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Literature / Imperium

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Robert Harris's fictionalised biography of Cicero (106-43 BC) in three parts, as told by his slave and confidential secretary Tiro, a real person who served as Cicero's secretary throughout his career and apparently did write a real biography of Cicero that is lost to history.

In Harris's novel series, Tiro, through Cicero, narrates the final decades of the Roman Republic, as the power struggles between people like Crassus, Pompey, Caesar, Antony, and Octavian eventually led to the destruction of the Republic and the rise of the Roman Empire.

The series is a trilogy:

  • Imperium: (2006) Covering Cicero's entry into public life in 79 BC, going through his election to consul in 64 BC.
  • Lustrum: (2009) Cicero's consulate in 63 BC, including his defeat of Catilina's conspiracy, and the four years after, running to 58 BC, ending with his exile from Rome in 58 BC.
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  • Dictator: (2016) The last 15 years of Cicero's life, covering the Roman civil wars and the rise of Julius Caesar, Caesar's assassination, and the formation of the Second Triumvirate that resulted in Cicero's death on Mark Antony's orders in 43 BC.

This series has examples of:

  • Actually Pretty Funny: Even Clodius is amused by some of Cicero's cracks at his expense.
  • Affably Evil: Crassus, most of the time.
    Tiro: ... trying to fix precisely what it was about him which made him so disconcerting, I think it was this: his indiscriminate and detached friendliness, which you knew would never waver or diminish even if he had just decided to have you killed.
    • Caesar is noted as having perfect manners, even when sentencing a man to death.
    • Catilina is delightful company for anyone he thinks is on his side.
    • Octavian, like his uncle, has impeccable manners and flatters people who he thinks will help him rise to the top.
  • The Alcoholic: Antonius Hybrida, Cicero's colleague as consul. Hybrida drinks wine straight, which is a big deal in ancient Rome, where almost everybody cut wine with water.
  • Ambition Is Evil: In a story filled with ambitious people, Caesar's desire for power stands out. Cicero calls Caesar's lust for power a "disease". At the end of Lustrum, after Caesar tells a story about how he'd rather be the top man in some no-account village over being the second man in Rome, a horrified Cicero goes into exile rather than work for Caesar.
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  • Antagonist in Mourning: Caesar weeps when the Egyptians hand him Pompey's head on a plate.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: Largely averted due to the story's Black-and-Gray Morality. But the aristocratic leaders are some of the more honourable characters and pretty much the only ones to stand by Cicero after his fall from grace at the end of the second book.
  • Artistic License – History: Mostly averted as Harris sticks with history, but there is one notable moment. Cicero and Tiro are placed in the Senate for the assassination of Caesar. In Real Life, Cicero, who had largely withdrawn from public affairs during this time, was out of town on March 15, 44 BC, and Tiro, as a slave, wouldn't have been allowed inside the building.
  • Bald of Evil: Crassus. Caesar is also noted to be losing his hair.
  • Based on a True Story: Harris mentions in the front matter to the novels that he attempted to stick to history but deviated from history whenever the demands of fiction required.
  • Big Fancy House:
    • Averted with Cicero, who makes a point of staying in a rather ordinary house so as not to antagonize the plebeians that support him.
    • Then later played straight by Cicero, who, after his consulship is over, buys a gaudy, ostentatious house from Crassus at a cut-rate price that he still has to borrow to pay. This backfires on him spectacularly, as it makes him look like an aloof ivory-tower elite to the plebians, and leads to rumors that the house was given to him as a bribe, all of which is exactly what Crassus wanted to happen.
  • Bittersweet Ending: For the series as a whole. Cicero is murdered, on Antony's orders, and Octavian eventually comes to power as Emperor Augustus. The Republic is destroyed. But Tiro gets his freedom and the little farm he yearned for, and he even marries Agathe, the pretty slave he met in the first book.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: Sometimes it's difficult to tell who the heroes are meant to be.
    • This is particuarly noted in Lustrum when Cicero takes rather dubious methods in his consular year: bribing people, rigging ballots and later taking bribes. He's not as above corruption as people think he is. Matters do not improve afterwards; his defence of Hybridus and attempt to organize a coup against Caesar are painfully ironic echoes of Cicero's past triumphs. By the time of Dictator he's despairing that Brutus and Cassius didn't just murder all their enemies.
