Cicero: The Life and Times of Rome's Greatest Politician

Cicero: The Life and Times of Rome's Greatest PoliticianAll Ages Of The World Have Not Produced A Greater Statesman And Philosopher Combined John AdamsHe 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 MankindIn 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 OperatorCicero 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 US Congress Seem ChasteCicero 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 RomeOn 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 The funny thing is, I was glad enough to have been exposed to Cicero through Everitt s fine prose and superb scholarship but I don t care a bit to read about the man.What Everitt does better than anything else is illuminate the earthy, visceral mayhem that was Rome Ceasar, Crassus, Pompey, Octavian, Brutus He makes everything come alive in a way that has gotten me hankering to tackle anything else that s going to give me the same primal, political fury and grandeur I got from these pages.the thing that gets me is the juxtaposition between the utterly sophisticated and far reaching intellectuality of the people who were out and about around 40 BC How advanced they were culurally, economically, politically, artistically.And yet.they lived in caves and had no public lighting and stabbed each other when they were drunk at parties Wildness and mayhem taking place amid all the cool apollonian rationality and abstract calculation A fascinating mix Everitt does a splendid job of bringing this to life Ironically, Cicero seems almost bland and tepid when contrasted with this vibrant and pulsating canvas.It says his next book will be about Augustus I seriously cannot wait The radicals seem not to have had a clear set of proposals and seized opportunities as they came alongAnthony Everitt, Cicero The Life and Times of Rome s Greatest PoliticianNot as good as Everitt s biography of Augustus, but better than his biography of Hadrian Everitt is clearly passionate and good at classical narratives His biographies are quick, easy, and summarize the subjects well He doesn t add much new to the history He isn t challenging or overthrowing assumptions about Cicero or the other major players, but he weaves a nice story and makes classical history approachable.Everitt does a fine job of balancing the different aspects of Cicero His skill as an orator, his hits and misses as a politician, his defense of the Republic, his rationality all get their time and moment Everitt blends in Cicero s weaknesses his vanity, his missteps vacillation in politics, his zeal in persecuting Mark Anthony, and his cowardice.The weakness of this biography is while Everitt might be aiming at a form of historical rehabilitation, I m not sure Cicero was ever really in need of rehabilitation While he was often unlucky during his life unlike Julius Caesar the birds never seemed to be on Cicero s side after his good death Cicero seems to have flourished The volume and quality of Cicero s writings that survived the fall of Rome have made Cicero into one of the hero gods of the Roman Republic His genius survives Cicero will always be known now for what he wrote and thought than for what he did Caesar may have been deified by decree of the Roman Senate on 1 January 42 BC, but Cicero s own writings have made him immortal He lives on in Machiavelli, John Adams, Abraham Lincoln, and Winston Churchill As Emperor Augustus observed to one of his grandsons upon seeing him reading a book by Cicero An eloquent man, my child, an eloquent man, and a patriot Not a bad epitaph from the Caesar who had you killed. Now I badly need to read a comparative analysis of Caesar and Cicero there is something amazing there. The fundamental difficulty of writing a life of Cicero is that he s not the most interesting person in the story by a long shot The trouble is that he has to share the stage with Caesar, who s bold, sexy every man s woman and every woman s man far sighted enough to understand that the ship of the Republic had well and truly sunk, loyal to friends and merciful to enemies at least so long as they were potentially useful in short, one of the great men of history Cicero, by way of contrast, was a bit of a ditherer, prone to dissembling and not committing to anything until the last possible moment and then prone to changing his mind he prosecuted or defended a number of high profile court cases, but in most instances raw political power of the important factions determined the outcome and when he was briefly able to play a leading role after Caesar s assassination, it didn t exactly end well Devoted enough to serving and preserving the Republic, he lacked the capacity or vision to realize its flaws and the need for radical reform.As a result, it would take a strong biographer not to take Cicero s life and turn it into a sort of synecdoche of the Republic, his own vacillation and weakness standing in for the ineffectiveness of a political institution on its last legs, contrasted with the magnetic, grasping dynamism of an Empire, personified by Caesar.Everitt, to his credit, avoids this temptation, but does so by taking the puzzling approach turning his book into an exercise in apologetics Repeatedly, we re told that Cicero was making the best of a bad situation, or not in a position to make strong decisions, or just lacked the capacity for large scale leadership There s some truth in this litany of excuses, but Everitt seems to be trying to make the case that but for one or two unfortunate flaws of character, education, or position, Cicero might have been another Caesar or Augustus, at least an Antony.Of course, this strains credulity, and it s also to Everitt s credit that he provides the evidence allowing the reader to realize he s stretching The book is a nice balance of concision and comprehensiveness, leading the reader through the proto Byzantine web of plots and factions that characterized Rome at the fall of the Republic, providing not just Cicero s take on the lead players but also a objective look at what he missed It s just that the analysis at the end has a systematic bias that s hard to take seriously The most egregious example is probably where after relating how Cicero, as consul, helped roll up a plot to overthrow the Republic, then panicked and executed some of the conspirators without trial, over loud protest Again, the book makes clear that this was an ill informed overreaction, with many other leaders correctly counselling restraint but Everitt attempts to downplay the magnitude of the error, even as Cicero s peers exile him and hold years long grudges over it Not to get too far down on the guy but the main draw here is definitely that