- Paperback: 108 pages
- Publisher: Echo Library (December 12, 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1406847100
- ISBN-13: 978-1406847109
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.3 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,668,739 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Cicero: Ancient Classics for English Readers Paperback – December 12, 2007
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If Cicero had a failing, it was most certainly pride, the sort of pride that made him feel he was above retribution for the many insulting remarks he made. Cicero was witty, and vain about his quick mind. He made off-hand remarks that caused him grief later, and although his downfall was the Philippics he wrote bashing Antony, part of his grief came from Octavius, heir to Ceaser. Cicero said something to the effect that young Octavius should be 'lauded, applauded, then dropped'. Octavius claimed, when Antony demanded Cicero's head as part of their Triumverate, that he argued long and hard against it. I wonder if he gave in a bit sooner due to Cicero's remarks about him and Ceaser.
Cicero had no problem shifting alliances depending on the prevailing sentiments, but usually found himself with the conservative elements. He did not bear adversity well, and his letters to Atticus, his closest friend, were particularly self indulgent during Cicero's exile after being indicted for putting Roman citizens to death without trial during the Catailina conspiracy. He could be charming if he wanted to be, and his powers of oratory are legendary. A great man, certainly, but we modern readers prefer out heroes warts and all. The gentleness that the author treats Cicero with would not be typical if the book had been written in this century.
Rome had exerted control over a vast area by force of arms, but its political structure was corrupt at the core and the election of rulers with defined responsibilities to serve limited terms was dying out. A member of the old school, Cicero supported (but did not participate in) the assassination of Julius Caesar (after Caesar declared himself emperor). If the idea was to restore the Roman republic it didn't work. Other emperors followed, many far worse than Caesar. Cicero made something of a pest of himself, and he was killed a few years later by followers of Mark Anthony.
Much is known about Cicero's inner thoughts and feelings because he was an inveterate writer (legal arguments, speeches, political and philosophical essays, and letters to friends) and much of what he wrote has been preserved. The writings are often ambiguous or contradictory, however, and much controversy exists as to why he did various things during his life.
The author raises an interesting question: do we really understand Cicero better than other ancient figures who did not leave a record of their inner thoughts and feelings? "It is true that we cannot look into the private letters of Caesar, or Pompey, or Brutus, as we can into Cicero's, but it is not so certain that if we could, our estimate of their characters would be lowered."
There are some parallels in the political situation in late Republican/early imperial Rome and the increasingly bitter tone in our political system today. Will there come a time when the US political system breaks down too, as voters lose faith in the results and the factions turn from debate to violence?
Time will tell, but one gets an eerie sense from this book of how things could go wrong for America.