Cicero: The Life and Times of Rome's Greatest Politician

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9780375507465: Cicero: The Life and Times of Rome's Greatest Politician

“All ages of the world have not produced a greater statesman and philosopher combined.”
—John Adams

He squared off against Caesar and was friends with young Brutus. He advised the legendary Pompey on his somewhat botched transition from military hero to politician. He lambasted Mark Antony and was master of the smear campaign, as feared for his wit as he was for exposing his opponents’ sexual peccadilloes. Brilliant, voluble, cranky, a genius of political manipulation but also a true patriot and idealist, Cicero was Rome’s most feared politician, one of the greatest lawyers and statesmen of all times. Machiavelli, Queen Elizabeth, John Adams and Winston Churchill all studied his example. No man has loomed larger in the political history of mankind.

In this dynamic and engaging biography, Anthony Everitt plunges us into the fascinating, scandal-ridden world of ancient Rome in its most glorious heyday. Accessible to us through his legendary speeches but also through an unrivaled collection of unguarded letters to his close friend Atticus, Cicero comes to life in these pages as a witty and cunning political operator.

Cicero leapt onto the public stage at twenty-six, came of age during Spartacus’ famous revolt of the gladiators and presided over Roman law and politics for almost half a century. He foiled the legendary Catiline conspiracy, advised Pompey, the victorious general who brought the Middle East under Roman rule, and fought to mobilize the Senate against Caesar. He witnessed the conquest of Gaul, the civil war that followed and Caesar’s dictatorship and assassination. Cicero was a legendary defender of freedom and a model, later, to French and American revolutionaries who saw themselves as following in his footsteps in their resistance to tyranny.

Anthony Everitt’s biography paints a caustic picture of Roman politics—where Senators were endlessly filibustering legislation, walking out, rigging the calendar and exposing one another’s sexual escapades, real or imagined, to discredit their opponents. This was a time before slander and libel laws, and the stories—about dubious pardons, campaign finance scandals, widespread corruption, buying and rigging votes, wife-swapping, and so on—make the Lewinsky affair and the U.S. Congress seem chaste.

Cicero was a wily political operator. As a lawyer, he knew no equal. Boastful, often incapable of making up his mind, emotional enough to wander through the woods weeping when his beloved daughter died in childbirth, he emerges in these pages as intensely human, yet he was also the most eloquent and astute witness to the last days of Republican Rome.

On Cicero:

“He taught us how to think."
—Voltaire

“I tasted the beauties of language, I breathed the spirit of freedom, and I imbibed from his precepts and examples the public and private sense of a man.”
—Edward Gibbon

“Who was Cicero: a great speaker or a demagogue?”
—Fidel Castro

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From the Publisher:

“All ages of the world have not produced a greater statesman and philosopher combined.” —John Adams

He squared off against Caesar and was friends with young Brutus. He advised the legendary Pompey on his botched transition from military hero to politician. He lambasted Mark Antony and was master of the smear campaign, as feared for his wit as he was for his ruthless disputations. Brilliant, voluble, cranky, a genius of political manipulation but also a true patriot and idealist, Cicero was Rome’s most feared politician, one of the greatest lawyers and statesmen of all times.
In this dynamic and engaging biography, Anthony Everitt plunges us into the fascinating, scandal-ridden world of ancient Rome in its most glorious heyday—when senators were endlessly filibustering legislation and exposing one another’s sexual escapades to discredit the opposition. Accessible to us through his legendary speeches but also through an unrivaled collection of unguarded letters to his close friend Atticus, Cicero comes to life as a witty and cunning political operator, the most eloquent and astute witness to the last days of Republican Rome.

“[Everitt makes] his subject—brilliant, vain, principled, opportunistic and courageous—come to life after two millennia.” —The Washington Post

“Gripping . . . Everitt combines a classical education with practical expertise. . . . He writes fluidly.” —The New York Times

From the Back Cover:

Book of the Year —The Telegraph

“I enjoyed Anthony Everitt’s Cicero and found it the most wonderfully written and perfectly paced book I’ve read in ages. The way Everitt carefully and comprehensively unfolded the drama brought back the excitement of ancient history superbly.”
—Andrew Roberts, author of Napoleon and Wellington

“We know more about Cicero than about almost any other figure of antiquity. We know so much about him, thanks to the happy chance which has seen so much of his correspondence preserved, that it is possible to write the sort of biography of Cicero that one might write about someone from, say, the nineteenth century. Anthony Everitt has done just that, sympathetically and very well. This is an engrossing book, written lucidly for the general reader.”
—Allan Massie, Literary Review

“Of all the arts, that of politics has advanced least since the days of Greece and Rome. This . . . new biography of Rome’s most famous politician by Anthony Everitt tries to answer the question, why? . . . Cicero mastered the essence of politics. He preached the difference between authority and power. He was an orator who wrote poetry, a politician who read history, ruthless yet able to articulate the demands of clemency, democracy and the rights of free men under law. . . . If good government is rooted in history and history in biography, Cicero is the man of the hour.”
—Simon Jenkins, The Times

“In the course of Cicero’s long life, he made several powerful enemies, often through his own witty put-downs, and he was accused of everything from cowardice and self-importance to histrionics, homosexuality, and incest. But the great majority of his contemporaries—and of course posterity itself—were much kinder to Cicero, and this engrossing new biography by Anthony Everitt does a superb job of explaining why. . . . [Everitt] is admirably informative. . . . He has a sophisticated conception of character, too, including a willingness—so crucial in biographers—to embrace contradictions.”
—Independent on Sunday

“Anthony Everitt . . . is a brilliant guide to the intricacies of Roman politics. . . . [He] has written a book which is unobtrusively crammed with fascinating information about Roman life and customs, splendidly clear and coherent in its narrative and altogether convincing in its portraiture."
—Dublin Sunday Independent

"We can relate to Rome in the 1st century BC, an era of public egos and private armies, cut-throat politics, spiritual confusion, conspiracy, luxury, and war. Anthony Everitt's Cicero emerges as the epitome of that time, in all its passions and contradictions. In lucid, fast-moving prose, Everitt deftly depicts the whole man--the brilliant orator and loving father, anguished politician and lousy poet, man of letters and inveterate self-stylist. Everitt's eye for the telling detail and his superb grasp of the ancient sources bring new life to the single most complex personality of a fascinating and violent age."
-Richard Martin, Professor of Classics, Stanford University

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