  • Blatant Lies: Antony promises Caesar's assassins that he will speak with moderation at Caesar's funeral. Instead, he kicks off his speech with "We come to bid farewell to no tyrant! We come to bid farewell to a great man foully murdered..." and so forth. By the end the crowd is howling for the assassins' blood.
  • Blood on the Debate Floor: The Trope Maker and most famous occurrence in history, as a gang of assassins stab Caesar to death during a meeting of the Senate. A shocked Tiro and Cicero are the last people left in the building along with Caesar's corpse after everyone runs for it.
  • Blue Blood: The aristocrats take themselves and their position very seriously.
    • Played with in the case of Caesar. He considers his family the most ancient in Rome and the direct descendants of the goddess Venus, and as such despises even the other aristocrats as inferior upstarts and supports populist policies. Tiro suggests that Caesar's popularity with the mob is because he looks down on everyone, and is far too superior to be much of a snob.
    • Inverted in Lustrum with Clodius, one of Caesar's relatives, who gets himself officially made a plebeian so he can become a tribune. He then starts to screw with Cicero every chance he gets.
  • Bookends: Popillius, the 15-year-old boy that Cicero gets off a murder rap at the beginning of Cicero's career, is the tribune that arrives to kill Cicero.
  • Break the Haughty: Lucullus, although he didn't deserve all of it.
  • Brother–Sister Incest: Clodius is widely suspected of committing this with his sister Clodia. Clodia's bitter ex-husband Lucullus testifies to this in court.
  • The Butcher: Mentioned as an old nickname of Pompey (and his father before him) although we don't see much evidence of it in the books themselves.
  • Call-Back: Towards the end of the third book, as a teenaged Octavian is demanding to be made consul, a rueful Cicero remembers the Lex Gabinia law that gave Pompey a command against the pirates, and how it set everything on the road to ruin.
  • Call-Forward:
    Tiro: "The day I am parted from Tiro," said Cicero prophetically, "is the day I retire from public life."
  • The Casanova: Caesar, who seems to have a thing for the wives of his fellow Roman elites. One of Caesar's mistresses remarks bitterly (after he throws her over) that Caesar likes to fuck consul's wives. Cicero is quite irritated when Caesar makes a veiled pass at Cicero's wife.
    Catulus: [after Caesar is elected Pontifex Maximus] Can you imagine Caesar responsible for the Vestal Virgins? He has to live among them! It would be like entrusting your hen coop to a fox!
  • The Cassandra: Cicero is this quite a bit in the third book, even calling himself a Cassandra. He tells Pompey that Caesar will be super-pissed at him for spurning a marriage alliance; Pompey doesn't listen. When word comes of a peace offer from Caesar, Cicero says Pompey should have taken it, which strikes Tiro as unduly pessimistic. After Caesar's army retreats into the interior of Greece, Cicero recommends that Pompey's army break off contact and head west to retake Rome itself rather than follow. Pompey ignores Cicero again, heads into the interior to face Caesar, and is destroyed at Pharsalus.
  • The Chessmaster: Crassus; Caesar.
  • Coitus Uninterruptus: Tiro walking in on Caesar and Pompey's wife. She doesn't notice Tiro due to their position; Caesar does, but continues unabated.
  • Colonel Badass: Metellus Celer.
  • Conspicuous Consumption: Lucullus, although Tiro believes this is more a distraction from depression than anything else.
  • Contrived Coincidence: In Dictator, Tiro, now freed, goes to a bathhouse. He randomly runs into Agathe, the pretty slave whose freedom he bought at the end of Lustrum, now running the bathhouse. Eventually he marries her.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Crassus.
  • Courtroom Antics: Part of Cicero's success comes from his practically inventing this trope to win popular approval. See also Rousing Speech, Simple Country Lawyer.
  • Day of the Jackboot: The underlying theme of the series is the collapse of the Roman Republic and the coming of the Roman Empire. There is a scene in Lustrum where Cato lays out quite clearly for Cicero what is to come—the continuing habit of empowering people like Pompey with special commands will result in those commanders controlling the state. The Senate will be powerless and whoever commands the loyalty of the legions will rule. (See also Pompey's speech under Historical In-Joke below.) At one point in Lustrum Tiro talks about how Caesar destroyed the Roman constitution and expresses a wish that Caesar is burning in hell.
