When Tiro, the confidential secretary of a Roman senator, opens the door to a terrified stranger on a cold November morning, he sets in motion a chain of events which will eventually propel his master into one of the most famous courtroom dramas in history.
The stranger is a Sicilian, a victim of the island's corrupt Roman governor, Verres. The senator is Cicero, a brilliant young lawyer and spellbinding orator, determined to attain imperium - supreme power in the state.
This is the starting-point of Robert Harris' most accomplished novel to date. Compellingly written in Tiro's voice, it takes us inside the violent, treacherous world of Roman politics, to describe how one man - clever, compassionate, devious, vulnerable - fought to reach the top.
©2004 Robert Harris (P)2010 BBC Audiobooks Ltd
Firstly Bill Wallis is an amazing narrator. I felt as if Tiro was actually talking to me in person!
Secondly, I've always wanted a glimpse into the political life of Rome...this book did just that! I was literally there!
Thirdly..I'm downloading the sequel as I write this ;)
Love having someone read me a story. Fires in the hearth, rain on the roof, sunny days and surf. Good friends, good food and J S Bach.
This story brings back to life a man and a time that had been left in the annals of history. It is well written too. It has also re awakened my interest in Old Rome. Sadly much history is names dates and wars and this story sheds light on the ideas and actions, deeds and misdeeds. Great stuff.
Eclectic mixer of books of my youth and ones I always meant to read, but didn't.
I found this novel by searching under the "legal thriller" menu in the Audible Shop. Along with the Grishams, Patersons and others this lovely re-imagination of the life of the great orator, Marcus Tullius Cicero, was thrown up.
The plot follows the story as told by Tiro, Cicero's secretary, the reputed creator of shorthand notation. It traces the years from Cicero's famous prosecution of Verres, the murderous and corrupt Governor of Sicily (then a vassal of Rome), to his popular defence of the former Governor of Further Gaul on similar charges to Verres (in the true traditions of the Bar and to prove that he was as patriotic as the next Roman). It concludes with his electoral race to the Consulate. All of this is punctuated by the now familiar trappings of power; the small deceits, the large manoeuvrings and the selling of principles to win the political race for Imperium, or political power. Firmly fixed in the language of the 20th and 21st Centuries, this entertaining story casts a more than interesting light on the birth place of modern politics amongst the Forum, upon the Rostra and amidst the Curia (Senate). It suggests that the old adage that there is nothing new in politics is correct.
One example will suffice to illustrate the adage. The device is to arrest power by the device of introducing "necessary" legislation. In Rome, at the time in question, the "stateless" terrorists were pirates. They owed allegiance to no single state, but they were determined to hold Rome and Romans to ransom. To combat them the titular military commander, Pompey the Great, proposed, by a conduit, to introduce the lex Gabinia. This law would give the "Commissioner" (intended to be and in fact confirmed to be Pompey) un-reviewable power to combat terrorism. It removed from a citizen the protection of the Courts (a right asserted by the call, "I am a Roman citizen". Ironically, it was Cicero, who made the right famous in his well known speech at the close of the Verres prosecution, who contrived to make the lex Gabina law to curry favour with Pompey). The parallels with the passing of the Patriot Act (and like legislation in other Western countries) is astounding. It remind me that Cicero was right to observe that a man who does not know his history is as a child who must repeat the mistakes of history.
As a lawyer, I found the text entertaining. I had my Plutarch and Speeches out along with my maps of old Rome. I say this because I'm not sure the text will have the same attraction to a non-lawyer. However, history buffs will appreciate the work that his gone into garnering together this factitious account.
As for Bill Wallis, I thought his performance to be exemplary. He reminded me of the first narrator I listed to on Audible, Charlie Simpson, who read Rosemary Sutcliff's "Eagle of the Ninth". I loved that too. Both are well paced and I thought the adoption of English accents (Cockney, Westland, etc.) was an appropriate metaphor for their Roman equivalents. That said however, an American audience might prefer an American metaphor.
Overall, I think this is a 3.5. I enjoyed it and will certainly listen to the sequel, "Lustrum".
This is the first Robert Harris book I have read and I have to say I enjoyed it very much. In fact I have just purchased the follow up Lustrum and look forward to listening to that.
Cicero is someone from history I was aware of but did not appreciate, this book has provided me with a different perspective. I really enjoyed how the story was told by secretary after the event.
I would have to say that narrator did a great job too.
"Imperium" traces the rise of Cicero, one of Rome's last and greatest Republican statesmen, from a country lawyer with a stutter to the greatest orator in Rome. It follows the dangers and hardships that come with seeking power, including the times you have to compromise, instead of achieving an ideal situation. It also made me think of the power of communication. The skillful use of words can achieve wonders!
