Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Cicero

Cicero: the Life and Times of Rome's Greatest Politician
© 2001 Anthony Everitt
359 pages

I've been intending to read this for a few months now, but other books have always gotten in the way. As I plan on continuing in Robert Harris' biographical novel trilogy of Cicero's life, it seemed proper to read a standard biography of Cicero for comparison's sake.

I'm rather taken by the book. It's written in a narrative style, increasing reability and keeping the reader interested. The title is accurate, for Everitt not only writes about Cicero's life, but establishes plenty of context about Roman history,  Roman government, and Roman lifestyles. The emphasis on Cicero's historical context continues throughout the book: the Republic's waning years and death are covered in detail, given Cicero's role in attempting to preserve it, even as Marc Anthony and Octavian's armies clashed.Thus, the book functions not only as a fairly thorough treatment of Cicero's life, but allows the reader to get a handle on late-Republic politics.

The portrayal of Cicero seems balanced, on the whole: Cicero's politics only slightly overshadow his philosophical and literary contributions, while Everitt seems neither unjustly cynical or romantic about Cicero's life, but generally portrays him in a positive light with a few caveats. On the whole, Cicero is readable and informative treatment not just of Cicero, but of late-Republican Rome itself.

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