  • Dead Guy on Display: Gaius Trebonius's mutilated body is put on public display by Dolabella, with a message that Trebonius is the first of Caesar's assassins to die.
  • Death by Childbirth:
    • In Dictator Pompey's wife Julia, Caesar's only child, dies in childbirth. It's an important moment as it breaks the alliance between them and sets Rome on the path to civil war.
    • This also happens to Cicero's beloved daughter Tullia.
  • Decapitation Presentation:
    • In Dictator, the Parthians put Crassus's son's head on a pike after they find his body at Carrhae.
    • Gnaeus Pompey's head is put on display after Caesar crushes his rebellion in Spain.
    • Helvetius Cinna's head is put on a spike and paraded around by an angry mob looking to avenge Caesar—and he's the wrong Cinna, as Cornelius Cinna was one of Caesar's assassins.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Cicero repeatedly bemoans the failure of Caesar's assassins to take out Antony as well, or to take any other measure to restore republican government. Instead they simply kill Caesar and call it a day, assuming everything will go back to normal.
  • Downer Ending: Lustrum has quite the Downer Ending, as Cicero goes into exile while Clodius's goons burn down his house and Caesar goes off to war.
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • Lucius, disappointed by his cousin Cicero's ethical lapses, drinks hemlock.
    • Suggested a couple of times as a "way out" for characters down on their luck. Apparently did happen to Catulus's father.
    • Cato literally rips his own guts out after Caesar defeats him in Africa.
    • Cornutus falls on his sword after the defection of the African legions robs the Senate of any hope of opposing Octavian.
  • Enemy Mine: Cicero spends most of Imperium struggling against the aristocrats, but is eventually forced into an alliance with them to oppose Catilina. During Lustrum the nobles end up becoming his most reliable allies and some of the few friends he has left by the end.
  • Every Man Has His Price: Much of the first book's plot involves Cicero trying to stop Crassus bribing various members of government to block his legislation, while turning down bribes himself. Things get a bit more complicated in the second book.
  • Everyone Is Related: Most of the major aristocratic characters are related to each other by marriage (or extramarital affairs) at least.
  • The Exile: When Clodius, an old enemy of Cicero, is elected Tribune, he passes laws against Cicero and forces him to go into exile in Greece.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Several people. Cicero himself accepts the end calmly and bares his neck for his murderer.
  • False Flag Operation: Cicero invents out of whole cloth a desire by a group of Gauls to support Catilina's conspiracy, in order to find out just who amongst the Roman Senate supports Catilina and to get documentary proof.
  • Femme Fatale: Clodia.
  • First-Person Peripheral Narrator: Tiro acts as narrator, but has little role in advancing the plot. He's present at many important meetings, but only to take notes.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Particularly in the first book, Tiro makes allusions to what (we know from history) will happen towards the end.
    • In the second book, Tiro mentions that Caesar had a habit when he sensed danger of throwing his head back and almost literally smelling the air, then mentions that he saw Caesar do this just before Caesar was murdered.
  • Framing Device: The books are presented as Tiro's biography of his boss and the times that they lived in.
  • A Friend in Need: At the beginning of Dictator Cicero is hiding out at Flaccus's house when they receive word that Clodius's new law makes harboring an exile a capital offense. Flaccus says he doesn't care, that he's not afraid of Clodius and Cicero can stay with him.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare:Cicero completely fails to evaluate young Octavian. This eventually leads to Cicero's destruction.
    Tiro: Why did you urge him to go to Rome? Surely the last thing you want to encourage is another Caesar?
    Cicero: If he goes to Rome he'll cause problems for Antony. He'll split their faction.
    Tiro: And if his adventure succeeds?
    Cicero: It won't....He's a nice boy...but he's no Caesar—you only have to look at him."
  • General Failure: Crassus goes "against the advice of more experienced officers", according to Cassius, makes several tactical errors, and leads his army to disastrous defeat against the Parthians at Carrhae.
    • Despite his many earlier successes, Pompey for his part completely botches the civil war, being forced to evacuate Rome, losing Spain, failing to anticipate Caesar's crossing the Adriatic, following Caesar into the mountains when he could have retaken Rome, and then getting thrashed at Pharsalus when he had Caesar outnumbered.
