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61 of 63 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An attempt to humanise a rather unlikeable man...
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...
Published on 7 Mar 2008 by Mr. Thomas Thatcher

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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 Sep 2006 by Tim62


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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, 21 Sep 2006
By 
Tim62 "history buff" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Imperium (Hardcover)
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 the sheer dislocating terror that must have been felt by many as their political world spiralled graduially out of control.

The political systems of the late Republic were incapable of squaring the circle of the political pressures the state found itself under, and the immense conflicts of interest which arose.

A political system designed to run a small Italian city state, could not cope with the needs of the Mediterranean world's first true super power -- which is what Rome had become by the mid-1st century BC. Much of this is there, but for me his prose doesn't have the intensity of some of Steven Saylor's works.

I have given this book 3 stars because the story of the fall of the republic is one worth telling, but in this book we are only frustratingly given a few years worth of coverage.

Of course there is a problem in trying to tell this story in novel form - as it took more than a hundred years to kill of the old Republic; from the fall of the Gracchii, through the Social Wars and the Civil Wars, to Octavian's eventual triumph at Actium and the establishment of the Principate amd Empire.

So to tell the story interestingly you probably need several books -- like Colleen McCullough's series, or even Steven Saylor's Roma sub rosa with Gordianus the Finder.

My copy of Imperium doesn't say it is the first in a series. However, I hope there are, because the ending is flat for a stand-alone novel. It feels like we are only half-way through Cicero's (and Tiro's) tale.

So a good book. I still think Fatherland is his best novel.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great interpretation of great man, 6 Mar 2008
By 
Andrew Rossiter (Halesowen, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Imperium (Mass Market Paperback)
This is a superb novel looking at the life of the Roman senator Cicero. There are a few historical inaccuraces in the book but then historical fiction novels usually do, mostly to create a better flowing tale. For the most part though the story is a true one, and Robert Harris has superbly got the whole escence of Cicero in his novel. There is so much more to Cicero after the conclusion of the book so I was sad to see it end, however the book would have been too large.

Cicero's career is an exceptional one as he managed to rise from a novus homo (a new man) into a consul, without extortionate wealth or a important lineage or much military ability. Instead he rose to become consul through his own brilliant oratory and guile. A brilliant man to study (as i have done), and brillinatly brought to life by Robert Harris, a thoroughly recommended read.
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29 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Imperious, 2 Sep 2006
By 
Robert J. Prosser (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Imperium (Hardcover)
Robert Harris novels are always worth the wait and Imperium is no exception. Charting the rise the prominence of Cicero as written by his slave/secretary Tiro. Robert Harris' meticulous research allows him to create an utterly convincing recreation of Rome. At the same time he does not allow this to bog down the narrative. If you've enjoyed Harris' books before you'll not be disappointed in Imperium. Highly recommended!!!
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26 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant book !, 24 Oct 2006
By 
sgeoff (North Wales) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Imperium (Hardcover)
I have enjoyed all of Robert Harris' books, but rate this as his best yet. I was hooked from page 1 and the interest and intrigue was maintained right to the end. Cicero, and ancient Rome, came alive in these pages, with evocative descriptions and the story told with clarity (and sometimes humour) by Cicero's secretary Tiro. I now want to read more about Cicero, and certainly hope Harris writes a follow-up book covering the rest of his life. For anyone interested in ancient Rome, or intrigue in general, or modern politics (there are some interesting parallels) this is a great read. Recommended without reservation !
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good, but not a thriller, 17 Nov 2006
By 
M. Dyson (East Yorkshire) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Imperium (Hardcover)
When I started reading this book I was expecting a page-turning thriller along the lines of Harris' other four books. In this repect, I was sorely disappointed as "Imperium" is more of a biography, albeit one with a mixture of fact and fiction.

Once I'd got over the initial disappointment, though, I did really enjoy this book and wanted to see how it ended; like other reviewers here I'll be extremely surprised if there isn't a sequel.

