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


featured in Macworld, one of the 5
best history sites on the web

Bookstore | Exhibits | HistoryWiz | Primary Source Archives | Search

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

This is the paperback edition. The  hardback is out of print.

Book Description

Book Description
“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

Back Cover

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Ancient Roman History Books

Ancient History Books

HistoryWiz Ancient Rome

Using Cicero's letters to his good friend Atticus, among other sources, Everitt recreates the fascinating world of political intrigue, sexual decadence and civil unrest of Republican Rome. Against this backdrop, he offers a lively chronicle of Cicero's life. Best known as Rome's finest orator and rhetorician, Cicero (103 -43 B.C.) situated himself at the center of Roman politics. By the time he was 30, Cicero became a Roman senator, and 10 years later he was consul. Opposing Julius Caesar and his attempt to form a new Roman government, Cicero remained a thorn in Caesar's side until the emperor's assassination.

Cicero supported Pompey's attempts during Caesar's reign to bring Rome back to republicanism. Along the way, Cicero put down conspiracies, won acquittal for a man convicted of parricide, challenged the dictator Sulla with powerful rhetoric about the decadence of Sulla's regime and wrote philosophical treatises. Everitt deftly shows how Cicero used his oratorical skills to argue circles around his opponents. More important, Everitt portrays Cicero as a man born at the wrong time. While Cicero vainly tried to find better men to run government and better laws to keep them in order, Republican Rome was falling down around him, never to return to the glory of Cicero's youth. A first-rate complement to Elizabeth Rawson's Cicero or T.N. Mitchell's monumental two-volume biography, Everitt's first book is a brilliant study that captures Cicero's internal struggles and insecurities as well as his external political successes. Maps.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal
Everitt's first book is a good read that anyone interested in ancient Rome will enjoy. It is also the first one-volume life of the Roman leader in 25 years. To create a work that flowed and was therefore more colorful for the lay reader, Everitt, the former secretary-general of the Arts Council for Great Britain, has taken liberties when describing a person or a place that may annoy scholars. Yet reading this book is an excellent way to understand the players of the period and the culture that produced them. Bloody, articulate, erudite, sexist, slave-owning-Cicero and his circle were all that, but Everitt is careful to recognize that the orator was a product of his age. This is not strictly a political history; Everitt scrutinizes Roman society in discussing events of the orator's life and, when describing Cicero's marriage, acquaints the reader with various aspects of that institution and the home of the era. Throughout, he is willing to admit when the evidence for a theory is weak and when he is extrapolating from the assumptions of scholars. Recommended for public and undergraduate collections.
Clay Williams, Hunter Coll. Lib., New York
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist
Everitt's masterful biography draws on Cicero's letters to his friend Atticus to give a clear picture of the famous Roman orator, noting both his brilliance and his faults. A staunch defender of the Roman Republic, Cicero spent his political career battling foes such as Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, whose rise to power spelled doom for the ailing republic. Cicero followed the traditional route to power, moving through the political offices to become a consul in 63 B.C.E. He also was an advocate of high repute, boldly defending citizens who had fallen out of favor with those in power. During his consulship, Cicero pursued the seditious Catalina, whose attempted attacks on the senate were ultimately halted by Cicero's drastic measures. Cicero's actions come back to haunt him, however, when a tribune he testified against has him banished from Rome. Ever fickle, popular opinion swings back in Cicero's favor, and he returns to Rome, but he is forced to compromise his beliefs to stay in favor with those in power. Everitt does a superb job of bringing the last days of the Roman Republic to life, and he accurately portrays the tenuous political situation that marked the times. Most important, he creates a sympathetic portrait of Cicero, a man weighed down by the necessity of "moving with the times." Kristine Huntley
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

About the Author

Robert D. Kaplan is a correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly and the bestselling author of seven previous books on travel and foreign affairs, translated into many languages, including Balkan Ghosts, The Arabists, The Ends of the Earth, and The Coming Anarchy. He is a senior fellow at the New America Foundation. He lives with his wife and son in western Massachusetts.

Excerpt from First Chapter - copyrighted material

To understand Cicero's life, which spanned the first two thirds of the first century bc, it is necessary to picture the world in which he lived, and especially the nature of Roman politics.

Rome in Cicero's day was a complex and sophisticated city, with up to a million inhabitants, and much of its pattern of life is recognizably familiar, even at a distance of two millennia. There were shopping malls and bars and a lively cultural scene with theater and sport. Poetry and literature thrived and new books were much talked about. Leading actors were household names. The affluent led a busy social round of dinner parties and gossip, and they owned country homes to which they could retreat from the pressures of urban living. Politics was conducted with a familiar blend of private affability and public invective. Speech was free. Everyone complained about the traffic.

The little city-state, hardly more than a village when it was founded (according to tradition) in 753 bc, gradually annexed the numerous tribes and statelets in the Italian peninsula and Sicily. The Romans were tough, aggressive and, to reverse von Clausewitz, inclined to see politics as a continuation of war by other means. They came to dominate the western Mediterranean. First, they gained a small foothold in the Maghreb, the province of Africa which covered roughly the territory of modern Tunisia. From here the great city of Carthage ruled its empire, until it was twice defeated by Rome and later razed to the ground in the second century bc. Spain was another prize of these wars and was divided into two provinces, Near Spain and Far Spain. In what is now Provence, Rome established Transalpine Gaul (Gallia Transalpina), but the rest of France was an unconquered and mysterious mélange of jostling tribes. Northern Italy was not merged into the home nation but was administered as a separate province, Italian Gaul (Gallia Cisalpina).

Then Rome invaded Greece and the kingdoms of Asia Minor, enfeebled inheritors of the conquests of Alexander the Great. In the first century bc, along the eastern seaboard of the Mediterranean, now named with literal-minded accuracy "our sea" (Mare Nostrum), Rome directly governed a chain of territories: Macedonia (which included Greece), Asia (in western Turkey), Cilicia (in southern Turkey) and Syria (broadly, today's Syria and Lebanon). Beyond them, client monarchies stood as buffers between Rome's possessions and the unpredictable Parthian Empire, which lay beyond the River Euphrates. Pharaohs still ruled Egypt, but their independence was precarious.

This empire, the largest the western world had so far seen, was created more through inadvertence than design and presented Rome with a heavy and complicated administrative burden. This was partly because communications were slow and unreliable. Although a network of well-engineered roads was constructed, travel was limited to the speed of a horse. The rich would often travel by litter or coach, and so proceeded at walking pace or not much faster. Sailing ships before the age of the compass tended to hug the coast and seldom ventured beyond sight of land.

There being no public postal service, letters (which were scratched on waxed tablets or written on pieces of papyrus and sealed) were sent at considerable cost by messengers. The state employed couriers, as did commercial enterprises, and the trick for a private correspondent was to persuade them, or friendly travelers going in the right direction, to take his or her post with them and deliver it.

The greatest underlying problem facing the Republic, however, lay at home in its system of governance. Rome was a state without most of the institutions needed to run a state. There was no permanent civil service except for a handful of officials at the Treasury; when politicians took office or went to govern a province they had to bring in their own people to help them conduct business. The concept of a police force did not exist, which meant that the public spaces of the capital city were often hijacked by gangs of hooligans in the service of one interest or another. Soldiers in arms were absolutely forbidden to enter Rome, so all the authorities could do to enforce law and order was to hire their own ruffians.

Contact Us