Tiro, Cicero’s private secretary
This is a surprisingly good book, especially if you remember a lot of the characters from Latin class, which I did. It tells the story of Cicero, from the time he is exiled from Rome until his death many years later. Tiro, who is one of Cicero’s slaves who also acts as his personal secretary, is the narrator. Tiro has developed a short hand system for recording Cicero during his speeches and work in the law courts. He also helps Cicero with his letters and later on with his works on philosophy. After decades together, Tiro is finally granted his freedom and is given a small farm outside Rome for his services to his master. If it were just a story about these two, it might still be interesting, but all of the old Roman masters are there; Pompey, Cato, Brutus, Cassius, Mark Antony and Cleopatra. It is more a story about the Roman Republic during the time of Cicero’s later life, after his children are grown and Julius Caesar has gained power. Mr. Harris is able to make the story interesting whereas reading it during history class is rather dull I think. What struck me most about the book is how brutal the culture was at the time. I guess they try to keep you from knowing about that as a teenager, but many times the members of the Senate were unable to leave their homes for fear of being butchered in the streets by their opponents or even by the populace. Gladiators are employed to protect them when they traveled from place to place within the Roman Empire. When I first picked up this book I wasn’t even sure that I would read the whole thing. I thought I would give it a try and if I didn’t like it I would read something else. I was very pleasantly surprised by the story telling and readability of the book. I found that I looked forward to picking it up and continuing the journey. I now feel that I know Cicero personally, and could speak with him about his friends and enemies were we to ever meet someday. I highly recommend this book and will search out the others in the series for future reading.