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Imperium: A Novel of Ancient Rome
By Robert Harris

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A Novel of Ancient Rome

By Robert Harris
Thorndike Press Large Print (2007)
ISBN 10: 0-7862-9305-5
ISBN 13: 978-0-7862-9305-6
Genre: Historical Fiction

Reviewed by Herbert White - October 3, 2007

In Imperium, Robert Harris again returns to the world of Ancient Rome as he follows the life and adventures of Tiro. The confidential secretary and slave of Marcus Tullius Cicero, Roman statesman, lawyer, orator, and man of letters. Tiro was 24-years-old when he was assigned to serve Cicero, and Cicero was 27. For the next 36 years the two men ate, studied, schemed, and worked together. As this story begins, Tiro is an old man who has at long last been granted his freedom and has retired to the country. As his death begins to loom near, Tiro has decided to consign all of his, and Cicero's secrets, to print.

>From beginning to end, this is an artful and compelling account of the life of Cicero, as told via the memories of his companion and servant. Within the pages of this book Harris not only presents a realistic, albeit fictional, biography of Cicero, but also an intimate glimpse into Ancient Roman life and its complex and oftentimes deadly political machinations. Along the way, Harris recounts one of the most gripping and suspenseful courtroom dramas to have graced history that pitted Cicero against Gaius Verres, the corrupt governor of Roman Sicily who was on trial for extortion.

Cicero led a fascinating life, rising from being nothing much more than the stuttering son of a provincial landowner to, in 63 BC, becoming the Consul of Rome - the highest office in the Roman Empire at the time. A staunch adherent to the ideals of the Roman Republic, Cicero refused to join Julius Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus in their attempt to rest control of the government away from the Senate. Eventually, Cicero's enemy gained the upper hand, and Cicero was assassinated.

In Imperium, Harris begins to chronicle Cicero's outstanding life and deeds, and by extension, the life of his slave Tiro. From my understanding, Imperium is only the first book in a planned series that will serve as a comprehensive, fictional biography of Cicero. This is a non-stop thriller that is hard to put down. Harris' writing is vivid, detailed, and the story fast-paced and historically based. In addition, using Tiro as the narrator of this story was an artful choice, allowing the narrator to provide insights into Cicero's life that would not have been possible if Cicero was the narrator. As well, writing from Tiro's viewpoint also allows the readers to experience what life was like for both Roman slaves and aristocrats.

Imperium will delight not only Harris' fans, as well as anyone interested in historical fiction, Roman history, or the life of Rome's premier orator, lawyer, and political strategist.

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