Imperium (Book One)

Imperium (Book One)

by Robert Harris


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When Tiro, the confidential secretary of a Roman senator, opens the door to a terrified stranger on a cold November morning, he sets in motion a chain of events which will eventually propel his master into one of the most famous courtroom dramas in history.

The stranger is a Sicilian, a victim of the island's corrupt Roman governor, Verres. The senator is Cicero, a brilliant young lawyer and spellbinding orator, determined to attain imperium - supreme power in the state.

This is the starting-point of Robert Harris's most accomplished novel to date. Compellingly written in Tiro's voice, it takes us inside the violent, treacherous world of Roman politics, to describe how one man - clever, compassionate, devious, vulnerable - fought to reach the top.

'Sometimes it is foolish to articulate an ambition too early - exposing it prematurely to the laughter and scepticism of the world can destroy it before it is even properly born. But sometimes the opposite occurs, and the very act of mentioning a thing makes it suddenly seem possible, even plausible. That was how it was that night. When Cicero pronounced the word "consul" he planted it in the ground like a standard for us all to admire. And for a moment we glimpsed the brilliant, starry future through his eyes, and saw that he was right: that if he took down Verres, he had a chance; that he might - just - with luck - go all the way to the summit...'

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781784756147
Publisher: Random House UK
Publication date: 02/28/2017
Pages: 496
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.75(h) x (d)

About the Author

Robert Harris was born in Nottingham in 1957. He has been a BBC journalist, Political Editor of the Observer, and a columnist for The Sunday Times and Daily Telegraph. In 2003 he was named Columnist of the Year in the British Press Awards. He is the author of the number one bestsellers Fatherland, Enigma, Archangel and Pompeii as well as five non-fiction books.

