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Cicero: The Life and Times of Rome's Greatest Politician (original 2001; edition 2003)

by Anthony Everitt

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Member:hemlokgang
Title:Cicero: The Life and Times of Rome's Greatest Politician
Authors:Anthony Everitt
Info:Random House Trade Paperbacks (2003), Paperback, 400 pages
Collections:Your library, To read (inactive)
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Tags:Non-Fiction, Biography, TBR, 999 Challenge

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Cicero: The Life and Times of Rome's Greatest Politician by Anthony Everitt (2001)

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Cicero leapt onto the public stage at twenty-six, came of age during Spartacus’ famous revolt of the gladiators and presided over Roman law and politics for almost half a century. He foiled the legendary Catiline conspiracy, advised Pompey, the victorious general who brought the Middle East under Roman rule, and fought to mobilize the Senate against Caesar. He witnessed the conquest of Gaul, the civil war that followed and Caesar’s dictatorship and assassination. Cicero was a legendary defender of freedom and a model, later, to French and American revolutionaries who saw themselves as following in his footsteps in their resistance to tyranny. ( )
  MarkBeronte | Mar 4, 2014 |
A well written biography on Cicero, provides good insight to the hows and whys of the death of the Republic and the task thrust upon the man. Parts of the books subject matter were fairly dry for me though, hence the rating. Regardless I look forward to reading the authors other biographies on Roman figures. ( )
  Luftwaffe_Flak | Feb 6, 2014 |
this reads like a really even-handed rendition of history. it seems unbiased and honest. it mostly reads easily. i should probably rate it higher but i was just not in the mood for this right now, and i found it hard to get through in large parts. i do think this is due more to my frame of mind than the book itself, though, so my rating is likely unfair. and i did learn some things that felt like more accurate history than what i'd read in some historical fiction in the past from this time period. ( )
  elisa.saphier | Dec 21, 2013 |


I am not sure it was a good idea to read Cicero’s biography, by a historian, right after reading a fictionalized account by a reporter and novelist (especially if the fictionalized account is not yet complete –only two volumes of the trilogy have been published – [a:Robert Harris|575|Robert Harris|http://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1242903284p2/575.jpg]). A great deal of the curiosity awakened in my ignorance has been damped. But it has also been gratifying to compare views and strengthen notions.

Although an academic, Anthony Everitt knows how to represent drama. The opening of the book is certainly brilliant. He starts with an engrossing account of Julius Caesar assassination in which the attending Cicero is the only one who is innocent of the bloody plot and yet for whom, and for what he represented, is the deed done. This is the sort of opening to which one goes back to reread after finishing the book.

In this account, Everitt does a good job in showing Cicero’s complex nature. He was someone who had to juggle between his ideas and his political role. And it was precisely this wavering which put his life at risk several times. It was not always clear to his friends and foes, whether it was the theoretical expositions or the Realpolitik practice, which were enlightening or dangerous.

Cicero was essentially a conservative who firmly believed that by persuasion and negotiation the former and idyllic Republic could come back to Rome and a healthy democratic society could be reinstated. And yet, in his politics he more than once supported and sided with the autocrats whose aim was precisely to do away with the Republic and the traditional political structures.

Following his life has provided me with a useful framework in which to place his writings, and indeed the chapters in which Everitt discusses these were for me more interesting than following the political intrigue. From the earlier transcriptions of the political speeches that Cicero composed as a youngish and aspiring politician, he moved at a somewhat later stage to more meditative musings on a balanced life, duty, and friendship, bequeathing to posterity his accumulated wisdom. And in his more advanced age, when his personal interests and emotional ties had loosened, he summoned the courage to produce the final acerbic, consistent and continuous attack on the Republic’s latest enemy. The fourteen Philippicae chant the swan song of a disappearing epoch in the history of Rome and of Cicero’s own life.

It seems Everitt’s main aim in writing this was to recover the central place that Cicero has had until relatively recently in the education of the layman. I wonder whether he will succeed in this ambitious aim, but he certainly has awakened my interest in this author. Through his pen Cicero emerges as a likeable and closer figure from whom we have a great deal to learn today, and who should stay out of the Olympus of Forgotten Figures and of the Myth of the Boring Classics.

