In , at the age of thirty, he became political editor of The Observer. He later wrote regular columns for the Sunday Times and the Daily Telegraph. Other non-fiction works followed: Gotcha! Publication enabled Harris to become a full-time novelist.
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This one takes place just before the events that turn Rome from a republic to a dictatorship. Rome is thick with politics as Cicero assumes the consulship. This is the foundation from which Harris builds his story of greed, power, murder and mayhem.
The first half of the book puts the reader right in the midst of a massive plot to overthrow the government. The story begins a bit ponderously with a rare snow that has Rome somewhat paralyzed. A body is discovered and, as incoming consul, Cicero is called to the scene. It is the body of a young male slave, and the death was violent.
Cicero has no idea how entangled he will become in related events. The first half of the book deals with his year as consul. It has his greatest triumph as he arguably saves Rome from rebellion. Lacking a famous family, Cicero is on the outside in Senate, though he is its head. He has to fulfill campaign promises to his supporters while getting a majority together on major issues. He has to balance the patrician faction with those who gain their support from the lower classes.
It all leads to constant conflict and shifting alliances. In the second half of the book deals with how full of himself Cicero has become and the challenges of living a more public life and spending beyond his means. The return of that triumphant general, Pompey, creates new threats to an Empire dependent on its army.
And, Caesar is always ready to seek advantage in even the smallest events. Famous characters such as Caesar and Cicero become fully formed people rather than the two-dimensional names of history. The fine details of Roman life: religion, funerals, governance, and domestic life make this a lively and compelling picture of one of the most critical periods in history. PS: Cicero, thanks to his writings may have been the citizen of Rome who had the greatest impact on Western Civilization for the next years.
His works, when re-examined and amplified by Plutarch, served as a foundation for much of Renaissance thought. And, his influence on European thought continued for centuries culminating in acknowledgements by many of the key figures of The Enlightenment. Harris gives us the man, as well as his thoughts and does so in a manner that is easily accessible.
Robert Harris (novelist)
Conspirata – Robert Harris – pdf ebook