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Imperium (Cicero Series #1) 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 90 reviews.
fljustice More than 1 year ago
Imperium is the first in a trilogy of novels about the life and times of Marcus Tullius Cicero, one of Republican Rome's most famous orators. The book is narrated by Tiro, Cicero's slave and secretary, many years after Cicero's death. Tiro existed and lived to be a hundred years old. He was famous for creating a short hand that he used for taking notes and later was adopted by the Senate. There is considerable evidence he wrote a biography of his former master, but those books are lost to history. Harris gives him back his voice. The story is primarily a political thriller-there is little physical action and only a scene or two in which there might be some physical danger. Tiro is a wonderful, sympathetic character-intelligent, loyal, hard-working; brave when he needs to be; and, at all times, discreet. His "voice," through Harris, is straightforward narrative with not a lot of reflection or poetry, but excellent descriptions of places and people-what you might expect from a person who spends his life listening, watching and recording. Harris does a good job of weaving the historical details into the narrative without boring the reader, but it still helps to have some background. There are plots within plots, shifting factions and loyalties, and the minutia of governing. Cicero walks a fine line trying not to alienate the men in power while not becoming their pawn. But with all his brilliance, he still makes enemies and, by the end, when he wins the imperium he so lusts for, they are lining up on all sides to take him down. Harris does us a favor bringing this famous Roman back to the public in such an accessible story. Since Latin is no longer required in high school or college, Cicero is fading from our collective memory, which is a shame-he profoundly affected our U.S. founding fathers. Because so many of his books and letters survived, his work became canon in studying the language and his views on a balanced government suffused the ideas of Enlightenment thinkers and are reflected in the US constitution. John Adams' first and most prized book was his Cicero. I recommend Imperium and will be looking forward to the next installment.
PatricioPM More than 1 year ago
Robert Harris has created and excellent work of combining history with a story that is suspenseful as well as informative. I believe lawyers as well as lovers of historical fiction would enjoy this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very readable story. Told by Cicero's "secretary" who apparently recorded his almost every word during his rise to power in Ancient Rome. It held my interest because I knew little about this period of history. Am currently reading the second book in the trilogy. It's not a Dan Brown "page turner" but it's worth reading.
Dyerfan More than 1 year ago
This is from the viewpoint of the slave of Cicero the orator (Tiro). Tiro invented a shorthand method that allowed him to take down every word of the proceedings that involved his famous master. Pompey and Caesar are characters in the book, but the story is about Cicero and his rise to power. Interesting reading.
Alagria More than 1 year ago
This book was truly a page turner. Just as Harris did with Pompeii, the author has written a compelling thriller. This seems odd to say, as Imperium by definition deals with ancient history. Yet I was hanging on each page and waiting to read the outcome. Even though most readers are likekly somewhat acquainted with the factual history - whether as a history buff or a Stephen Saylor reader - the history is still written with a fresh edge and cliffhangers. Plus, the narrator Tiro is a fascinating character. I hope Harris writes a sequel to cover the remainder of Cicero's life!
Guest More than 1 year ago
When I first picked up this book I wasn't sure how it was going to be written more history or more fiction. Well I have to give kudos to Mr. Robert Harris for finding a very good balance always staying true to the historical aspects of the story while interjecting bits and pieces of fiction here and there. I enjoyed the scheme of this book instead of the usual historical fiction about conquering and war that most people associate with Rome he used the incredible politics of the day to arouse the interest of the reader of the book with incredible stories of prosecution, bribery, and at some points investigative work. I enjoy the also the fact that it was written from the point of view of Tiro seeing everything through his eyes is obviously different than seeing these actions through Cicero's. Overall I really enjoyed this book it is worth every cent you would pay for it except the fact that you at some points have an interest in the politics of Rome at the time to keep your interest through tedious points. Other than that I would really recommend this book and commend Mr. Harris for his work of craftmanship.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you ever thought politics was an arena for elite, snobbish gentlemen, Robert Harris' 'Imperium' will toss you in with the lions with only your wits as a defence. This is politics on steroids where your life may depend on which side of the fence you are attempting to straddle and the aristocracy is every bit as lethal in a close fight as a gladiator. Harris' is a superb storyteller who deftly handles a subject which is a yawner (for me) and, as in his previous novel 'Pompeii', crafts a real corker of a tale of intrigue and corruption. 'New man' in the arena is the historical Cicero who is an expert litigator with his eye on the top spot in Roman politics. When he states at the beginning that, as defense attorney, his job is to present a vigorous defence and that guilt or innocence is decided by the court you may be tempted to view him as the precursor to all the bad lawyer jokes you've ever heard. But Harris' character layering is excellent and we begin to empathize with Cicero and watching his character development is as rewarding as watching him defend a case or develop his political strategies. As fascinating in it's detail of ancient Roman political, military and domestic life as 'Pompeii', you will come to the end of this first novel of a planned trilogy cheering and looking forward to the second act.
Karen_Wells on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I have read virtually all this author's books, and he just keeps getting better, both as a writer and as a teller of tales. Until Imperium I thought of Harris as a writer of high-class airport books - nothing wrong in that! - but this transcends that genre altogether. A superb, engrossing novel.
