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132 of 139 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good
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...
Published on 2 Feb. 2007 by Mr. S. J. Downing

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30 of 34 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good recreation of ancient Rome
Robert Harris ventures into the murky world of 1st century BC Rome, and tells the tale of the lawyer and orator Cicero, as told by his secretary Tiro - the man credited with inventing the world's first workable shorthand system.

Harris efficiently and effectively creates the last decades of the Roman Republic. However, somehow for me he doesn't quite bring off...
Published on 21 Sept. 2006 by Tim62


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132 of 139 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good, 2 Feb. 2007
By 
Mr. S. J. Downing "Stevie D" (Devon, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Imperium (Hardcover)
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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65 of 69 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An attempt to humanise a rather unlikeable man..., 7 Mar. 2008
By 
Mr. Thomas Thatcher "Tom Thatcher" (Salisbury, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Imperium (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. His family are alive and real, and the scurrying, desperate gents from Sicily in the first half are both pitiable and amusing.

Above all, Harris writes the most beautiful English, reminiscent of Mortimer and Huxley.

This is a fine read and very amusing in a dry way. He manages to make one of the world's most five-star arrogant bores entertaining and witty - in fact almost human. I repeat, almost ...

Excellent stuff.
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63 of 67 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More epic than the Roman Empire itself; a fantastic read., 15 Jan. 2007
By 
Philip Murray (Consett, County Durham United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Imperium (Hardcover)
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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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful Read, 15 Sept. 2006
By 
J. Chippindale (England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Imperium (Hardcover)
Robert Harris had world wide acclaim for his novel Pompeii and once you have had such praise it is very difficult to live up to the expectation of the reading public with a follow up book. In Harris's case he has not only lived up to the expectation, but in my opinion exceeded it by some distance.

Pompeii was a wonderful book and I enjoyed it tremendously and it is impossible to compare it with Imperium as like for like book, because they are not. Yes they are both about Romans and the Roman Empire but that is where the similarity ends.

Imperium is about the life and times of Cicero as told by Tiro, his secretary. It is the story of how one man - ambitious, clever, compassionate, devious, and vulnerable fights his way to be Consul of Rome

Cicero, one of the most famous Romans of all time. A man who had great political ambitions, but one who hated war and was in the main a pacifist. He served only briefly in the military as a young man and this at a time when men of Cicero's background used the military as a stepping stone to improve their political ambitions and gain high office.

Instead Cicero chose a career in law and proved to be an excellent orator and a shrewd politician. He was elected to each of the Roman offices (quaestor, aedile, praetor, and consul) on his first try and at the earliest age at which he was legally allowed to run for them. Having held office made him a member of the Roman Senate. During his term as consul (the highest Roman office) in 63 BC he was responsible for unravelling and exposing the conspiracy of Catiline.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mint Imperial, 9 May 2011
By 
This review is from: Imperium (Paperback)
I have always viewed Robert Harris as the thinking man's thriller writer. He sets most of his books in historic eras, or bases the plot on history, and researches brilliantly. However, too often I find that as his books reach their end they descend into the realm of the bizarre e.g. `The Ghosts' confused finale or `Archangel's crazy twists. Harris is perhaps a less thinking man's writer than I first imagined. That is until I read `Imperium', his best and most intelligent book to date. Gone are the thrills to please the masses and instead Harris allows the wonderful story of Cicero and his note taker Tiro to capture the reader.

Cicero came to prominence in one of the most iconic periods of Rome; he was there for Pompeii and the rise/fall of Julius Caesar. In his lifetime the structure of the Roman Empire would change. The great historic events are enough to whet my appetite, but Harris research skills and great writing add so much more. Harris imbues Cicero with many elements of our own politicians; he is willing to bend his values to pursue power. This does not make him a bad person, just someone who is believable. After `Imperium' Harris went on to write `The Ghost', I felt that his Roman epic had more to say about a certain former British Prime Minister than his modern set thriller ever did.

With a great story fill of intrigue, `Imperium' is only made better by Harris' quality writing. The book is improved further by the fact a lot of what Harris wrote actually happened. Rome has been an inspiration to writers for centuries and if they continue to produce as good a book as here, this process will continue for many centuries more.

Sammy Recommendation
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding!, 19 Nov. 2009
By 
J. Cooper (Sheffield, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Imperium (Paperback)
I absolutely loved this book!

Having never read a Robert Harris novel before, I was unsure of what to expect but was totally surprised by this book.

I usually prefer to read Roman history that focuses on the legions and their exploits so a book focusing on the political wheelings and dealings of the Senatorial elite was both refreshing and engrossing.

