book into an exercise in apologetics. Repeatedly, we're told that Cicero was making the best of a bad situation, or not in a position to make strong decisions, or just lacked the capacity for large-scale leadership. There's some truth in this litany of excuses, but Everitt seems to be trying to make the case that but for one or two unfortunate flaws of character, education, or position, Cicero might have been another Caesar or Augustus, at least an Antony. Of course, this strains credulity, and it's also to Everitt's credit that he provides the evidence allowing the reader to realize he's stretching. The book is a nice balance of concision and comprehensiveness, leading the reader through the proto-Byzantine web of plots and factions that characterized Rome at the fall of the Republic, providing not just Cicero's take on the lead players but also a more objective look at what he missed. It's just that the analysis at the end has a systematic bias that's hard to take seriously. The most egregious example is probably where after relating how Cicero, as consul, helped roll up a plot to overthrow the Republic, then panicked and executed some of the conspirators without trial, over loud protest. Again, the book makes clear that this was an ill-informed overreaction, with many other leaders correctly counselling restraint -- but Everitt attempts to downplay the magnitude of the error, even as Cicero's peers exile him and hold years'-long grudges over it. Not to get too far down on the guy -- but the main draw here is definitely that Cicero was a reasonably good observer of an incredibly interesting period of history, playing an interesting albeit minor role, not that he was or even might have been one of the main protagonists. The more Everitt strays into the latter story, the weaker the book becomes. Before wrapping up, I should note that there's a potential objection here: the genius of his oratory and prose are in large measure why old Tully's revered, not for being a cunning politician or a great leader, so why shouldn't an appraisal of the biography focus on that? Well, yes, but the problem is, the genius of said prose doesn't come across too well in translation; his Latin syntax may be admirably balanced, but reading his speeches in English, power and force don't come through that clearly (though he is endearingly bitchy in his letters). While some writers are at least partially celebrated for the role they played in key events -- Milton, let's say -- they tend to have some masterpiece upon which to hang their hats, clearly overshadowing the parts of their biography wrapped up in politics and war. And for the modern reader, Caesar's crossing of the Rubicon is a much more salient reference point than the rhetorical heft of Against Verres.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Hadrian

    A biography of 'Rome's Greatest Politician'. Human nature is the same as always, and the political animals are as beastly as ever. Cicero was described as a defender of the republic, and a brilliant orator, but most of all, a politician. He waffled, he did character assassinations. But compared to the relative chaos that was Ancient Rome, he stands almost as a beacon. One wonders, once Republic became Empire, how the state managed to survive for so long. A very interesting book, and recommended fo A biography of 'Rome's Greatest Politician'. Human nature is the same as always, and the political animals are as beastly as ever. Cicero was described as a defender of the republic, and a brilliant orator, but most of all, a politician. He waffled, he did character assassinations. But compared to the relative chaos that was Ancient Rome, he stands almost as a beacon. One wonders, once Republic became Empire, how the state managed to survive for so long. A very interesting book, and recommended for those with any interest in Roman history.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Grumpus

    Cicero (106-43 B.C.), the greatest orator of the late Roman Republic. I recently finished Charlemagne (c.742-814), and was surprised there was so little biographical information about him. So, when I started this biography, about a man who lived almost 1000 years before that, I was surprised at the amount of information about his childhood, first court cases, and his wives, to name a few subjects. The number of letters he wrote that survived is dumbfounding to me. I can only imagine how far an or Cicero (106-43 B.C.), the greatest orator of the late Roman Republic. I recently finished Charlemagne (c.742-814), and was surprised there was so little biographical information about him. So, when I started this biography, about a man who lived almost 1000 years before that, I was surprised at the amount of information about his childhood, first court cases, and his wives, to name a few subjects. The number of letters he wrote that survived is dumbfounding to me. I can only imagine how far an orator of his stature could go today, whether it be for good or evil. When I think Cicero, I think of his quotes. Below are a few of my favorites in no order: - “The life of the dead is set in the memory of the living.” - “A room without books is like a body without a soul.” - “Politicians are not born; they are excreted.” - “The life of the dead is placed on the memories of the living. The love you gave in life keeps people alive beyond their time. Anyone who was given love will always live on in another's heart.” - “Life is nothing without friendship.” - “Our span of life is brief, but is long enough for us to live well and honestly.” - “A friend is a second self”