thinkingmeat on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I found this book at a used book sale last fall and picked it up from my fiction pile recently because I wanted to escape from the contemporary political scene into the story of a politician long gone. The book describes the ascent of Marcus Tullius Cicero to the consulship of Rome, a position he held for the year 63 BCE. The book goes into particular detail about his elections to the office of praetor (one of eight who served the city) and then consul (one of two). Cicero was a "new man," not one of the old aristocratic families, which was a strike against him, but he was an intelligent and shrewd politician and an acclaimed orator. He also had the upport of his brother and, for a while, his cousin, as well as the services of a slave, Tiro, who narrates the story in the form of a memoir written in old age. In fact, the real Tiro did live to be 91; various writings, including a biography of Cicero, have been attributed to him, as well as a shorthand system for taking notes at meetings and in court proceedings. (The shorthand system plays a key role toward the end of the book.) He's an engaging narrator. Despite my attempt to escape current politics, I found that Harris had tried hard to draw parallels between current events (the book was published in 2006) and those of Cicero's time. For example, at one point a law is proposed to allow one man supreme command of the Mediterranean and its shores for the purpose of eradicating the pirates that preyed on ships at sea. Harris described the pirates as a new sort of menace: stateless, not bound by treaties, a "worldwide pestilence" that threatened the peace and security of Rome. The law was a response to an attack at Ostia, Rome's harbor, in which two Roman officials were kidnapped, and a nervous public, their fears played on by politicians, were willing to give unprecedented great power to a single man. A speaker against the new law argued that "ancient liberties were not to be flung aside merely because of some passing scare about pirates." The parallels with current events were clear, although I'm not sure how a historian would view them. At the same time, political dealings were quite different in some ways (fistfights in the Senate House, for example), making me realize how ugly political life could really get.The first third of the book covers a case that Cicero bravely and energetically prosecuted against a provincial governor for abuses of power committed against his subjects. Cicero comes across as dedicated and heroic here, but political considerations pushed him into some gray areas if not entirely onto the wrong side in later episodes (although I was glad to see that he did have some limits). His political ambitions dominated his decisions; at one point he says to Tiro that "Everything I do now must be viewed through the prism of that election [for praetor]." (I was reminded of something historian Will Durant said, in Caesar and Christ, about how Cicero "trimmed his wind to every sale"; I'm not sure if he was referring to any of the events in this book, but Cicero was certainly flexible in the causes he supported depending on how they would serve his career.) The tension between the right thing, the politically possible thing, and the merely politically expedient was also quite timely.The last part of the book is a vivid description of the election for consul. I found it gripping enough that I sat up late finishing it. It is a tribute to Harris's storytelling that I was totally absorbed and had to keep reading to determine the outcome of an election 2000 years ago that Wikipedia could have told me about immediately. I'm hoping that the sequel to this book, Conspirata, is that good.
housecarl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was fantastic. I felt as though I was reading a modern biography. I was aware that Cicero was an important figure in the Rome of Caesar's day, but I gained new insight into his importance in the development of democracy. Now I am reading through some of his letters and speeches which I found in google books.
elric17 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An excellent historical fiction, actually made politics interesting, and brought to life Cicero in a manner which helps one explains his writings.
morbidromantic on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
You know Cicero?Yes, Cicero, the Roman statesman who is known by us today as the guy who talked and talked and did a lot of stuff with law. And oh yeah, talked. You probably had to read something by him in high school or college, so you likely have pretty bad and boring memories related to the name Marcus Tullius Cicero.So when I read that Imperium by Robert Harris was about Cicero, I gave an internal groan.A premature assumption of boredom that turned out to be totally wrong.Imperium is a great book. It¿s that simple. The story is told through the narrative of Cicero¿s ex-slave Tiro. Tiro takes us through Cicero¿s life up to the events leading into his Consulship. What Harris writes is based on truth and has some evidence to support the basics. The events Cicero finds himself a part of are quite full of power plays, intrigue, and political corruption. But to set the background, we first meet Cicero as a student of philosophy with a humble farmer background and a sharp mind and wit that has the unfortunate result of offending many of the wrong men. After his study of philosophy, we move with Cicero into his political career, where he climbs up the ladder of the state, gaining office as he becomes a champion of the people. The first half of the book involves Cicero taking on the case of Verres, a corrupt Sicilian governor who has friends in all the right places. Cicero¿s way with words and luck with evidence, attributed to his cleverness, leads to a resounding victory against all odds and popularity beyond words.But not all is good with Cicero at this point¿ prosecuting Verres puts Cicero at odds with the aristocratic foundation of the Republic. After Verres comes the grand general Pompey (the guy Caesar chased out of Rome when he crossed the Rubicon much later) and his rivalry with Crassus. Cicero gives his support to Pompey and makes a powerful enemy of Crassus, who soon engages in vote buying at a high scale to pack the government in his favor. The plan is to arrange the government so that Crassus and Caesar will have an open door to increasing their own power. Pretty clever Crassus. Naturally, Cicero finds out about the plot and exposes them before the Senate, winning a victory for Consul at the youngest age allowed.You have a lot of big names: Pomepy, Julius Caesar, Marc