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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."

“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)
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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
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hmmm... Feb. 10 2012
By Smac
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. I assumed I would enjoy Hadrian as well, and sure enough I did. I thoroughly enjoyed Everitt's writing style and the way he presented the facts in a clear and concise manner. So, I decided I would try Cicero, and I was so excited to get it in the mail. I delved into it right away , even putting the book I had already started aside. I kind of noticed that I wasn't able to be pulled into the story right away, but chalked it up to idea that maybe Cicero was just not a person I found all that interesting, but I decided to keep going. Then i realized that it wasn't so much the story of Cicero that I was having trouble with, it was the way Everitt was presenting the information. He seemed to have changed his writing style in this book and I found he was all over the place. He wasn't clear whom it was he was talking about in certain areas, so it was easy to get mixed up on which "he" Everitt was talking about. I would have to go back over a few paragraphs to try and figure it out. Anyway, I finished the book and I still felt that I had a good idea of the kind of person Cicero was, and so for that I give marks to Everitt. I just feel it wasn't his best work out of the three I read from him.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Sadly lacking Nov. 12 2010
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 times. Unfortunately, this biography reads, at times, too much like a digest of this correspondence. And despite the abundance of this material, I am still puzzled as to the man's motivations and even his accomplishments. At least half the book is dedicated to providing enough context to understand his actions and thoughts, but I find myself wishing for several hundred pages more so that the man can be exposed more fully. This book is an OK read for a first foray into Rome's history in this period and Cicero, but if you are interested in the orator, this is nothing more than a decent introduction.
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5.0 out of 5 stars My fourth book from the same author June 2 2014
By Igor
Verified Purchase
I loved them all. Anthony can really bring you back in time. His books a very easy to read and flow. If he wasn't describing something that happened 2,000 years ago I would have thought he was there.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Cicero brought to life!! Jan. 2 2010
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. Because of this book I understand so much more about the Roman world than I did beforehand.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Solid, but not spectacular June 29 2004
By J A W
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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5.0 out of 5 stars Reads like a novel April 28 2004
By A Customer
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 scholarly research that makes for a fuller, more updated picture. He doesn't, to my surprise, laud him to no end; if anything, Everitt spends more time exploring Cicero's hubris and his nervousness, traits that led to some political pitfalls. He also discusses the major players - Julius Caesar, Octavian, Antony, etc. - along with lesser-known but prominent figures that won't be found in many books, especially Catalina (a conspirator) and Clodius (Cicero's foe). Through it all, though, Everitt takes on a thoroughly literary tone that offers some respite from the pedagogic stuffiness of other books on Rome. An excellent read.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Cicero Meets Biography on A&E March 10 2004
By jrmspnc
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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Most recent customer reviews
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 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
4.0 out of 5 stars Good use of sources in a multi-dimensional account
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... Read more
Published on Jan. 25 2004 by Jesse Steven Hargrave
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 13 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Leaders and Politicians
Marcus Tullius Cicero was the great statesman of the Roman Republic. To Cicero politics and government was not something that was just necessary evil. Read more
Published on Dec 1 2003 by David N. Reiss
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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