Monday, July 26, 2010

Of Conspiracy and Preservation

I have just turned the last page of Robert Harris' Conspirata. This impressive novel tells the story of Marcus Tullius Cicero's rise to the consulship, his preservation of the res publica against the machinations of Catiline, and then his slippery fall into exile due to the vengeful plots of Clodius, and all of this is told in first person by Tiro, Cicero's most faithful slave, secretary, and companion.

In all, this was an outstanding read, and I declare that this should be on the required reading list for all who still teach Cicero. Furthermore, this work of historical fiction needs to be reviewed by all who teach (or soon will be teaching) about Julius Caesar in the upcoming AP curriculum. While the work strongly portrays Cicero's eagerness and commitment to working within the rules to preserve the state and the power of the Senate, it very effectively brings across the message that Julius Caesar was a rogue who purposely and willfully ignored the Roman constitution and tradition to further his own goals to rule to world.

I have heard it said that Julius Caesar was one of the biggest criminals in history. After reading Harris' Conspirata, this assertion is obviously true. It will be interesting to see how Latin teachers across the country dust off their notes on Caesar and present him in the classroom. Will he continue to be presented "as the most famous Roman of them all" or will there be mention made of his infamy?

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