Friday, January 8, 2016

Robert Harris' 'Dictator: A Novel'

Claire Hopley offers a review of Robert Harris' Dictator: A Novel for the Washington Times.

“Dictator” is the final volume in Robert Harris‘ trilogy about the life of Cicero, the Roman statesman and philosopher, whose political theories and prose style remained influential until at least the 19th century. “Imperium” (2006), the first volume, focused on Cicero’s rise to power. In the second volume “Lustrum” (2009), he is the consul who orders the execution of five members of the Catiline conspiracy that tried to overthrow the Roman republic in 63 B.C. “Dictator” picks up the story in 58 B.C. when Cicero is exiled for this supposedly illegal execution of Roman citizens. He settles unhappily in Thessalonica, accompanied only by his slave and amanuensis Tiro, until the Senate recalls him a year later.
Only one senator — Clodius — votes against rescinding Cicero’s exile, and he remains an unremitting enemy as Cicero tries alternately to re-establish himself as a political figure and to settle down to a life of philosophizing and writing. This is no easy choice. On the one hand, Cicero has no taste for the military; unlike many of his peers he cannot establish himself as a hero or a powerful commander of legions. He therefore often retires to his country villa, where he can write while “waiting and hoping for better times.”
On the other hand, many in Rome’s governing elite respect his acumen and oratory; others believe he owes them favors, so he is always being called back to political life. He responds because he believes that “politics is the most noble of all callings,” characterizing it as the function “in which human virtue approaches more closely the august function of the gods.” Yet as Tiro, who narrates the novel, explains, his path is never easy: he has to “Tiptoe between the three great men in the state [Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus], endeavoring to keep on good terms with all of them, doing their bidding, privately despairing of the future of the republic.”
You can read the rest of the review via the below link:

You can also read my Crime Beat column on Robert Harris' first two novels in the Rome trilogy via the below link:

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