November 04, 2004

Gratuitous Llama Book Posting


Over the weekend, I dove into Anthony Everitt's Cicero: The Life and Times of Rome's Greatest Politician. It turns out to be a very good layman's history of the end of the Roman Republic, the ensuing civil wars and the early foundations of the Empire that arose in their aftermath. Also, Everitt gets close to Cicero without getting too personally involved with him. In this way, he is able to provide a non-partisan analysis of Cicero's character (which was very complicated) as well as of his political manueverings (which, after years of triumph and defeat, ultimately got him killed in 43 B.C. at the hands of Marc Antony).

One nit I feel inclined to pick with this book: The cover photo is of the Coliseum. Cicero, in fact, never saw it because construction wasn't even started until 72 A.D. under Emperor Vespasian, 115 years after Cicero's death. (The Coliseum was dedicated by Vespasian's son, the Emperor Titus, in 80 A.D.)

I understand that it's the job of publishers to boost book sales as much as possible and, to this end, they probably thought going with this image was a way to draw people in. (As I recollect, the book first came out a year or two after the movie "Gladiator" was released. And this photo bears a striking resemblance to some of the photography in that movie, so the link probably seemed obvious.) But really, this kind of historical blurring doesn't do anybody any good. For one thing, as a matter of pure chronology it's just plain wrong. For another, late Republican Rome bore virtually no political resemblance whatsoever to the Imperial City of the Flavian Emperors (or any others, for that matter). Cicero was very much a creature of his own period and it seems to me that the publishers could have come up with an image that better underscored that fact - the Rostra in the Forum, for example - instead of one that panders to the general mindset of "Rome - oh yeah, the Coliseum and toga guys."

Posted by Robert at November 4, 2004 12:40 PM | TrackBack

Robbo, you seem to be very well versed in literature. Perhaps you can help me with a problem. I wrote about it in detail here. If you don't know, perhaps you know someone who would. Thanks, llamadude!

Posted by: Denise at November 5, 2004 03:41 AM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?