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Cicero: The Life and Times of Rome's Greatest Politician Paperback – May 6, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

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.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; Reprint edition (May 6, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 037575895X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375758959
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (147 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #81,021 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Anthony Everitt, visiting professor in the visual and performing arts at Nottingham Trent University, has written extensively on European culture, and is the author of Cicero and Augustus. He has served as secretary general of the Arts Council of Great Britain. Everitt lives near Colchester, England's first recorded town, founded by the Romans.

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

240 of 242 people found the following review helpful By T. Graczewski VINE VOICE on September 3, 2004
Format: Paperback
There are many able and thoughtful reviews of this bestseller below. Rather than rehash the common themes -- namely that "Cicero" is well-written but a bit shallow (I happen to agree) -- I've decided to use this review to assess Everitt's work against the last popular biography on the great Roman statesman and philosopher, Elizabeth Rawson's "Cicero: A Portrait," which is regarded by many Roman scholars as the finest ever written. With diligence and a little bit of luck I was able to obtain a copy of Rawson on the Internet. I decided to read the two books concurrently to discover why many learned readers hold her book in so much higher regard than Everitt's.

Keeping with the spirit of a head-to-head competition, first let us consider the "tale of the tape." The paperback versions of both books are remarkably similar is structure, organization and length. That is, both are chronological narratives organized into seventeen chapters and just over 300 pages in length (it should be noted that the font and margins in Rawson are smaller, so "Portrait" is roughly 20% longer in terms of wordcount). Clearly, then, Everitt's relative weakness isn't excessive brevity or an unorthodox and ineffective approach to Cicero's life.

Much to my surprise, these books turned out to be just as similar in content as they were in size. Rawson certainly does a more thorough job of analyzing Cicero's philosophical works and her book ends with an excellent but brief review of Cicero's legacy, but overall Everitt's prose is more lucid and he excels Rawson in his ability to capture the pulse of life in Republican Rome (his descriptions of the traditional Roman marriage ceremony and assembly voting procedures are especially noteworthy).
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74 of 76 people found the following review helpful By Paul Frandano on September 2, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The dust jacket of Everitt's attractive biography quotes a perceptive English reviewer, who observes, "Of all the arts, that of politics has advanced least since the days of Greece and Rome." Upon closing the book, my overwhelming sense was that Franklin Roosevelt, Richard Nixon, Lyndon Johnson and, yes, Bill Clinton would have done perfectly well in Julian Rome. The broad contours of the political game have, in the intervening two millennia, acquired several strips of veneer and a few layers of varnish, but they are immediately recognizable in this briskly paced work. Pompey's political ponderousness, Caesar's bright dexterity, and Cicero's conservative deliberateness all find ready parallels in this and every other age. Gain, glory, and fear are here the prime motivators--generalize to politics Thucydides' famous observation that men will go to war for any of these three reasons and you will have neatly summarized all political motive--and Everitt nicely sifts through the ample historical record to relate how the great men of the late Republic clambered for the pinnacle as the challenge of Julius Caesar loomed.
For readers not particularly well versed in Roman history, Everitt does particularly well in quickly situating Cicero's life in the great events of his day, the context of an expanding empire, and the daily life of a Rome that had no city government as we would know it--little public security (private guards for the wealthy, nothing for the rest), sanitation, services, or urban administration. An accretion of checks and balances (so admired by our own founders) caused politic to deadlock, with each of the major protagonists offering solutions that either restored, or to circumvented, the formal primacy of the Senate and Rome's great families.
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39 of 40 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 22, 2002
Format: Hardcover
As a 56 year old physician and non-historian, I would otherwise have remained dimly informed of the complex history of the last days of the Roman Republic ....but for this remarkable book. With clear prose, and finely nuanced style, Everitt brings to life both the times of Rome during the last days of its Republic, and the multifaceted personality of Cicero. Moreover, his index of names is outstanding.
His detailed description of comon elements of Roman life, its overextended and patchwork government (laden with unbelievable corruption), and his fine description of the physical area of the Forum and its multiple functions - are fascinating and gripping.
This is an epic tale brilliantly told - a tragic but unavoidable outcome, enlivened with excellent primary source quotes which bring breath and life to the story.
You will be well versed of this critical period of history, and deeply appreciative of the cultural debt which Western Civiliazation owes Cicero after reading this book.
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105 of 130 people found the following review helpful By Graham Henderson on September 19, 2002
Format: Hardcover
It is not my practise to review books for which I have little taste. There are cases where I make exceptions, particularly where I notice that there is an overwhelming tsunami of opinion that tends in the opposite direction to my views. I feel suich a situation requires some balance. Virtually every reviewer of this book has praised it to the skies as if it were the most important book to emerge on Cicero in recent memory.
Let me at the outset state that the best recent biography of Cicero is NOT this one. It is Elizabeth Rawson's "Cicero: A Portrait". It is not as lavishly produced, but its pedigree and credentials are infinitely superior to Everritt's rather disappointing (though lengthy) effort. And it is every bit as readable - and in fact is more succinct and to the point.
In fact this book is NOT the most important or best biography of our times. It is rather business-like and pedestrian. Serious students of the period and specialists should not reach for this book in the expectation of something ground-breaking. It is anything but that. It is a decent, well-written account (by a non-specialist) of one of the most famous and influential figures in all of history. The causal reader will enjoy it (as the other reviewers suggest) but they would profit more from an acquaintance with Rawson's book, which I have reviewed as well.
Everritt's book is filled significant mistakes in the Latin . And Everritt has adopted a policy that is dangerous for the non-specialist - he ignores the modern writers and goes back to the "ancient-sources". As a result he is at their mercy. As Mary Beard has remarked, "the result, almost inevitably, is a patchwork of ancient texts, sewn together with a thread of common sense, guesswork and sheer fantasy".
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