It also gives a great insight into a fascinating time period. Historical novels are the best way to learn history because they help you see historical figures as real people, with feelings and ambitions and personalities. Robert Harris (and by extension, Bill Wallis' excellent performance) brings Julius Caesar, Pompey, Crassus, Cicero, Tiro and many more real people to life; and even senators who you'll have never heard of, but were quite important in their day. And that was something else that Imperium made me think about: the transitory nature of power and fame. You might be "the greatest man in Rome" one day, but in a few years nobody will know or care who you are! Fame is so fleeting.
If you want to understand Rome just before it subjected itself to a dictator or just listen to a thrilling story about a outrageous court case, a criminal conspiracy and the rise of a outsider to power, you should listen to Bill Wallis' narration of "Imperium."
Robert Harris is one of my favourite authors, I have read Fatherland, Archangel, Enigma and Pompeii which were all excellent reads, Fatherland being a particular favourite. This is my first venture into his writings as an Audio book, the first thing to say is that the Narrator Bill Wallis is excellent, a great voice so easy to listen too with excellent characterisations.
As for the plot we follow Marcus Cicero on his attempt to become one of Rome's two Consuls. We see him as a lawyer, orator and statesman and see as his powers grow. The book is written from the view point of his slave and secretary Tiro who gives great insight into the political intrigue of the time.
As in his previous works Harris excels in creating fully formed characters. Imperium is at times challenging as there are large numbers of characters and as key parts of the plot are based on Cicero?s Oratory long speeches however they are never dull in fact they are beautifully written and only add to the authentic atmosphere.
A great Listen.
"The best book on Audible"
This is my favourite purchase from Audible and I buy a lot of books here.
As an audio book it works perfectly on all levels. A great, compelling writer, intertwining fact and fiction during one of antiquities most exciting periods. The charisma and lives of some of the lead characters is just fascinating. Cicero, Julius Caesar, Cato, Crassus and Pompey et al makes you wish such titanic people lived today.
The narrator, Bill Wallis, was an excellent choice. His voice conveys the tension, humour and sadness perfectly, whilst also altering sufficiently to capture the personality of the lead characters. The best narration I have heard so far.
Also see Lustrum, the follow up to Imperium, equally excellent. Cant wait for the final installment in the trilogy.
I cant recommend this book enough.
This narrator is excellent. He has a seductive 'let me tell you a secret' voice which was perfect for this narrative style.
"Duplicity at work"
I found the story of Cicero compelling, but hard work. He was perpetually involved in acts of duplicity and ever changing alliances. For those that like politics this will be invigorating, for those that don't, it will be torture.
"Great book, read beautifully...."
I had just joined Audible and was unsure what book to download. I chanced upon this, having never read a Robert Harris or heard a Bill Wallis book. Fantastic drama which brings in a philosophy of politics, drama and life. It was read beautifully by Mr Wallis. Even though the subject material was new to me, the themes were as relevent today as ever. A great book.
"A genuine 5 star read"
I've some 50 or so books in My Library and although many are really excellent reads, I'm most parsimonious with my star ratings; indeed this is the only book to which I have awarded 5 stars.
Whilst I've never really wanted to rule the world, if I did I'd lock up Robert Harris until he finished writing this series. In the next cell would be the narrator Bill Wallis. What a duo!
I have promised myself that I shall start to re-read Imperium again (for the third time) on my birthday and so become re-immersed in the intrigues of Republican Rome.
I was surprised how good a listen imperium and Lustrum were. If you want to listen to something different, this is it. and after you've listened I bet you'll be straight on the web trying to find out more about Cicero
"Excellent story and narration"
I'd been looking for a historical Roman story for some time now and have considered a few books, but took the plunge with this and was not disappointed.
The story has been captivating from the very start, partly due to the content but also due to the excellent narration by Bill Wallis. His voice is perfect and delivers the story fantastically well.
I couldn't stop listening, getting through it very quickly and will be moving on to the next book in the series very soon.
I would heartily recommend this book to anyone after a good historical story.
Robert Harris at his best! Love the way he marries a story with factual history, it beautifully woven together.
"Imperium - Cicero part 1"
Really enjoyed this story and have also listened to Lustrum (2nd book) and I cant wait for the 3rd and final installment (hurry up Mr Harris) based on factual information a intreiging take on how events may have unfolded, characters come to life with their own trates and personallities, and its the desire to know "whats next" for te main character - the cleverest man in the Roman Empire - Marcus Tulius Cicero that makes listening so compulsive!
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