“Caesar remarked that Cicero had won greater laurels than those worn by a general in his Triumph, for it meant more to have extended the frontiers of Roman genius than of its empire”


( )
  KalliopeMuse | Apr 2, 2013 |
A biography of 'Rome's Greatest Politician'. Human nature is the same as always, and the political animals are as beastly as ever.

Cicero was described as a defender of the republic, and a brilliant orator, but most of all, a politician. He waffled, he did character assassinations. But compared to the relative chaos that was Ancient Rome, he stands almost as a beacon. One wonders, once Republic became Empire, how the state managed to survive for so long.

A very interesting book, and recommended for those with any interest in Roman history. ( )
  HadriantheBlind | Mar 30, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
Despite some nasty howlers in the Latin (why bother to use Latin words if you, or your editors, can’t get them right?), it turns into a businesslike tale, told with a sometimes engaging enthusiasm for its subject and a good eye for the spicier detail of late Republican life. At the same time, like most modern biographies of Cicero, it is also consistently disappointing. Everitt’s conventional ‘back-to-the-ancient-sources’ approach leaves him repeatedly at the mercy of the biographical and cultural assumptions of the one surviving ancient biography.
 
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 037575895X, Paperback)

“All ages of the world have not produced a greater statesman and philosopher combined.”
—John Adams

He squared off against Caesar and was friends with young Brutus. He advised the legendary Pompey on his somewhat botched transition from military hero to politician. He lambasted Mark Antony and was master of the smear campaign, as feared for his wit as he was for exposing his opponents’ sexual peccadilloes. Brilliant, voluble, cranky, a genius of political manipulation but also a true patriot and idealist, Cicero was Rome’s most feared politician, one of the greatest lawyers and statesmen of all times. Machiavelli, Queen Elizabeth, John Adams and Winston Churchill all studied his example. No man has loomed larger in the political history of mankind.

In this dynamic and engaging biography, Anthony Everitt plunges us into the fascinating, scandal-ridden world of ancient Rome in its most glorious heyday. Accessible to us through his legendary speeches but also through an unrivaled collection of unguarded letters to his close friend Atticus, Cicero comes to life in these pages as a witty and cunning political operator.

Cicero leapt onto the public stage at twenty-six, came of age during Spartacus’ famous revolt of the gladiators and presided over Roman law and politics for almost half a century. He foiled the legendary Catiline conspiracy, advised Pompey, the victorious general who brought the Middle East under Roman rule, and fought to mobilize the Senate against Caesar. He witnessed the conquest of Gaul, the civil war that followed and Caesar’s dictatorship and assassination. Cicero was a legendary defender of freedom and a model, later, to French and American revolutionaries who saw themselves as following in his footsteps in their resistance to tyranny.

Anthony Everitt’s biography paints a caustic picture of Roman politics—where Senators were endlessly filibustering legislation, walking out, rigging the calendar and exposing one another’s sexual escapades, real or imagined, to discredit their opponents. This was a time before slander and libel laws, and the stories—about dubious pardons, campaign finance scandals, widespread corruption, buying and rigging votes, wife-swapping, and so on—make the Lewinsky affair and the U.S. Congress seem chaste.

Cicero was a wily political operator. As a lawyer, he knew no equal. Boastful, often incapable of making up his mind, emotional enough to wander through the woods weeping when his beloved daughter died in childbirth, he emerges in these pages as intensely human, yet he was also the most eloquent and astute witness to the last days of Republican Rome.

On Cicero:

“He taught us how to think."
—Voltaire

“I tasted the beauties of language, I breathed the spirit of freedom, and I imbibed from his precepts and examples the public and private sense of a man.”
—Edward Gibbon

“Who was Cicero: a great speaker or a demagogue?”
—Fidel Castro


From the Hardcover edition.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:28:01 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

A portrait of the Roman politician describes the life and times of the ancient statesman, based on the witty and candid letters that Cicero wrote to his friend Atticus in which he described the events and personalities that shaped the final days of Republican Rome.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 4 descriptions

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