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Imperium [Hardcover]

Robert Harris
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (167 customer reviews)

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Book Description

4 Sep 2006
When Tiro, the confidential secretary of a Roman senator, opens the door to a terrified stranger on a cold November morning, he sets in motion a chain of events which will eventually propel his master into one of the most famous courtroom dramas in history. The stranger is a Sicilian, a victim of the island's corrupt Roman governor, Verres. The senator is Cicero, a brilliant young lawyer and spellbinding orator, determined to attain imperium - supreme power in the state. This is the starting-point of Robert Harris' most accomplished novel to date. Compellingly written in Tiro's voice, it takes us inside the violent, treacherous world of Roman politics, to describe how one man - clever, compassionate, devious, and vulnerable - fought to reach the top. 'Sometimes it is foolish to articulate an ambition too early - exposing it prematurely to the laughter and skepticism of the world can destroy it before it is even properly born. But sometimes the opposite occurs, and the very act of mentioning a thing makes it suddenly seem possible, even plausible. That was how it was that night. When Cicero pronounced the word "consul" he planted it in the ground like a standard for us all to admire. And for a moment we glimpsed the brilliant, starry future through his eyes, and saw that he was right: that if he took down Verres, he had a chance; that he might - just - with luck - go all the way to the summit...'

Product details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Hutchinson; First Edition, First Printing edition (4 Sep 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0091800951
  • ISBN-13: 978-0091800956
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 23.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (167 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 408,948 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Robert Harris is the author Fatherland, Enigma, Archangel, Pompeii, Imperium and The Ghost - all of which were worldwide bestsellers. His work has been translated into thirty-three languages. He was born in Nottingham in 1957 and is a graduate of Cambridge University. He worked as a reporter on the BBC's Newsnight and Panorama programmes, before becoming Political Editor of the Observer in 1987, and then a columnist on the Sunday Times and the Daily Telegraph. In 2003 he was named Columnist of the Year in the British Press Awards. He lives near Hungerford in Berkshire with his wife and their four children.

Product Description


‘Fascinating… Imperium masterfully dramatises issues not only
pertinent to a vanished world but to our own.’ -- Peter Kemp, Sunday Times

‘Genres ancient and modern have rarely been so skilfully
synthesised… Gripping and accomplished.’ -- Tom Holland, Guardian

‘Harris [is] a truly gifted, razor-sharp writer... Enormously
-- Daily Telegraph

‘Harris’s best so far, rapid and compelling in narrative…
thoroughly researched but also, which is more important, thoroughly
imagined… Irresistible’ -- Allan Massie, Sunday Telegraph

Book Description

Ancient Rome is the setting for the stunning new novel from Robert Harris, the number one bestselling author of Fatherland, Enigma, Archangel and Pompeii. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
61 of 63 people found the following review helpful
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Through Latin A level and later at university, I read a great deal of Marcus Tullius Cicero's writings and found them, unusually, very hard going. While we all appreciate that he pulled himself up by his bootstraps, brain and linguistic ability, he comes across, nonetheless, as an arrogant bore, stuffed full of himself and with an incredbile ability to irritate others. His ability to write golden Latin is beyond all doubt, and Queen Elizabeth I's proudest boast was that she could write "Ciceronian" Latin.

"Against Verres", the speech that is the subject of this novel, is Cicero's prosecution of Verres, ex-Governor of Sicily. Verres, even given Cicero's hatchet job in 70 BC, seems to have been a pretty loathsome creature who plundered and intimidated his subjects openly and without remorse or guilt. The remainder of the novel is concerned with Cicero's climb up the greasy pole to real power and all the resulting intrigues and plotting. Fascinating stuff, and as Mr Harris said, if what he propounds did not actually happen, then something like it probably did. After all, 2 + 2 generally makes 5 - ish.

Harris has obviously done his research here and the bones of the historical fact are fleshed out by a very entertianing novel. He is an extremly funny writer in an "ars celat artem" way and the various discussion and debates in this novel are extremely amusing: Cicero's comments about marriage will make you laugh out loud, and many other passages will cause you to smile.

Harris' characterisation is very good indeed, and Cicero comes over as a prissy, self-important, principled yet proud man who in real life I have always found insufferable. In this, he appears rather like a cross between the late Bob Monkhouse and Rumpole of the Bailey and becomes likeable.
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127 of 133 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good 2 Feb 2007
Robert Harris is probably my favourite author. Fatherland, Pompeii, Archangel and Enigma are all cracking good reads. Essentials, even. However, if one criticism could be levelled at their author, it is that they all seem to follow a vaguely similar theme. Each follow a different hero on a detective-style mystery set against the backdrop of a massively powerful, but, we gradually find out, fundamentally corrupt, political instituation, where the denouement sees the hero's actions sending shockwaves through the system in which he lives.