Antony, Piso, Metelleus. Since Imperium is about Cicero and his dealings, these characters are supportive in nature only and come and go as the story requires. This is just as well because there are volumes written about Caesar by everyone and their grandmother. It was quite amusing to see Caesar portrayed as a horny, shady, power hungry youngster and nothing more. Oh, I respect Caesar and am quite enamored with him as most are, but the turn of character was great. Usually Cicero is the annoying old man who won¿t shut up and Caesar is the charming hero. In Imperium Cicero was the hero, and a quite charming one at that. What about the politics and history? Was it dry and full of historical detail? Historical yes, but dry it was definitely not. I don¿t think that this is a book for your Roman novice, though. For anyone not familiar with the various political offices, names, social classes, and Republican standards, the book may be difficult to grasp. I feel that my background in Roman history helped me a lot in reading through the book as a fluid novel rather than a pause and continue that requires a bit of Google searching to understand completely.
ulfhjorr on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Harris is an excellent author, painting characters that are believable and sympathetic and putting them in tight situations.
dulcibelle on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It started off OK, but it finished sort of 'meh'. Not bad, just not all that good. Very detailed, and seemed to be historically accurate (ancient Rome is not a well-known era for me), but for much of the book there really didn't seem to be anything happening. Guess political pot boilers aren't my cup of tea. I did enjoy Harris' writing style, so will probably read others of his work at some time.
ALincolnNut on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The British historical novelist Robert Harris, who so famously has set novels in the World War II/Cold War era, has recently turned to the ancient world for inspiration. After a novel on Pompeii, he turns to the politics of ancient Rome with "Imperium," the story of the rise of Cicero. The first of a series of novels Harris plans to write about Cicero, the book demonstrates his political career as an up-and-coming senator in the Roman republic.Ostensibly narrated by Tiro, who was Cicero's longtime secretary and an inventor of shorthand, the book is an intimate account of Cicero's daring use of his rhetorical abilities in public trials and political deliberations. It also suggests many behind-the-scenes deliberations between ever-changing political factions, offering glimpses of other significant political figures of the time, who have prestige such that Cicero covets their support, or who are likewise fighting for the support of powerful patrons. In particular, the young Julius Caesar looms over the narrative in these years before his military glories.Like Harris' other books, it is a fascinating read, relying on a wealth of historical details to support the intricate plot. It offers Cicero as a generally likeable fellow of great potential and great ambition, relying not only on his gilded tongue but on his political cunning to advance his career. His secretary Tiro is loyal and invaluable; his wife Terentia was from a moneyed family, giving him station, but also the headaches of dealing with marrying someone from a higher class.The first half of the book focuses on a prominent political trial; the second with political intrigues over the creation of a law that allowed the Senate to name a single authoritarian leader during times of crisis (the precedent that eventually allowed Caesar to become emperor). Both are fraught with danger for Cicero -- it is clear that he is dealing with forces that could crush him and his career; these external factors effectively provide much of the narrative tension in the novel.For those poorly versed in ancient history, the book may be difficult to read: in particular it may be almost impossible to keep all of the characters straight. Those more informed will likely be more impressed. Falling in between, I found the story enjoyable, but always had the feeling I was missing out because of my lack of knowledge.
annbury on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This novel traces the political ascent of the Roman statesman Cicero, from an unknown "new man" who married money to start a career to a consul of Rome. The story is told by Cicero's secretary (and slave) Tiro (who is known to have written a life of Cicero, though it is now lost), and is based on Cicero's letters and orations. Harris has tried to keep the story true to history, and it is certainly consistent with what I know of Roman history. The big plus of the book, in fact, was that it taught me more about an endlessly fascinating period than I already knew. The minus is that the book is not as good a novel as it is a history. It deals with vivid characters (so vivid that they are still remembered, more than 2000 years later) but doesn't make them seem vivid. Relationships seem thin, and it's sometimes hard to keep one senator distinct from another. A terrific story, but not all that terrifically told. One thing that the book does make very clear is that there is nothing new under the sun -- Roman republican politics were at least as dominated by money and self interest as are the politics of our own day. In that regard, it underscores a valuable lesson, when you remember what followed Cicero's era; the end of the Republic and the coming of empire. If democracy becomes too much of a blood sport, it can destroy itself.
cwlongshot on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
When this book first came out, I had trouble getting into it and gave up. After learning more about Rome and Cicero, I listened to the audiobook edition and was hooked. Robert Harris is consistently good, though Enigma remains my favorite. I look forward to reading the next book in the trilogy, Conspirata.
Bookmarque on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
