Everitt’s biography of Cicero carefully detailed the life of the great orator with a stress on the politics of the Roman Republic during the first century. Although Everitt is a British academic and not a historian, his synthesis of Cicero’s life was relatively solid, and I learned more about the political customs of Rome from this book than from any of my history courses on ancient civilizations.
The author provided background information on Roman customs and life style with sketches of the architecture of Cicero’s Rome. Although Everitt cleverly supported his work with excerpts from Cicero’s letters and speeches, several sections of the book begged for more footnotes. Because some passages have numerous citations while others have none, the author blurs the line between biography and historical fiction.
Everitt’s book read like a novel, witty, vivacious, and fascinating while also clear and succinct. No aspect of Cicero’s life was hidden, but the scandals were tastefully handled.
Everitt brought to life Roman times during the final days of the Republic, and his details about daily life, political activities, and warring factions in the Senate were brilliantly told. The book, having been written for non-academics, well deserves its bestseller status, but the author should consider more research and footnotes in the second edition in order to satisfy academic readers, especially since the book currently holds second place to Elizabeth Rawson’s biography of Cicero which provides a more academic analysis of the great orator’s life.
– Hannah S. Bowers
Everitt, Anthony. Cicero: The Life and Times of Rome’s Greatest Politician. New York: Random House, 2003.