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    I'm not sure if this book fully owns its four stars, but whevsies (I'm sure Cicero would appreciate that genius turn of phrase). Overall, this was quite engaging, a readable and informative but not dull biography. There are many pages with no mention of Cicero, as the author strays into detail about the man's contemporaries and the events of the day, but this is (obviously) necessary - and it's interesting anyway so the reader doesn't mind. My only real gripe is that Everitt doesn't manage to make I'm not sure if this book fully owns its four stars, but whevsies (I'm sure Cicero would appreciate that genius turn of phrase). Overall, this was quite engaging, a readable and informative but not dull biography. There are many pages with no mention of Cicero, as the author strays into detail about the man's contemporaries and the events of the day, but this is (obviously) necessary - and it's interesting anyway so the reader doesn't mind. My only real gripe is that Everitt doesn't manage to make Cicero very admirable. I suppose that's a heavy task since ultimately his most lasting achievements were his writings rather than his participation in events; Everitt somehow has to create a compelling narrative, and unfortunately, when it comes to actions, Cicero can occasionally come across as a bit of a vain, waffling coward. (Compare his dithering journeys toward a firm opinion on the Caesar/Pompey and later the Antony/Octavian conflicts with the stark determination of those men; he may have been the better person, but one enjoys the others far more.) I suppose Everitt deals with this limitation as best as he can, but I still felt he was unable to put forth a strong case for Cicero as great statesman. I liked the book anyway.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Karla

    A solid biography of the advocate and orator. While the initial chapter is a Republican Rome 101 primer, and therefore the basics that I'm highly familiar with, it was written in a refreshing manner that I've come to associate with Everitt based on previous experience with the author. So it moved briskly on to the chronological recounting of Cicero's life, career and death with a wealth of detail (that never became too tedious) and observations (that never became too facile). Recommended for thos A solid biography of the advocate and orator. While the initial chapter is a Republican Rome 101 primer, and therefore the basics that I'm highly familiar with, it was written in a refreshing manner that I've come to associate with Everitt based on previous experience with the author. So it moved briskly on to the chronological recounting of Cicero's life, career and death with a wealth of detail (that never became too tedious) and observations (that never became too facile). Recommended for those interested in the man whom they might have encountered elsewhere in their fiction reading (Colleen McCullough's Masters of Rome, Robert Harris' Cicero series, etc.). Everitt admits that he has knowingly put forward a different (some would say positive) interpretation of Cicero's motives and actions, as an exercise of repackaging historical figures for a new generation in the genre of historical biography, taking into account how any generation's own history colors perceptions. This was interesting to me, since I recall Cicero indeed being presented in a less positive light by my Roman history professor in the mid-1990s. I suppose if I'm inclined at a later date to revisit Cicero, I'll pick an earlier biography and compare the tone.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Heidi The Reader

    A definitive biography of Cicero, spanning his earliest years to slightly after his untimely end. If anything, Cicero: The Life and Times of Rome's Greatest Politician includes too much information. The last years of the republic were turbulent with so many political players and various plots and counter-plots, that it is impossible to weave it all into one smooth narrative. Everitt does a pretty good job but, occasionally, I was bewildered the sheer amount of information that he was cramming in A definitive biography of Cicero, spanning his earliest years to slightly after his untimely end. If anything, Cicero: The Life and Times of Rome's Greatest Politician includes too much information. The last years of the republic were turbulent with so many political players and various plots and counter-plots, that it is impossible to weave it all into one smooth narrative. Everitt does a pretty good job but, occasionally, I was bewildered the sheer amount of information that he was cramming into each section. Within the culture, religion, personal preferences, economy, political policies, speeches, personal lives, food, and building layouts, Everitt shows Cicero to be a complex and moral man if perhaps not always a politically effective one. If you enjoyed this book, I'd recommend reading The Masters of Rome series by Colleen McCullough (epic retelling of Roman history) or any of Cicero's translated works. Even if you don't understand the original Latin, I'm sure that you'll appreciate his words. In the Latin, Cicero built his argument not only with the force of his words but also in the way that he arranged the words on the page. It's an incredible form of communication that doesn't really have an English equivalent.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Josh Friedlander

    I appreciated the way Everitt vanishes what must be enormous amounts of translation, scholarly debates and archival research to produce a slick and seamless story that feels like a biography of someone recent. Cicero, like Boethius, was a politician who turned philosopher only when things went pear-shaped, but he was considerably more successful in both, and probably would have been famous anyway for his oratory. He was deeply involved in the end of the Roman Republic in the last century BC , an I appreciated the way Everitt vanishes what must be enormous amounts of translation, scholarly debates and archival research to produce a slick and seamless story that feels like a biography of someone recent. Cicero, like Boethius, was a politician who turned philosopher only when things went pear-shaped, but he was considerably more successful in both, and probably would have been famous anyway for his oratory. He was deeply involved in the end of the Roman Republic in the last century BC , an event in which basically every Ancient Roman I've ever heard of was involved. The core of that story is retold here at length. the subtitle calls him "Rome's Greatest Politician" but that seems a stretch, since some fairly amateurish waffling and picking a losing side ultimately led to his downfall. For a biography of a fairly tragic figure, this book is crisp and unsentimental - the author seems neither to strongly like nor dislike his subject.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Dimitri

    An adequate biography, a good companion to Imperium by Robert Harris but to counter any inherent hagiography, don't skip Michael Parenti and his anti-classicist The Assassination Of Julius Caesar: A People's History Of Ancient Rome...