Cicero was a reasonably good observer of an incredibly interesting period of history, playing an interesting albeit minor role, not that he was or even might have been one of the main protagonists The Everitt strays into the latter story, the weaker the book becomes Before wrapping up, I should note that there s a potential objection here the genius of his oratory and prose are in large measure why old Tully s revered, not for being a cunning politician or a great leader, so why shouldn t an appraisal of the biography focus on that Well, yes, but the problem is, the genius of said prose doesn t come across too well in translation his Latin syntax may be admirably balanced, but reading his speeches in English, power and force don t come through that clearly though he is endearingly bitchy in his letters While some writers are at least partially celebrated for the role they played in key events Milton, let s say they tend to have some masterpiece upon which to hang their hats, clearly overshadowing the parts of their biography wrapped up in politics and war And for the modern reader, Caesar s crossing of the Rubicon is a much salient reference point than the rhetorical heft of Against Verres. As a Classicist, I ve always had a soft spot for old Cicero He was the first author I read in the Latin language and my fondness for him continues to this day That being said, Cicero the man certainly had his flaws, which Everitt exposes well in this book.Cicero s one true desire was to be loved and accepted by the Senate His inability to crack into the ultimate old boys club, despite his talents, led to unfortunate grasping and timidity at the core of his character Despite constantly aiming for greatness, he too often equivocated or went too far in his policies, tone deaf with self doubt That being said, he was committed to the Roman constitution and constantly worked for reconciliation between the factions that ultimately destroyed the Republic with their quarrels.Everitt shows us the deeply rooted conflicts and flaws that composed Cicero s character With Cicero as his frame of reference, the events of the First Triumvirate and the Civil Wars appear less dashing than, say, Caesar would have you believe Very interesting read, though not for everyone. 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. Cicero 106 43 B.C , the greatest orator of the late Roman Republic.I recently finished Charlemagne c.742 814 , and was surprised there was so little biographical information about him So, when I started this biography, about a man who lived almost 1000 years before that, I was surprised at the amount of information about his childhood, first court cases, and his wives, to name a few subjects The number of letters he wrote that survived is dumbfounding to me I can only imagine how far an orator of his stature could go today, whether it be for good or evil When I think Cicero, I think of his quotes Below are a few of my favorites in no order The life of the dead is set in the memory of the living A room without books is like a body without a soul Politicians are not born they are excreted The life of the dead is placed on the memories of the living The love you gave in life keeps people alive beyond their time Anyone who was given love will always live on in another s heart Life is nothing without friendship Our span of life is brief, but is long enough for us to live well and honestly A friend is a second self A decent, readable biography of Cicero that effectively situates his character within the framework of the turbulent times in which he lived While not uncritically positive, Everitt clearly considers Cicero s actions as a changeable, deliberate response to political necessity, using the preface to set up the book as an exercise in rehabilitation x It s not entirely convincing, there s a significant amount of faffing about, second guessing, and attention seeking throughout Cicero s career, with energy and clear direction only seeming to arrive in his wrangling with Antony, highlighted by the Philippics He s very much a man of words rather than action, successful in small bursts that often seem luck than judgement, and very susceptible to the currents surrounding powerful men That he had clear aims which he very nearly realised x seems a stretch Nevertheless, Cicero s skills an orator and writer are obvious, the volume of extant sources attest to that If it sometimes seems that his usefulness might be as a chronicler of the time than a politician, well, just don t say it in front of Everitt.While there s nothing new or challenging here, and despite his book coming across as a bit of an apologia, Everitt provides an engaging story for a general readership For those wanting , there s a selection of sources at the back of the book, and of course, there s Cicero s own works there for the reading. I m not sure if this book fully owns its four stars, but whevsies I m sure Cicero would appreciate that genius turn of phrase.Overall, this was quite engaging, a readable and informative but not dull biography There are many pages with no mention of Cicero, as the author strays into detail about the man s contemporaries and the events of the day, but this is obviously necessary and it s interesting anyway so the reader doesn t mind.My only real gripe is that Everitt doesn t manage to make Cicero very admirable I suppose that s a heavy task since ultimately his most lasting achievements were his writings rather than his participation in events Everitt somehow has to create a compelling narrative, and unfortunately, when it comes to actions, Cicero can occasionally come across as a bit of a vain, waffling coward Compare his dithering journeys toward a firm opinion on the Caesar Pompey and later the Antony Octavian conflicts with the stark determination of those men he may have been the better person, but one enjoys the others far I suppose Everitt deals with this limitation as best as he can, but I still felt he was unable to put forth a strong case for Cicero as great statesman.I liked the book anyway.

Anthony Everitt is a British academic He studied English literature at the University of Cambridge He publishes regularly in The Guardian and The Financial Times He worked in literature and visual arts He was Secretary General of the Arts Council of Great Britain He is a visiting professor in the performing and visual arts at Nottingham Trent University Everitt is a companion of the Liverpoo

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  • Paperback
  • 364 pages
  • Cicero: The Life and Times of Rome's Greatest Politician
  • Anthony Everitt
  • English
  • 13 April 2019
  • 9780375758959

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