Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Robert Harris

Comspirata is the second book in a trilogy on the life of the famous Roman orator, Cicero. The first volume, Imperium, was a kind of 75BC John Grisham courtroom drama. Conspirata is more of a Tom Clancy thriller. Cicero has just begun his year as Roman Consul when the book begins, when he discovers a vast right wing conspiracy, led by prominent members of the Roman Senate, who are planning to murder him and destroy the Roman republic, in order to despoil it for their own gain. Julius Caesar is the shadowy puppet master behind this conspiracy, planning to pick up the pieces and rule the world.

Harris weaves real historical events and people through his story of Cicero's manoeuvrings to save the republic from these enemies within. The cynical manipulation of public opinion through which the conspirators try to overthrow Cicero and destroy the republic is an object lesson for our own republic. In our own time there are a number of issues over which people attempt to appeal to emotion, distort the truth and gain power over us. I leave it to you to decide which issues and what people.

Cicero's only weapons against them are words. He has made his reputation as an orator , and he uses his skills, logic and the truth to, temporarily, overcome his enemies. His downfall in the end is due to his own pride and weakness, which causes him to compromise his principles. The book ends as Cicero is leaving Rome, to go into exile, imposed on him through the worst sort of demagoguery, by then newly elected Tribune, Clodius.

There will be a third volume in the Cicero series, once again written in the voice of Tiro, Cicero's slave and secretary. I am anxiously awaiting it.


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