Robert Harris: Imperium

Imperium - Robert Harris

The first part of Harris’s Cicero trilogy, and both a truly fast-paced and a well-researched piece of historical writing; covering Cicero’s ascent from young Senator to Praetorian and, eventually (and against all the odds), Consul.

The first part of the book deals at length with one of Cicero’s most famous legal cases, the prosecution of the corrupt Sicilian governor Verres, and Harris shows how Cicero employed that case in order to advance his own political career.  Notably, Cicero quite ingeniously also ignored established Roman trial practice in favor of what would very much resemble modern common law practice, by making a (by the standards of the day) comparatively short opening statement — albeit a supremely argumentative one — and immediately thereafter examining his witnesses, instead of, as procedural custom would have dictated, engaging in a lengthy battle of speeches with defending counsel first.  As a result of this manoeuver, Verres was as good as convicted and fled from Rome in the space of the 9 days allotted to Cicero as prosecuting counsel to make his case.

The second part of the book examines Cicero’s unlikely but eventually victorious campaign for consulship, and his exposure of a conspiracy involving Catiline, generally believed to be the most likely victor of that year’s consular elections, who later came to be involved of conspiracies on an even greater scale, and whose condemnation in Cicero’s most famous speeches — collectively known as In Catilinam (On, or Against Catiline) — would go a great way towards securing both Cicero’s political success in his own lifetime and his lasting fame as a skilled orator.

One thought on “Robert Harris: Imperium”

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Literature Reviews

Anthony Berkeley: Murder in the Basement

This is middling Berkeley, not as problematic as The Wychford Poisoning Case or The Silk Stockings Murders, but OTOH also a fair way from the (mostly) enjoyable and intelligent writing that are The Poisoned Chocolates Case and Trial and Error. I rather like the setup — a body found by accident in a place where […]

Read More
Literature Reviews

Phoebe Atwood Taylor: The Cape Cod Mystery

The Appointment with Agatha group’s January 2022 side read: my first book by Atwood Taylor (though I’d heard her name before) and almost certainly not my last one. I’m not entirely sold on the main investigator, Asey Mayo; he comes across as rather too mannered and the book might have benefitted if the first person […]

Read More
Literature Reviews

Zora Neale Hurston: Dust Tracks on a Road

Definitely the best book I read during the first week of the new year; the New Yorker pretty much nailed it when calling the book “warm, witty, imaginative” and adding “This is a rich and winning book.” I’d (finally) read Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God last year; having now read her autobiography, I recongnize […]

Read More
%d bloggers like this: