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

Anthony Everitt
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
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Book Description

May 6 2003
“All ages of the world have not produced a greater statesman and philosopher combined.”
—John Adams

He 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 mankind.

In 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 operator.

Cicero 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 U.S. Congress seem chaste.

Cicero 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 Rome.

On 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.

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Using Cicero's letters to his good friend Atticus, among other sources, Everitt recreates the fascinating world of political intrigue, sexual decadence and civil unrest of Republican Rome. Against this backdrop, he offers a lively chronicle of Cicero's life. Best known as Rome's finest orator and rhetorician, Cicero (103 -43 B.C.) situated himself at the center of Roman politics. By the time he was 30, Cicero became a Roman senator, and 10 years later he was consul. Opposing Julius Caesar and his attempt to form a new Roman government, Cicero remained a thorn in Caesar's side until the emperor's assassination. Cicero supported Pompey's attempts during Caesar's reign to bring Rome back to republicanism. Along the way, Cicero put down conspiracies, won acquittal for a man convicted of parricide, challenged the dictator Sulla with powerful rhetoric about the decadence of Sulla's regime and wrote philosophical treatises. Everitt deftly shows how Cicero used his oratorical skills to argue circles around his opponents. More important, Everitt portrays Cicero as a man born at the wrong time. While Cicero vainly tried to find better men to run government and better laws to keep them in order, Republican Rome was falling down around him, never to return to the glory of Cicero's youth. A first-rate complement to Elizabeth Rawson's Cicero or T.N. Mitchell's monumental two-volume biography, Everitt's first book is a brilliant study that captures Cicero's internal struggles and insecurities as well as his external political successes. Maps. (On sale June 11)
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Everitt's first book is a good read that anyone interested in ancient Rome will enjoy. It is also the first one-volume life of the Roman leader in 25 years. To create a work that flowed and was therefore more colorful for the lay reader, Everitt, the former secretary-general of the Arts Council for Great Britain, has taken liberties when describing a person or a place that may annoy scholars. Yet reading this book is an excellent way to understand the players of the period and the culture that produced them. Bloody, articulate, erudite, sexist, slave-owning-Cicero and his circle were all that, but Everitt is careful to recognize that the orator was a product of his age. This is not strictly a political history; Everitt scrutinizes Roman society in discussing events of the orator's life and, when describing Cicero's marriage, acquaints the reader with various aspects of that institution and the home of the era. Throughout, he is willing to admit when the evidence for a theory is weak and when he is extrapolating from the assumptions of scholars. Recommended for public and undergraduate collections.
Clay Williams, Hunter Coll. Lib., New York
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
To understand Cicero's life, which spanned the first two thirds of the first century BC, it is necessary to picture the world in which he lived, and especially the nature of Roman politics. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Solid, but not spectacular June 29 2004
By J A W
Format:Paperback
This is a standard biography of Cicero's life, written well to meet those aims. Everitt drops in nice tidbits of Roman life--shopping malls, insurance-arson scams, and Vestigial Virgin drag queens--but this biography lacks both A.) historical perspective and B.) philosophical perspective on Cicero. Someone who knows little of Cicero before reading this book, would not know a whole more about Cicero's worldview. We learn that he believed in the representative Republic, in some degree of personal freedom--but he also believed in deterministic, pantheistic Stoicism. How could these be reconciled? How is determinism and liberty compatible? How is determinism and virtue compatible? How could these beliefs impact the Founding Fathers? This is what lacks from the book--why Cicero's beliefs led to his life, and why his life led to the Enlightenment.
This book nonetheless does it's basic job, and the portrayals of Cato, Pompey, Caesar, and Octavian are strong. Cato comes off as the noble idealist--as Cicero would have seen him--and the emperors and would-be emperors come off as the practical power mongerers that they probably were. Crassus and Cataline are like cartoonish villains, yet, by their idiotic deeds and schemes they might have been. This would be a good book simply to flesh out one's knowledge of a time slowly being forgotten in the Postmodern West.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Cicero Meets Biography on A&E March 10 2004
By jrmspnc
Format:Hardcover
Anthony Everitt's biography of Cicero is a fine yet pedestrian account of the ancient politician. In almost every respects, it could serve as the basis for an A&E or History Channel documentary; it outlines the basic facts, presents a scandal or two, but does nothing to engage the mind or reveal deep truths about the human condition. This book is neither insightful nor provocative, like Christian Meier's Caesar. Nor does Everitt adequately explain why Cicero held such a fascination for generations to come, including (if not especially) our own founding fathers, John Adams in particular. And for a biography about a man best remembered for his writings, precious little space is spent discussing Cicero's written ideas. One gets more of a sense of Cicero as a person from Colleen McCullough's fictional Masters of Rome series.
That's the negative. The positive is that Everitt's account is well-presented and the events surrounding Cicero's life are inherently interesting. Everitt particularly shines in depicting Cicero's activities after Caesar's assassination, arguing that for the few short months left to his life Cicero was the preeminent man of the hour - mainly because he was the last one of the elder generation left standing.
The bottom line is that Everitt's Cicero is a book that nobody should regret reading. It's a fine review of the end of the Roman Republic, and a good refresher course for those who maybe haven't visited Ancient Rome in a while. Those looking for some substance, however, and those who are serious Roman scholars, will be disappointed.
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Format:Hardcover
If your goal in reading a biography of a historical figure is to gain a new perspective on the society and culture they lived in as well as an insight into their character and personality, then you should find Anthony Everitt's "Cicero" a satisfying read. In particular, if you are interested in learning more about how Cicero advanced the art of politics during a multi-faceted career, this book will provide a fresh look at the methods -- primarily oratorical -- he employed.
This is the most accessible accounting I have read of the steadily intensifying battle between aristocracy and plebeians and of how that battle led to the rise of dictatorship. Cicero's role in trying to bridge this growing gap while protecting the integrity of the Senate forms the heart of the political side of his life as presented here. This is not to say that Everitt presents Cicero as man solely devoted to principle. On the contrary, the book highlights Cicero's early devotion to advancing his own interests and career. This led Cicero to some monumental injustices, for which he later paid a significant price.
Cicero's personal life takes on a dimension here not usually reflected in more general treatments of Roman history. His account of Cicero's devotion to his daughter, of his (Cicero's) reaction to her early death, and of how that affected Cicero's career are especially convincing.
Everitt has made copious use of the ancient sources. Much of Cicero's writings and correspondence has survived, and Everitt cites them frequently. In fact, his citations and notes on sources are a main reason why the book is so satisfying.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great Leaders and Politicians Dec 1 2003
Format:Paperback
Marcus Tullius Cicero was the great statesman of the Roman Republic. To Cicero politics and government was not something that was just necessary evil. It was, in the words of former US Senator Paul Wellstone "...not about power. Politics is not about money. Politics is not about winning for the sake of winning. Politics is about the improvement of people's live. It's about advancing the cause of peace and justice in our country and in our world. Politics is about doing well for people." This is how Cicero viewed the "games" of politics and government.
Right now we have a lot of weird leaders in both parties who don't know who Cicero was or why he is important to know about. At beast our leaders today know that there was a guy with that name from the various history classes they took in High School and College. Of course, our leaders today -- on both sides of the isle -- barely know who the American founding fathers were, let another Roman ones. Yet our own American Founding Fathers knew whom the Roman ones were.
Think of whom Cicero dealt with in the Roman Politics of the first century B.C. There was Julius Caesar, Cato, Cassius, Mark Antony, Octavian/Augustus, the two Brutus', Pompey, etc. This is not just a who's who list of Roman history... these are all people who lived at the same time, who knew and worked with or against each other. The founding American political experience with so many great minds all working together was not original to history... rare, but not original.
Yes, Roman politics was a blood sport when it came to it in the end. Cicero ended up very dead, with Antony's wife, Falvia pulling out his tongue and piercing it with hairpins. But in the end, even his enemies thought highly of him.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars My fourth book from the same author
I loved them all. Anthony can really bring you back in time. His books a very easy to read and flow. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Igor
3.0 out of 5 stars Hmmm...
I have read Anthony Everitt's books on Augustus, Hadrian and now Cicero. I first read Augustus and I loved it so much that I read it a second time. Read more
Published on Feb. 10 2012 by Smac
3.0 out of 5 stars Sadly lacking
No contest, Cicero is an important figure of 1st century BC Rome, which comes alive through his voluminous correspondence, a large chunk of which has been published in Ancient... Read more
Published on Nov. 12 2010 by Yanick Dube
5.0 out of 5 stars Cicero brought to life!!
This is simply one of the best books I have ever read about the late republic. It also brought a figure who I was very unaware of into the light for me. Read more
Published on Jan. 2 2010 by Guy Moreau
4.0 out of 5 stars Well Done
Everritt does a good job at re-creating Cicero`s life. He does not cover much of Cicero`s written material. Read more
Published on Feb. 20 2008 by Patrick Sullivan
5.0 out of 5 stars Reads like a novel
Anthony Everitt takes an interesting, more introspective look at Cicero. He takes into account classical historians like Livy or Plutarch but sanitizes their records with thorough... Read more
Published on April 28 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars Well-written history of the Republic's demise
This is a very rare book: an excellent retelling of the Roman Republic's demise within the context of one of it's last great orators and politician, Marcus Cicero. Read more
Published on Feb. 2 2004
2.0 out of 5 stars too much detail for me
I was looking for a good book on Cicero, (my first on the subject.) However, I found the book to have a bit too much detail and it belabored every little event in his life too much... Read more
Published on Dec 12 2003
4.0 out of 5 stars Straight Ahead Biography of Cicero
Cicero (The Life and Times of Rome's Greatest Politician) is exactly what its author, Anthony Everitt, claims it to be in the sub-title. Read more
Published on Nov. 6 2003 by Ricky Hunter
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