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jeremiah Lorrig

    This biography of a great man sets him articulately in his time and ties him to the lives of others and provides a deeply personal view made possible by heavy emphasis of his personal letters as a window into his mind.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Sheryl

    Not as great as Augustus but still pretty great

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy Perron

    Anthony Everitt's biography of Marcus Tullius Cicero is an enjoyable book to read. Everitt has an interesting writing style. In some ways he is something of the throw back, which I like in certain respects and in others I don't care as much. I like the way he capitalizes titles. Many writers do not do that anymore (Robin Seager hardily capitalizes anything) but it is something that I like to see. Unfortunately, he does not have any footnotes in the main text, that would please Theodore Roosevelt Anthony Everitt's biography of Marcus Tullius Cicero is an enjoyable book to read. Everitt has an interesting writing style. In some ways he is something of the throw back, which I like in certain respects and in others I don't care as much. I like the way he capitalizes titles. Many writers do not do that anymore (Robin Seager hardily capitalizes anything) but it is something that I like to see. Unfortunately, he does not have any footnotes in the main text, that would please Theodore Roosevelt if he reading this book, but I prefer them. He is well researched and all his sources are listed in the back and identified line by line, but I prefer footnotes because they are easier to use. Everitt takes the reader on a guide though one of the more interesting lives in one of the most interesting times. It is amazing how great events seem to be surrounded by such colorful figures. During his career Cicero would meet and interact with Marcus Crassus, Cato the Younger, Pompey the Great, Julius Caesar, Marcus Brutus, Mark Antony, and Emperor Augustus. In an age where every politician wanted to be a warrior, Cicero makes a name for himself in the Forum as an orator and advocate instead of commander of legions. The reader follows Cicero's career as he climes the cursus honorum. It is hard for a 'new man'--one who does not have a senator in his family--to clime the ranks of Rome's offices. But he becomes consul and saves the Republic he loves from the forces of Catalina. However saving the Republic is short lived because its problem was institutional, which--as Everitt points out-- was something Cicero could not see. To Cicero, Rome's problems were personal. Cicero felt if the Republic had better men to lead it then its problems would be solved. "Having thought the matter over Cicero convened a meeting of the Senate early the next morning. It may have occurred to him that Crassus, rattled by Catalina's behavior and to avoid the being implicated in some wild adventure, had himself arranged for the mysterious letters to be written and 'delivered.' That did not matter; the important thing was that he at last had something that looked like proof. Once the Senate had assembled, Cicero handed the letters to their recipients, who read them aloud to the meeting. They all contained information about a plot. Next a report was given on the formation of regular bands of soldiers in Etruria; it was claimed that Manlius would take the field on October 28. The Consul asked to be given emergency powers." (p.102) As time goes on, Rome sees the rise of the First Triumvirate, which he refused to join, and his own life get torn apart by his archenemy Clodius. Cicero recovers just in time for the civil war, an event which angers him to no end. He hated the people on one side and the cause on the other. During the reign of Caesar, Cicero becomes just a sarcastic voice in the Senate. When the Ides of March come, Cicero career gets immediately revived, and he plays a huge role trying to bring down Mark Antony. But to no avail, the rise the Second Triumvirate ends his dreams and his life. I really enjoyed this book it tells the tale of relatively minor player, but a great one nonetheless, in one of the more fascinating periods in the history of the world. I would recommend this book for anyone for it is extremely well done.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Linda Harkins