Cicero is a thoroughly likeable character, ambitious, idealistic, moralistic, paternal and yet flawed as all humans are. My sense of respect for this character deepened as the novel progressed and I saw how the highs and lows of his political adventures personally affected Cicero and brought out the best and worst of human emotions present in everyone today. This was quite cleverly done and allows the reader to associate more closely with the main protagonist therefore increasing the sense of ownership and loss as the events unfold.

The insight into Senatorial life and the complex voting systems, positions and political relationships was both educational and fascinating. This book has certainly fuelled a personal desire to learn more about the Senate and The Roman Republic during this age.

Don't be put off by the above statement, this book certainly does not read like a dry, age old textbook. It is modern, graphic and contemporary; the descriptions of the Senatorial and `Court-Room' battles are superbly exciting and demonstrate Cicero's mettle!

I shall certainly be buying more Robert Harris books and would recommend anyone with the slightest interest in Roman life to do the same.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A thoroughly good read!, 14 Mar. 2007
By 
Suzie (Scotland, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Imperium (Paperback)
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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Republican virtues, 23 Jan. 2011
By 
Charles Vasey (London, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Imperium (Paperback)
I have not read much of Harris's work (shorthand for not remembering reading any) but I have read this one twice. It is a very immersive novel on the career of M Tullius Cicero up to his election as Consul of Rome in 63 BC. Cicero was a " new man" in all but one area - he married money, and new men are perhaps easier for us, as modern readers, to understand. His practice of advocacy, the political management that led to election and the tang of a state in change are all well sketched without any need to turn matters into a modern day tale. Politicians in most western democracies will recognise the nature of the beast even so. Of course the down side for some readers will be the absence of military action (though not of coercive force). It may be hard in these days to find the activities of a lawyer and ward-heeler interesting (thank goodness he was not a banker) but I found the novel fascinating, and its imagining of how ancient Roman society functioned both interesting and persuasive. I recommend it.
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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A triumph!, 27 Sept. 2006
By 
Mr. G. Robinson "garyrobinson15" (North Wales) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Imperium (Hardcover)
Mr Harris does not disapoint with his factual novel set in and around Ancient Rome. The story told in the first person by an aged Tiro(Ciceros slave assistant and friend who invented a practical shorthand system)concerns the wonderfull story of Cicero, the advocate, a kind of ancient lawyer/politician, and his rise from fairly humble beginings to becoming one of the most important persons in the whole empire.

The book is a fiction of course but it is stoutly set in a real place with real persons and real events. Many of Ciceros speeches and writings still exist and it is from these that historians and writers have been able to reconstruct the great mans life.

Many great names from history are included such as Pompey, Crassus, Caesar, Cato, but also less well known charaters such as hs brother and wife are brought wonderfully to life with many scenes taking place in his home. Lke all great politicians here were quite a few persons helping or guiding in the background.

Mr harris in my view has really brought to life the exitement,grandeur, danger and vicious politics of the time.

The book only covers a fairly short period in Ciceros life, hinting at another follow on book with a bit of luck. There is certainly much more left of his life to tell. But even if a second book is not in the offing book one (if we can call it that) can easily be called a triumph.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well Worth Listening To, 13 Feb. 2008
By 
J. Chippindale (England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Imperium (Audio CD)
Robert Harris had world wide acclaim for his novel Pompeii and once you have had such praise it is very difficult to live up to the expectation of the reading public with a follow up book. In Harris's case he has not only lived up to the expectation, but in my opinion exceeded it by some distance.

Pompeii was a wonderful book and I enjoyed it tremendously and it is impossible to compare it with Imperium as like for like book, because they are not. Yes they are both about Romans and the Roman Empire but that is where the similarity ends.

Imperium is about the life and times of Cicero as told by Tiro, his secretary. It is the story of how one man - ambitious, clever, compassionate, devious, and vulnerable fights his way to be Consul of Rome

Cicero, one of the most famous Romans of all time. A man who had great political ambitions, but one who hated war and was in the main a pacifist. He served only briefly in the military as a young man and this at a time when men of Cicero's background used the military as a stepping stone to improve their political ambitions and gain high office.

Instead Cicero chose a career in law and proved to be an excellent orator and a shrewd politician. He was elected to each of the Roman offices (quaestor, aedile, praetor, and consul) on his first try and at the earliest age at which he was legally allowed to run for them. Having held office made him a member of the Roman Senate. During his term as consul (the highest Roman office) in 63 BC he was responsible for unravelling and exposing the conspiracy of Catiline.
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Imperium
Imperium by Robert Harris (Mass Market Paperback - 5 July 2007)
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