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."
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