    After reading Everitt's book on Augustus, I knew I would enjoy this one on Cicero. We are fortunate that Tiro, Cicero's slave and scribe, could write in shorthad as fast as Cicero could speak. Everitt includes fragments of legendary speeches, witticisms, quotes from Cicero's books, and letters to Atticus that bring to life perhaps the greatest orator the world has ever known. He presents Cicero as a "statesman and public servant of outstanding ability. He had administrative skills of a very high After reading Everitt's book on Augustus, I knew I would enjoy this one on Cicero. We are fortunate that Tiro, Cicero's slave and scribe, could write in shorthad as fast as Cicero could speak. Everitt includes fragments of legendary speeches, witticisms, quotes from Cicero's books, and letters to Atticus that bring to life perhaps the greatest orator the world has ever known. He presents Cicero as a "statesman and public servant of outstanding ability. He had administrative skills of a very high order and was the preeminent orator of his age, if not of any age." Cicero was prone to emotional swings and felt he was always in some kind of balancing act. His letters reveal that he may have been somewhat unaware of how influential he really was. The literature tells us that the gifted frequently suffer from what is called "the imposter syndrome." A student of philosophy whose "philosophical writings are masterpieces of popularization and were one of the most valuable means by which the heritage of classical thought was handed down to posterity," Cicero substituted philosophy for political activity during periods when the Senate would not listen to his advice. He believed that much suffering could be alleviated through right attitudes and a virtuous life. One does not need to be a classicist to enjoy this biography of Cicero. His life should certainly inspire all of us.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Mat Domaradzki

    I knew nothing of Cicero before I read this book upon the recommendation of Rob. Took me some time to get around to it, but it was well worth my time. The only reason I gave it just three stars is because Anthony Everitt's writing prose annoyed me to no end. I would get lost at times and at other times I was begging for more information. Guess what I was looking for was a very detail oriented book about the Roman Republic during Cicero's time, and as Anthony Everitt explained in the beginning of I knew nothing of Cicero before I read this book upon the recommendation of Rob. Took me some time to get around to it, but it was well worth my time. The only reason I gave it just three stars is because Anthony Everitt's writing prose annoyed me to no end. I would get lost at times and at other times I was begging for more information. Guess what I was looking for was a very detail oriented book about the Roman Republic during Cicero's time, and as Anthony Everitt explained in the beginning of the book, this was just an introduction to who Cicero was and the place he grew up in. That said, I still learned a lot about the Roman Republic from this book and walked away amazed about the book's namesake and the society he lived in. Cicero himself, nor anyone else in that era, didn't strike me as an amazing and upstanding individual, but I think that was due to the fact that they grew up in place and a time I can't comprehend fully. But to see how the world's most influential people and culture (up to that point) worked was simply fascinating and gave me a better appreciation for what was Rome accomplished. All in all, not a bad book, and I just started Everitt’s other book, Augustus. That one already started with more detail than I saw in Cicero, so I have high hopes…

  20. 5 out of 5

    Frank Stein

    We know more about Marcus Tullius Cicero than we do about any other ancient Roman. Not only do we have contemporary records like Sallust’s “The Conspiracy of Catilina,” we have near contemporary historians such as Plutarch, Suetonius, Appian, and Dio Cassius, who all wrestled with Cicero’s role in the final days of the Roman Republic. Most importantly, we have Cicero’s own voluminous writings. We have his edited Senate speeches and his writings on politics and ethics. Unlike every other Roman, w We know more about Marcus Tullius Cicero than we do about any other ancient Roman. Not only do we have contemporary records like Sallust’s “The Conspiracy of Catilina,” we have near contemporary historians such as Plutarch, Suetonius, Appian, and Dio Cassius, who all wrestled with Cicero’s role in the final days of the Roman Republic. Most importantly, we have Cicero’s own voluminous writings. We have his edited Senate speeches and his writings on politics and ethics. Unlike every other Roman, we also hundreds of his letters, especially to his lifelong friend Atticus, where he waxes about everything from his digestion to his writing style to his disputes with his wife. These letters provide an unparalleled personal look at an unparalleled public life. Cicero was born into a wealthy but provincial family in Arpinium, which was a smallish town 70 miles southeast of Rome, but a world apart from the city socially. Cicero kept a chip on his shoulder his entire life about his exclusion from the Roman nobility, and occasionally talked about the heights to which the “boy from Arpinium” had climbed. He was indeed one of the few “New Men” who managed entrée into the Roman senatorial class. Cicero’s route to fame was his rhetoric, over which he fussed his entire life. He went to “Asia” (Greece) in 79 BC just to “change my method of speaking” and learn Greek speaking styles (as well as take home some fancy Greek sculptures and furniture). He made his name and a good part of his fortune in legal cases, especially his prosecution before the Senate of the coup plotter Catilinia in 63 BC (Catlinia attacked the “immigrant” Cicero as unworthy of the body). He climbed the “Cursus Honorum,” or offices of Rome, by consistently winning elections at the youngest possible age, in which elections he was willing to act pragmatically. Unlike the stoical Cato, he joked that Romans always loved pleasure, and had no problems exchanging a few meals for votes, as long as it was for a good cause. Cicero’s main desideratum was to keep a “balanced” constitution between the “optimates” and the “populares,” and push the occasional popular reform for the conservative goal of keeping the Republic alive. Cicero’s life provides a window into how the tottering constitutional structure that Cicero tried to save was approaching collapse. The Roman government somehow had maintained a form of democracy for five hundred years, where most citizens could vote in the either the Tribal Assembly, which elected lower-level Quaestors and Aediles, or the, slightly more elite-biased, Military Assembly, which elected the eight Praetors (judges) and the two Consuls (executives) that ran the country itself. There was also official Tribunes of the Plebeians, purely popular leaders who could veto proposals from the elite Senate, a plebeian assembly, and a host of elected priests and supervisors. The problem was that all these overlapping officials, assemblies, and legislators made it next to impossible to pass anything. Many plebeians and, as the 1st century BC ground on, former soldiers, longed for a leader to cut the Gordian knot and make the government more active. They found there first leader in former military commander Marius, who promised to redistribute land to his ex-soldiers and the poor. The book spends most of its time detailing the battles of Sulla and Marius, Pompey and Caesar, and Octavian and Marcus Anthony, where in each case the former, relatively more conservative, figure battled the later, relatively more populist leader, although in each struggle the center of struggle kept moving to the left. It’s a shame, however, this book in fact did not take more cognizance of Cicero’s own life in these struggles. It focuses instead on how Cicero made alliances with the conservatives in each fight, even if he understood that they posed their own threats to the Republic, and even he knew eventually, in the case of Octavian, they would likely overthrow it. After a temporary alliance with Mark Anthony, Octavian had his former ally and mentor Cicero killed, even while the new emperor continued to admire the man’s efforts and eloquence. It’s amazing that we know so much about Cicero, but one gets more of the man’s personal life in Mary Beard’s SPQR, while here one gets to see how he fit into the political struggles of the time. Both are necessary for understanding the man and the Republican Roman government he struggled, unsuccessfully, to defend.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Steven Williams

