937: Cicero by Anthony Everitt

by Gerard

937.05092: Everitt, Anthony. Cicero: The Life and Time of Rome’s Greatest Politician. New York: Random House, 2003. ISBN 978-0-375-75895-9. 325 pp.

Much like American history, the history of Ancient Rome is rich and varied. 937 (situated in the 930s, containing books on the history of the ancient world) is the section for the ancient history of the Italian Peninsula to 476 CE—everything from the formation of the Roman Republic to its fall almost 1,000 years later.

Anthony Everitt’s Cicero tells the story of Rome through the eyes of its most noted politician. Marcus Tullius Cicero was born in January of 106 BCE to a gentrified family in Arpinum, educated first at a basic school, then sent to apprentice with the leading politicians and lawyers of the day. What we know of Cicero’s life comes from his many writings and correspondence with his friend Atticus.

In classic hero-statesman style, Cicero climbed the Roman political ladder as fast as was possible. In 75, Cicero became Quaestor of Sicily, then aedile in 69, praetor in 66, then finally Consul in 63 BCE. He survived an assassination plot, went into exile for committing a capital offense, and lived through Julius Caesar’s civil war. After Julius’s assassination and the installation of the Second Triumvirate, he openly opposed Mark Antony and Octavian Caesar, and was subsequently added to a list of those considered enemies of the state. For his political stance, Cicero was executed in December of 48 BCE.

Everitt’s command of Roman history is unparalleled. His rich prose gives ancient Rome a pulse that can sometimes be missing from history books. I got a whole lot more out of this book than I was expecting. Everitt has two other books out—one on Augustus, and another on Hadrian—but unfortunately, they fall into the same section, so it will be a while before I get to them. Any other time, I would happily add them to my collection.