If you do not enjoy novels of political intrigue, schemes and machinations with very little action, don¿t read this book. If you can¿t keep Roman names straight and often confuse them, this is not the novel for you. Also, if you don¿t have some grasp of Republican Rome, this might not be the place to learn. Harris writes with an assumption that his reader is familiar with the basics (such as what an aedile is) of Republican Roman society, practices, politics and personages. That being said, it¿s a pretty decent read, better than Pompeii. I do read a lot of fiction of this kind and the limited scope of this novel took some getting used to. Seeing so many pages devoted to a single trial early on, I had to remind myself that Tiro¿s narrative would end with Cicero¿s being elected Consul and no further. That the story was his rise to this position and not about what he did when he attained it.Seeing Cicero abandon and compromise many of his principles in his quest for Consul was a very realistic approach. So many historical novelists fall a bit in love with their subjects and it colors their portrayal of them. Cicero was a principled man who had to learn how to be a politician. That meant not sticking to his guns when it could advance his career. Even these days people sometimes forget that politicians are primarily in it for themselves. For millennia this has been the case and it is very much the theme here.Tiro¿s perspective was also interesting. He was resigned to his fate. He hoped to be freed one day, but did not consciously dwell on it and did not expect it any time soon. That kind of sanguinity is almost unheard of in this day and age where the concept of happiness rules everything we do and strive for. Tiro is not concerned with being happy, he¿s concerned with keeping his head above water. His meager existence is just the way things are and he does not feel like he should even aspire to want the comforts, rights and privileges of Cicero and his ilk. It must have been a difficult task to not imbue Tiro with that trait. Well done.
jopearson56 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed his book Pompeii more than this one, but this was pretty good, good enough for me to get through in just about 3 weeks -- pretty good for me. Interesting characters, interesting time, I love the trials and reasoned arguments!
worldsedge on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Quite good fictionalization of the life of Cicero, as told by his slave Tiro. The dialog and characterizations all worked, the only minor complaint is that there seemed to be no unifying element to the plot. Cicero went to Sicily, spoke in court, plotted with and against various people.I could see no direct evidence that this novel is going to be part of a series, but there was a strange note in the afterword about acknowleding other sources "in due course." Hmmm.
bonneyandrews on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Better than his other books. A good picture of Cicero and his life for those interested in Roman times.
dougwood57 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In 'Imperium', Robert Harris delivers an historically highly authentic and enjoyably readable account of Marcus Tullius Cicero's rise from 'new man' Senator to the consulship. Harris uses the historical character Tiro, Cicero's slave and private secretary, to tell the tale of legal and political intrigue in the late Roman Republic. (Tiro actually wrote memoirs of his life with Cicero, which as with so much of the record of antiquity is unfortunately lost to us.) Tiro chronicles the exciting story of Cicero's risky high stakes prosecution of Gaius Verres, Roman governor of Sicily, for gross corruption and murder. We also follow Cicero's climb from mere Senator through the rungs of the 'cursus honorum' or "succession of magistracies" to aedile, praetor, and finally consul - no easy task for a man without great wealth, military valour, or patrician background. The great power granted to Pompey in order to destroy the pirates attacking the Rome - pirates who turn out to have been an overstated threat - has suggestive echoes for our own time, but no more than echoes. Harris is not trying to make an overt political statement. Along the way we encounter historical figures such as the Cicero's brother and political manager, Quintus, the giant of the law courts Hortensius, Pompey Magnus, a young Julius Caesar, wicked Cataline, the great general Crassus, and his sharp-witted patrician wife Terentia. Indeed, it is unclear whether any character in the book is actually fictional. 'Imperium' presents an interesting excursion inside the power struggles of the Roman Republic that is made the more compelling by being told from Cicero and Tiro's particular viewpoint rather than with an omniscient narrative voice. The book ends just as Cicero becomes consul at age 43 in 63 B.C. and leaves many an interesting tale untold (his role in defeating the Cataline Conspiracy, for one, and his relation with Pompey and Julius Caesar in the Civil War for another). Highest recommendation for readers of historical fiction, anyone with an interest in Roman history, and fans of Robert Harris ('Imperiium' surpasses his 'Pompeii'). Here's hoping for at least one sequel.
santhony on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In no way is this a bad book and it is in fact quite entertaining at times. It is however, relatively thin in its scope and is far too short a story for the subject undertaken. In fact, inasmuch as the novel concludes with Cicero's election to Consul at age 42, I expect a followup work encompassing his remaining years, focusing of course on his relationship with the emerging Julius Caesar. The story could have been told in one work, but of course at half the sales receipts. The proliferation of double spaced, wide margin 300 page novellas is a pet peeve of mine. The subject is a good one and fertile ground. Interest in the Ancient Roman Republic is broad and the choice of Cicero as a focal point is certainly original. Telling the story through the eyes of Cicero's secretary (slave) Tiro is an interesting touch. It is an accepted historical fact that Tiro did publish a work on the life of Cicero, though the original was lost to history. I've read all of Harris's work and this book is very similar in style to his Pompeii. If you like this one you'll like it as well. Harris also has several works in the area of alternative history, his best being Archangel. If you are looking for more challenging and better developed works on the Ancient Roman Republic, I highly recommend the numerous books of Colleen McCollough on the subject.
cornerhouse on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The partially true, partially fictionalized biography of Cicero, as told by his slave and long-time secretary (and inventor of shorthand in the bargain). The story spans the period from Cicero's prosecution of Verres to his election as consul of Rome. One eagerly awaits the next volume of this series -- there should be three.
flmcgough on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a fantastic novel; Harris vividly recreates the Roman world of the 1st century BC with remarkably engaging characters. He manages to make this story extremely approachable while keeping it from being overly predictable. I would recommend this to anyone.