In short, a very good book. Especially if you don't have preconceived ideas of it being a thriller before you start.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great, 28 Jan 2011
This review is from: Imperium (Kindle Edition)
Most Robert Harris books I tend to put in the 4 or even 3 star category.

Imperium is an obvious 5 star for me.

It's a great view of the "game" of politics, both funny and educational. He has also made a story about an orator - not exactly an action plot here - read like a suspense novel, it's a definite page turner.

Ancient Rome comes alive on these pages, and throughout you will fall in and out of love with Cicero and those around him several times.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A tale about Ancient Rome, 23 Sep 2010
By 
Mr. P. Datta "Pritthijit" (Stockton on Tees, Teesside) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Imperium (Paperback)
There are so many reference books about ancient Rome. It is huge ask and challenging task to novelise and narrate about ancient Rome in the latest Harris's novel Imperium. I have to give full credit for accomplishing the task in such a manner. The research without any doubts is meticulous and richly knowledgeable. The atmosphere and scenery of the period is expertly recreated to life for readers. By no means, it is an easy topic to grasp. The complex politics and wide range of characters you need get your head around. Some of the material featured in the novel is not easy to digest in one go. It requires concentration to read the novel, as it not easy to digest in one go. Then it is much readable if done carefully and thoroughly. It is quite slow paced, but interesting to read.

I did though understand gist of the story, as it about a noble and honest politician Cicero. He did good deeds for the interest of the people, whilst other politicians scooped to a different level. It is about corruption and war damaging integrity of mainstream politics. Cicero comes across as a true and ambitious person. He despised dishonestly and won plenty of hearts, but sometimes not rewarded for it due to despicable fellow politicians.

The plot is well defined, but it takes time to get into. The characterisation is well sketched, even though my main criticism reserved about the character is far too serious. Harris tends to neglect characters, as the emphasise on heroic characters is a sense of achievement rather than a sparkling personality. Overall, Imperium is an interesting read about ancient Rome. Harris knows his stuff about history very well.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A perfect blend of history and imagination, 31 Mar 2010
By 
This review is from: Imperium (Paperback)
It was a nice coincidence that while, in the midst of a sudden interest in Roman history, i happened to have the novel Fatherland thrust upon me by a friend. I'd never read any Robert Harris before and was thoroughly impressed. Intelligent, exciting, suspenseful, and it had Nazi's in it. In short, amazing. Ipso Facto, Imperium. What a result.

I was not to be disappointed either. This kind of docu-drama-recreation seems like a perfect fit for Harris. Incredibly detailed research (I'm not basing that on my own flimsy knowledge of the period, many well respected historians have showered praise on Imperium for its historical accuracy). Pacing so well constructed that the trials and political wrangling of the Roman Senate never become stale or boring and scenes recreated so vividly one can almost see the Grand designs of Rome from across the millennia. The only criticism I could lay on Fatherland was the strength of its characters, they seemed a little by the numbers. Well we doesn't have to worry about that here. The roster swells with some of the most famous and intriguing characters in recorded human history; We have Julius Caesar, Pompey the Great, Crassus and of course the Star of the Show, the Great Orator Cicero; which means Chick Pea incidentally.

This is part one of a planned trilogy based on the life of Cicero taken from his own letters and transcripts of his speeches. Harris uses the neat literary devise of framing the story from the perspective of Tiro, Cicero's loyal servant, inventor of the first shorthand system and able to accurately record every word the Senator uttered. We meet him in the twilight of his years (Tiro is said to have lived be one hundred) composing his memoirs and acting as our humble narrator. Tiro himself is so shy and bookish he loses some humanity. He seems to have no needs or wants of his own; except to one day be freed from his service and live on an idyllic farm somewhere. His 1st person interjections largely take the form of `this old man does ramble on, these old bones ain't what they used to be' cliches but these are minor grumbles. The focus here is not Tiro but the events which swirl around him, and what events they are; the mass crucifixion of Spartacus's army, dying slaves lining the roads as far as the eye can see. Cicero defeating the Murderous tyrant Verres, despite his support from the aristocracy, using only the power of his oratory, and finally Cicero's ascendancy to Console. For anybody familiar with these events Harris presents them with such clarity that it becomes incredible easy to suspend your disbelief, to let yourself be swept up in the current of history and imagine being a fly on the wall. The author is clearly confident that he's preaching to the choir and doesn't sensationalise the material, he lets the events speak for themselves. There is precious little soapy drama to be had, only what is necessary to fill the gaps between one event and the next. For anybody with an interest in the period this is a blessed relief, for those who don't care for the toga there are no love interests or spunky comedy sidekicks to keep you interested so you'd best steer clear and leave the rest of us to savor the pomp and circumstance of Rome in her glory years.

Harris ambitions for the novel clearly include a commentary on present day events, when pirates begin to encroach on the Italian mainland those in power prey on the populous' fears to claim special powers to combat this new type of threat. Harris may as well have given Pompey a Texan accent as Cicero is forced by circumstance and his own political ambition to help lobby for these greater powers and the seeds of the destruction of Rome as a Republic are sown... While these attempts to hold Rome up as a mirror for our political times are only semi successful I found that the real joy is to be found in the day today life of the Republic; Cicero using the back of a cart as a makeshift podium to address his supports in the streets of Sicily. The young pretenders with their log hair and goatee beards, `they look more like women than men' observes Cicero, and the Great man himself losing his breakfast as nerves get the better of him before a big speech. It's in these moments that we really feel part of history but conversely, they are the same moments which are likely to be products of Harris's imagination. He has himself said that while not everything in the book definitely happened, everything he has written may have happened and certainly there is nothing in the book which definitely did not happen. Which is all we can hope for really. It is not a historical document and while you feel like you are learning as you read it is primarily a piece of entertainment; like Dan Brown but infinitely better (Harris understands that characters in books can have an inner monologue for one!). This then, is a book which triumphs both as entertainment and as an education, and it's a hell of a lot more fun than Wikipedia!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent, 6 Feb 2010
This review is from: Imperium (Mass Market Paperback)
Have you ever wondered about the career development of Cicero, the Roman orator and politician? No, neither have I. How about almost 500 pages detailing his progress through the labrynthine Roman political system? Sounds EXTREMELY dull, doesn't it?

And yet Harris makes it supremely vibrant, human, convincing and full of the flavour of modern politics, without making heavy allusions between present and past. I really am almost in awe of the way Harris writes. It is so compassionate and full of changes in pace.

I read 'The Ghost' last year and was less impressed; I really think that Rome is a context that suits this writer naturally, as maybe Berlin or South America suited Graham Greene.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another excellent historical novel, 23 Sep 2007
By 
Dr. J. L. D. Pearse (Gloucestershire, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Imperium (Paperback)
This is another excellent historical by Robert Harris which I can thoroughly recommend. Although I know this period of Roman history reasonably well, it kept me very interested throughout and had me wanting to continue my reading of it as quickly as I could.

Some may be disappointed that it does not have the same kind of plot line as Pompeii, but it is a different sort of book - a reflection of how politicians strive to get power and how they wield it when they have it, together with the lengths that they will go to and the compromises (not least with their own principles) that they are prepared to make. Nothing new under the sun there!

Harris has a very readable and articulate style, and wears his historical knowledge lightly. He brings late Republican Rome to life, whether the seedy apartment blocks of the Subura, the grand villas of the rich and mighty, or the senate and court houses where Cicero and others are making their thunderous speeches. And his use of Cicero's private secretary to tell the tale works excellently, with Tiro giving a slightly different perspective from his master's on the events and characters being described.

Well worth buying and reading!
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Imperium
Imperium by Robert Harris (Paperback - 1 Oct 2009)
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