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This is as solid a portrait of the great Roman statesman as you will find anywhere. And while the account is something of a whirlwind tour of an expansive life, Everitt does a good job maintaining focus through all the distractions of what was perhaps the most storied era in ancient history.
Cicero is one of the leading influences on western political and cultural thought. In fact, it’s through the numerous citations elsewhere in history that I had become familiar with his works — John Adams in particular heaped on the praise — and eventually my interest was piqued enough to visit the source directly.
What's most interesting about Cicero is that his works were less original creations than an articulation of the values and philosophies of his time. He had that knack of packaging up complex concepts into palatable, eloquent and timeless diction. So timeless, in fact, that their effects linger today in very direct ways.
16 of 16 people found this review helpful
Not as good as Everitt's biography of Augustus, but better than his biography of Hadrian. Everitt is clearly passionate and good at classical narratives. His biographies are quick, easy, and summarize the subjects well. He doesn't add much new to the history. He isn't challenging or overthrowing assumptions about Cicero or the other major players, but he weaves a nice story and makes Classical history approachable.
Everitt does a fine job of balancing the different aspects of Cicero. His skill as an orator, his hits and misses as a politician, his defense of the Republic, his rationality all get their time and moment. Everitt also blends in Cicero's weaknesses: his vanity, his missteps/vacillation in politics, his zeal in persecuting Mark Anthony, and his cowardice.
The weakness of this biography is while Everitt might be aiming at a form of mild historical rehabilitation, I'm not sure Cicero was ever really in need of rehabilitation. While he was often unlucky during his life (unlike Julius Caesar the birds never seemed to be on Cicero's side) after his 'good death' Cicero seems to have flourished.
The volume and quality of Cicero's writings that survived the fall of Rome have made Cicero into one of the hero/gods of the Roman Republic. His genius survives. Cicero will always be known more now for what he wrote and thought than for what he did. Caesar may have been deified by decree of the Roman Senate on 1 January 42 BC, but Cicero's own writings have made him immortal. He lives on in Machiavelli, John Adams, Abraham Lincoln, and Winston Churchill. As Emperor Augustus observed to one of his grandsons upon seeing him reading a book by Cicero: "An eloquent man, my child, an eloquent man, and a patriot." Not a bad epitaph from the Caesar who had you killed.
39 of 42 people found this review helpful
I have read a number of biographies and accounts of the period of Rome from the 1st to the 2nd triumvirate.
Hearing it, quite often in the exact (well, ok, translated) words of Cicero gives a new vantage and one that I thoroughly enjoyed. Author manages to sympathise with Cicero without making him flawless which adds a depth I sometimes find lacking in biographical works.
I got lost very occasionally in some of the names of minor figures but not to great detriment.
Narration excellent which is too often not the case in such works.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
This is a clear and scholarly biography of Cicero, with a detailed background to the legal, political and military events. Mary Beard slagged it off in the London Review of Books, basically because the author relies on contemporaneous documents, confines himself to his subject and doesn't talk about what Cicero has meant to successive generations. That's probably the best endorsement a real scholar could ask for.
Buy this book if you want to learn about Cicero and his life and times. Don't buy it if you want someone to interpret the history of late republican Rome to suit current fashions.
3 of 4 people found this review helpful
What did you like most about Cicero: The Life and Times of Rome's Greatest Politician?
The detail the author went into.
What did you like best about this story?
It is very well structured and detailed. You feel like you really get to know man behind the letters and speeches.
What does John Curless bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?
A brilliant reading that will assist many people with the pronunciation of various Latin names and places
Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?
I did, however it is quite long
Any additional comments?
If you are a fan of Ancient History, Government History, or a Linguistic fan (Cicero is the regarded as the master of Latin) then this is the book for you
1 of 1 people found this review helpful