‘Imperium’ is the first novel in Robert Harris’s trilogy about Cicero – the Roman politician and lawyer in the first century A.D. The other two book in the trilogy are ‘Lustrum/ Conspirata’ and ‘Dictator’.
The narrator of the story is Cicero’s chief secretary Tiro – the inventor of shorthand who really did write a biography of Cicero (now lost). The thing that struck me most about this novel is how little politics and law have changed in 2000 years – still riddled with corruption and bribery, money is still power, the most convincing speaker still wins regardless of whether they are right or wrong.
Cicero was a ‘new man’ in politics, so not part of the aristocracy and he spent much of his time fighting against the hold that the aristocracy had over power and control of Rome. He did, however, marry a rich aristocrat to gain money for his political ambitions.
This novel follows Cicero from his humble beginnings through to the time that he became consul (one of the highest offices in Republican Rome). Along the way he prosecutes a corrupt governor thus making his name. But then later he defends another corrupt governor. He becomes involved in Pompeii’s plot to gain total control of the military but then works with the aristocrats against Crassus and Julius Caesar when they try to take control of the government of Rome. So, he was very much into alliances of convenience to further his own political career.
By the end of the novel, the republic was looking more shaky – partly because of Cicero. I’m looking forward to reading about the continued disintegration of the roman republic through the rest of the trilogy.
This novel was obviously well researched and made me realise how little I actually know about this period of history. From time to time I found myself carrying out independent research while reading the book.
I’m looking forward to continuing Cicero’s story in ‘Lustrum/ Conspirata’.
Book Published 2006