    This book paints the picture of the life of Marcus Tillius Cicero through an examination of his letters to his best friend, Titus Pomponius Atticus, among other ancient texts. In tells of Cicero’s intellectual development, friendships, family, and stormy political career. While he may have been admired as the “greatest politician” of Rome, the sense I got from the book was he was not always that successful in his political activity, which was put to an end by his political enemies. The book was i This book paints the picture of the life of Marcus Tillius Cicero through an examination of his letters to his best friend, Titus Pomponius Atticus, among other ancient texts. In tells of Cicero’s intellectual development, friendships, family, and stormy political career. While he may have been admired as the “greatest politician” of Rome, the sense I got from the book was he was not always that successful in his political activity, which was put to an end by his political enemies. The book was interesting. And, I got a good sense of Cicero’s life and times. Not knowing a great deal about either the book was certainly educational for me. One thing I learned is that I would not agree with his philosophical positions. The author did a splendid job of using primary sources. Although educated in literature at Cambridge University, he did a good job as a biographer—his first book as. I could recommend the book for anyone interested in Cicero or the Roman Republic during his lifetime. As I said it is educational, so the attentive reader is bound to learn from his or hers reading of the book.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Richard Levine

    A solid and accessible biography of the great Roman orator and politician. I read this after reading the Robert Harris trilogy of historical novels about Cicero, and to some extent Everitt's Cicero suffers by comparison to the more intriguing fictional version created by novelist Harris. (Harris is faithful to the historical record, but takes advantage of the novelist's freedom to imagine scenes and conversations for which we lack a factual record, including aspects of Cicero's personal life.) B A solid and accessible biography of the great Roman orator and politician. I read this after reading the Robert Harris trilogy of historical novels about Cicero, and to some extent Everitt's Cicero suffers by comparison to the more intriguing fictional version created by novelist Harris. (Harris is faithful to the historical record, but takes advantage of the novelist's freedom to imagine scenes and conversations for which we lack a factual record, including aspects of Cicero's personal life.) But all in this is a worthwhile read. Everitt provides a good historical guide to the complex times in which Cicero lived, starting with a primer on the governmental structure of the Roman Republic, explaining the political turmoil that ran through much of Cicero's life (culminating in the assassination of Julius Caesar and the civil war that followed), and showing how this "new man," through his talent for thinking and speaking, became one of the key figures in Roman politics in the waning days of the Republic. Everitt is definitely a Cicero fan, making his case for Cicero's greatness; but he is also balanced enough to be able to point out his subject's flaws and mistakes. I'd give this 3.5 stars if I could.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Bee

    Everlitt's work excellently weaves the life of Cicero into a greater narration of the last days of the Roman Republic. Written largely in layman's terms, the book is a quick and exciting read for anyone interested in the ways of ancient Rome and the lives of its many characters.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Malcolm

    Wonderful tour of Rome at the end of the republic through the eyes of fascinating figure. History at its best is taught as a story.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Andy

    Thorough, readable, forgiving and praiseful.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jill

    Cicero: The Life and Times of Rome's Greatest Politician by Anthony Everitt is a well-crafted, highly readable biography of Marcus Tullius Cicero, who was a lawyer, orator, prolific and popular writer, and statesman of Ancient Rome. Everitt takes his information from some 900 letters Cicero penned (most of which were to his friend Atticus); many of his speeches (revised and edited by Cicero himself); and Cicero's books on philosophy and oratory. Cicero (January 3, 106 B.C. - December 7, 43 B.C.) Cicero: The Life and Times of Rome's Greatest Politician by Anthony Everitt is a well-crafted, highly readable biography of Marcus Tullius Cicero, who was a lawyer, orator, prolific and popular writer, and statesman of Ancient Rome. Everitt takes his information from some 900 letters Cicero penned (most of which were to his friend Atticus); many of his speeches (revised and edited by Cicero himself); and Cicero's books on philosophy and oratory. Cicero (January 3, 106 B.C. - December 7, 43 B.C.) wrote about the political events of his day: the rise of Julius Caesar, his assassination, and subsequent maneuvering to power of Mark Anthony and Octavian (later known as Augustus). He also set out to write a definitive work covering "the whole field in detail" of every philosophical system. Cicero had a son, Marcus, and a much-beloved daughter Tullia (who died while giving birth). He divorced his wife Terentia after some 30 years, although it is not clear why to historians. His second marriage lasted only a few months. Cicero was a life-long devotee of Republican government (and thus an opponent of Caesar). Ordinarily, opposing Caesar was not conducive to longevity. Cicero nevertheless lived to tell his tale for several reasons: Caesar was renown for his occasional leniency, Caesar enjoyed Cicero's wit, and Cicero himself was a successful manipulator of people in general and alliances in particular. Cicero longed for power, but always played a secondary role in Roman politics. He lacked the charisma of Caesar, as well as his deep understanding of politics. As Everitt observed, "Julius Caesar, with the pitiless insight of genius, understood that the constitution with its endless checks and balances prevented effective government . . .” But for Cicero, the solution to Rome's crisis of inaction and inefficacy “lay in finding better men to run the government and better laws to keep them in order." But a few good men were as hard to find then as they are today. Thus, Cicero's advice and leadership, though valued by many, were bypassed by most. How well T.S. Eliot's character of Prufrock captures Cicero! "No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be; Am an attendant lord, one that will do To swell a progress, start a scene or two, Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool, Deferential, glad to be of use, Politic, cautious, and meticulous; Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse; At times, indeed, almost ridiculous— Almost, at times, the Fool." Cicero never understood that he was wrong, nor passed by an opportunity to tout his own insight, influence, and value. Eventually Cicero was put to death after Octavian added Cicero's name on a proscription. (This was a posting of people wanted dead by the leadership. All property was then confiscated and turned over to the state after the killer was rewarded.) Everitt brings Ancient Rome to life as if we were contemporaries of the protagonists. Ultimately, this attribute is what makes the story so enjoyable. This is an excellent book that makes the reader eager to find out more.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Timothy