The novel Imperium takes a break from this theme. We follow Marcus Cicero, Roman lawyer, orator and statesman, as he follows his dream of becoming one of Rome's two Consuls.

Harris excels in creating three-dimensional characters (Dan Brown, sit up and take note, with your bland Hollywood cut-outs). Imperium is populated by alternatively brilliant, flawed, amusing, venal and/or monstrously cruel Romans. I followed their individual rises and falls with glee. Harris plays particularly well to Cicero's historical strength - that of his public oratory. The scenes set in the senate and court houses are worth the entry fee alone.

Having discarded the crutches of the plot devices used in his prevously mentioned books, Harris does not quite manage to recapture their cannot-put-downability. However, this means Imperium is merely very good, rather than a must-read.

On a side note, it's interesting to compare the two different, but very nearly contemporary, Romes of Conn Iggulden's Emperor series (lots of wars and disciplined Roman legions) and Robert Harris' Imperium (politicking, scheming and intrigue).
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61 of 64 people found the following review helpful
Imperium proved to be my vessel for my first venture into the works of Robert Harris. This 400 page epic really is a fantastic read. The style, written from the point of view of the protagonist's slave, Tiro, is light enough to provide easy reading while providing enough artistic flourishes to invoke fascination and respect for this fantastic author. Several reviews have commented on the fact that this book isn't thrilling, but I must disagree. Yes, the book is not action-packed with violence, fighting, sex, etc, but through Harris's characterisation, attention to detail and quasi-non-fictitious style we, that is the audience, are truly drawn into the world of Cicero and his political conquests; a truly thrilling experience. One section of the book which is particularly thrilling, yet still within the political context of the book, is near the end when Cicero dispatches his loyal slave Tiro, inventor of the short-hand system, to spy on a meeting between some rival senators. The tense atmosphere which oozes out of the pages in this section really will have you stuck text! However, the real beauty of this book has to be its setting, as well as Harris's ability to encapsulate the reader in the world of the ancient Roman Empire; never for a moment are we forced to accept that this is a work of fiction, and it can easily be believe to be a translated copy of Tiro's real memoirs from long ago. This really is a truly excellent read, I recommend it to anyone.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A thoroughly good read! 14 Mar 2007
By Suzie
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Cicero was rare among politicians in the Roman Empire - principled, concerned with moral justice, a brilliant orator and lawyer, yet formidably determined and ambitious. Beneath it all though, he remains kind-hearted and human, a man who cares. This book tells the story of his rise from humble senator as he strives to attain the highest position of power, one of the two Consuls of Rome. The narrator is Tiro, his loyal slave and confidant, who invented a system of shorthand which rendered him indispensable to his master.

From the moment Tiro admits the unkempt Sicilian stranger who seeks Cicero's help against the corrupt Verres, governor of Sicily, the story is one of intrigue and treachery. Hated by the aristocrats who control the senate, the odds seem so heavily stacked against Cicero that it is hard to imagine how he can possibly succeed.

It is well written, fast-paced and in parts so gripping that I would find myself reading yet another chapter long after I should have gone to sleep. An exceptional read that I'd thoroughly recommend to anyone!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Ancient Political Thriller, Gentler Paced but very Good
Less full on story like my favorites Pompeii and Fatherland but still very good. This is a slower paced story following the tale of Cicero in ancient Rome as he plots a move to... Read more
Published 13 days ago by Hagrid's Umbrella
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 15 days ago by Spedding Fox
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Very good book, enjoyed it.
Published 1 month ago by Set To Stun
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
very good mix of fact and fiction
Published 1 month ago by Vulcanalia
4.0 out of 5 stars Gripping
Thoroughly enjoyable read. Convincing and credible sense of what the Rome of the period may have been like though I was never quite clear about the class divisions in the Roman... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Richie
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Spot on good value
Published 2 months ago by Julian Dawes
5.0 out of 5 stars ... who wants to study law but found it a great insight into Roman...
Actually bought this for my daughter who wants to study law but found it a great insight into Roman history and politics
Published 2 months ago by Steven B
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant.
Robert Harris's work is so well researched but it moves as fast as any well written thriller. Brilliant.
Published 2 months ago by julia kim lewis
4.0 out of 5 stars First class
Very interesting book.
Will read the next in the series.
The names are many the characters difficult to follow at times.
A very good book.
Published 2 months ago by Jayell
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great item
Published 2 months ago by H. Newman
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