    I always enjoy reading history books that are written in an assessable manner. Anthony Everitt’s biography of the Roman statesman Cicero reads like a novel at times. Perhaps this is a byproduct of the source material. We are fortunate that Cicero was a prolific writer, and that many of his personal letters have survived. For these reasons, Everitt often provided the reader with insights on Cicero’s thoughts and emotions. Everitt did this by intent, as it makes for interesting reading. My quibble I always enjoy reading history books that are written in an assessable manner. Anthony Everitt’s biography of the Roman statesman Cicero reads like a novel at times. Perhaps this is a byproduct of the source material. We are fortunate that Cicero was a prolific writer, and that many of his personal letters have survived. For these reasons, Everitt often provided the reader with insights on Cicero’s thoughts and emotions. Everitt did this by intent, as it makes for interesting reading. My quibble is that I wonder how much liberty Everitt took inferring the thoughts of a person who lived in a radically different time and place. I wonder if Everitt has faced criticism from his peers for writing “pulp” history. To his credit, in instances when Everitt makes inferences that fall outside the scope of what is written in his source material, he clearly works hard to place these inferences in the context of accepted historical background knowledge on Roman culture and social institutions. Beyond this issue, I learned a great deal from this book. The political motivations of Cicero and his political colleagues were fascinating. I am still not clear on the political ideologies of the time. Everitt seems to brand Cicero as a conservative because of his respect of long-standing institutions and political checks and balances. Opposed to this seem to be “reformers” who try to break through what Everitt describes as an inefficient administrative quagmire by seizing power. Yet, it seems as if ego and thirst for power guided these “reform” efforts as much as interest in political change. There were high stakes associated with Roman political life. A disgruntled politician would seemingly not hesitate to kill those who stood in his way. In fact, the most powerful politicians were also generals; success in war meant success in politics. As Everitt notes, it is a testament to Cicero that, although he was not a prolific general, he was able to maintain political power for much of his career. On a related note, it is interesting that, as Everitt implies, power hungry political figures would first rely on the detailed system of rules embedded in Roman government (albeit to their personal advantage) and, only when this failed, resorted to violence. This is not unlike politics in many contemporary governments. I also found the connection between superstition, ritual, and politics to be interesting. If, in accordance with Roman religious rules, a day was declared to be “unlucky”, all public business was halted. It was not uncommon for this to be used as a political delay tactic, or a means of preventing unpopular assemblies from meeting. Finally, Everitt indicates that Roman politics were largely confined to city limits. Other regions of the Empire were disenfranchised. In part, this may have been by intent – territories obtained through war were likely subjugated. But, it is also a byproduct of communication limitations of the day. When one puts these limitations in perspective, the nature of the Roman political system becomes even more remarkable.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Todd N

    Over the holiday break I kept starting and putting down On Duties by Cicero. For some reason I wasn't able to get into it. Figuring that the problem was with me and probably not with Cicero or his prose, I bought this book at a local bookstore for a better understanding of Cicero's life and the context in which he was writing. [[[Aside: It was a thoroughly 20thC experience by the way. I couldn't find the Classics section in the store, and I had to wait for the one bookstore worker to finish talki Over the holiday break I kept starting and putting down On Duties by Cicero. For some reason I wasn't able to get into it. Figuring that the problem was with me and probably not with Cicero or his prose, I bought this book at a local bookstore for a better understanding of Cicero's life and the context in which he was writing. [[[Aside: It was a thoroughly 20thC experience by the way. I couldn't find the Classics section in the store, and I had to wait for the one bookstore worker to finish talking on a (corded) phone about some other inquiry. She led me to the back section where there were a handful of books on Rome and Greece -- along with some erotica books some perv stashed there. Then I waited in line to pay for the book in cash. It was a reminder of a better, simpler time.]]] Anyway, the subtitle calls Cicero "Rome's Greatest Politician," which I'm going to have to disagree with. It seems like you really need an army or two to matter in Roman politics, especially during the Fall of the Republic. But Cicero did very well given his circumstances. He was not from a patrician family, and rose strictly on the merits of his talents. There were many, many times when it would have been prudent to retire to private life and the enjoyment of his many villas, but he couldn't help himself. He loved being in the Forum and embroiled in its politics, even after having his house burned down and being forced into exile. He was a Republican and a patriot, even way past the point that the Republic was still tenable. He orates; you decide. Mr. Everitt does a great job showing just how tricky and fatal the last few decades of the Republic really were. There is a handy timeline with the major events, but I preferred to search my shaky memory for events instead. (I remembered that Caesar and Pompey fell out, but I didn't remember the particulars, for example.) He also makes the excellent point that even for the events that are well documented, we can only guess at the players' motivations. Cicero isn't even the most interesting character in the book. He even sounds kind of tiresome at times, constantly singing his praises out of insecurity and fear of being forgotten. And he's always making lame jokes and puns, which is definitely not my thing, though fortunately he wasn't above potty humor. Clearly, the Romans found him funny enough. Caesar had his jokes written down and reported to him along with the daily news briefings, which might make him the first Twitter follower in history. It's a quick read, broad rather than deep. I had trouble putting it down once I picked it up, and I'm eager to read a biography of Caesar now, probably that one by Goldsworthy since I really liked his book on Rome. (Hey, someone buy it for me and put it in my mail slot.) I think I'm ready to have another go at On Duties now. It's such a shame that his companion work On Doodies didn't survive.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Steven Peterson

    Anthony Everitt's Cicero is a strong biography of the important Roman lawyer, statesman, author, and politician. Members of the American Constitutional Convention would sometimes cite Cicero's work in their deliberations. As the author points out in the Preface (page vii), "[Cicero's:] big idea, which he tirelessly publicized, was that of a mixed or balanced constitution. He favored not monarchy nor oligarchy nor democracy, but a combination of all three. His model was Rome itself, but improved. Anthony Everitt's Cicero is a strong biography of the important Roman lawyer, statesman, author, and politician. Members of the American Constitutional Convention would sometimes cite Cicero's work in their deliberations. As the author points out in the Preface (page vii), "[Cicero's:] big idea, which he tirelessly publicized, was that of a mixed or balanced constitution. He favored not monarchy nor oligarchy nor democracy, but a combination of all three. His model was Rome itself, but improved." One reason that we know so much about Cicero was his voluminous correspondence with friends who saved his words for posterity. Also, he was a tireless self-promoter and authored a number of works that have survived over the ages. This volume traces his life back to his birth, placing Cicero in the context of the Rome of that era. He was born during the time of the Republic. By the time of his birth, the Republic was already dysfunctional, with coups followed by countercoups, with the aristocracy resistant to legislation that benefited the poor masses. There was no bureaucracy per se, so that implementing decisions properly and ensuring smooth governance were not givens. Marcus Tullius Cicero was not born to the nobility, but rose on his merits, a so-called "New Man" in Rome. He worked hard to become an orator and a lawyer. His defense of clients brought him much attention; he published many of his speeches as one way to publicize himself and his ideas. In 63 B. C., he reached the pinnacle of his political power and prestige with his selection as Consul. Things were not always smooth. For instance, Pompey the Great and Julius Caesar had their own agendas, which did not always coincide with those of the Consul. The book portrays a man who was very sensitive about and proud of his contributions, who was defensive regarding his critics, who tried to defend a Roman Republic that, in a real sense, no longer existed. Nonetheless, over a lengthy period of time, he remained a "player" in the Roman arena. One can surely question, ultimately, how effective he was, given his lack of understanding of changes to the system, but he was a "survivor" and he had some degree of political influence over a long period of time. In the end, his luck ran out, with the assassination of Julius Caesar, the flight of Brutus and Cassius, and the alliance between Mark Antony and the young Octavian (later Augustus). With this set of circumstances, his life was doomed, and he was killed in 43 B. C. All in all, this is a strong biography of an important but currently underappreciated Roman leader, author, and thinker. He was a flawed leader, but one whose role is important to be aware of.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Karl H.

    Cicero is a book concerning the downfall of the Roman republic and the hurly-burly of Roman politics. Apart from World War II, this might be the richest, most dynamic time in human history- filled with vivid characters, strong personalities, and bold actions. This biography is actually not so much a history of Cicero as it is of Rome and the downfall of the Republic. This is the book’s strength and its weakness, because Cicero was only tangentially involved in the story. Everitt did a good job e Cicero is a book concerning the downfall of the Roman republic and the hurly-burly of Roman politics. Apart from World War II, this might be the richest, most dynamic time in human history- filled with vivid characters, strong personalities, and bold actions. This biography is actually not so much a history of Cicero as it is of Rome and the downfall of the Republic. This is the book’s strength and its weakness, because Cicero was only tangentially involved in the story. Everitt did a good job explaining what was happening in Rome and talking about the various personalities and political interests that competed during this time. The different figures and competing interests like land reform and free corn distribution are not readily accessible to the modern reader, and to Everitt’s credit, he makes them comprehensible and even fascinating. Nearly all of the people involved are given enough characterization to let us keep track of the long list of players. The story itself is also fascinating, filled with ploys and counter-ploys, strokes of fate and decisive events. This book made me want to learn more about the history of Rome and all of the figures involved. One other thing that Everitt did well was convey how witty Cicero was. The book is filled with bon mots and witty put downs. But there is something structurally wrong about the whole book. Why tell this story through a mostly passive, vain, vacillating figure like Cicero? Cicero is not a central player in events, only a character on the periphery. There were two periods where Cicero exercised strong influence on events- he undid the Catilinarian Conspiracy before the prolonged crisis that undid the empire, and also drove Octavian and Mark Antony into conflict before the second triumvirate was formed. These events take up about two chapters. Other than these two events, he spends most of his time on the sidelines or as a puppet of larger interests. I kept waiting for Cicero to reenter the story as Everitt talked on and on about what Caesar, Crassus and Pompey did, but he never really enters the picture. And for a biography about Cicero, this is a big problem- shouldn’t the book mostly be about him? When the most interesting parts of your biography are about other people than your subject, you’ve got a problem. Cicero undoubtedly had other accomplishments. He was mostly remembered for his philosophical writings and oratory, but these aren’t a primary focus of the book, which is a pity. I think this book was decently written, but I wish it would’ve been more focused on Cicero, because splitting the spotlight just didn’t work. It would’ve been nice to see what it was that those future generations saw in him- it clearly wasn’t his political prowess.

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