  • Friendly Enemy: Caesar is known to have a great admiration for Cicero, and frequently tries to bring him over to his side, makes a point of telling Cicero that none of their conflict is personal, treats him like a close friend and promises him personal protection if he needs it. Cicero isn't above claiming friendship with Caesar either, even to his face. This despite each of them also viewing the other as probably their most dangerous adversary.
  • "Get out of Jail Free" Card: Cicero thinks he has one of these throughout the second book, thanks to his connections with Pompey and Caesar and his public popularity. He's wrong.
  • Glad I Thought of It: Pompey is said to do this a lot. At one point after giving a speech he asks if Cicero liked his choice of words, apparently forgetting that Cicero wrote the speech for him.
  • A God Am I: In Dictator, during Caesar and Cicero's last conversation, Caesar says he's not afraid of death, and Cicero asks him why. Caesar replies that he won't die with his body, because he's a god. Cicero realizes that all that power has driven Caesar mad.
  • Greed: This is Crassus' defining characteristic. He even visits Cicero on the eve of his exile and tries to buy his house at a knockdown price. Ultimately it proves to be Crassus' undoing, as he invades Parthia, a wealthy neighbouring kingdom, hoping to loot and conquer it, but instead gets killed in battle.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Catilina can be charming and charismatic but is also prone to bouts of violent rage in which he seems to forget where he is.
  • Happiness in Slavery: In Imperium Tiro comments on how he and the other household slaves are happy to belong to "so eminent a man" as Cicero. Averted later, however, as Tiro yearns for his own country farm and wishes Cicero would free him.
  • Heel–Face Revolving Door: Caelius Rufus, who starts out as one of Crassus's supporters, then supports Cicero after studying law with him, then throws his lot in with Clodius and leads the prosecution of Hybrida which is part of the campaign against Cicero. In Dictator they become allies again when Cicero defends Rufus in court.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Hortensius, Cicero's longtime rival, winds up the first novel by throwing his support to Cicero and getting him elected consul.
    • Catulus, a friend of Hortensius, who rips into Cicero for his low breeding in his first appearance, becomes one of his most trusted allies during Lustrum and arranges Cicero's unprecedented thanksgiving.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Cicero spends his life battling to save Roman liberty from various would-be tyrants. By the end of his career he's advocating the extra-judicial murder of Caesar's allies (like Mark Antony) and tells Brutus and Cassius that they should have just seized control of the Government when they had the chance.
  • Historical Domain Character: Most of the cast and all of the major characters. Tiro is traditionally credited with the invention of shorthand, as well as other symbols that exist to this day, such as the ampersand (&) to stand for "and".
  • Historical In-Joke:
    • On the first page Tiro says of Cicero that "it is of power and the man that I sing." This is a play on the opening line of Vergil's The Aeneid, "Of arms and the man I sing" (Arma virumque cano).
    • When Pompey gives his acceptance speech after the Lex Gabinia bestows upon him enormous power to defeat the pirates, he says "I shall now again put on that uniform once so dear and so familiar to me, the sacred red cloak of a Roman commander in the field, and I shall not take it off again until victory in this war is won—or I shall not survive the outcome!" Minus the bit about the sacred red cloak, this is nearly word-for-word a quote from Adolf Hitler's speech to the Reichstag upon the start of World War II, Sept. 1, 1939.
    • After Clodia is humiliated at Rufus's trial in Dictator, Tiro comments that she then receded into the obscurity which she deserved. The trial of Rufus is in fact the last mention of Clodia in the historical record.
    • Cicero announces Antony's defeat at Mutina to the people and says "This is your victory!" The people shout back "No, it is your victory!" This is a lift from Winston Churchill addressing the London crowds on V-E day in 1945.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: Half the cast. YMMV on whether they were actually as bad as they appear.
  • Honor Before Reason: Cicero takes this option a few times, but it rarely works out well for him.
  • Hope Spot: For a time in 43 BC, it seems everything has worked out—with Cicero calling the shots in Rome as acting consul, Antony is defeated at Mutina and the Senate has won. Then everything unravels: consuls Hirtius and Pansa are killed at Mutina, Antony escapes, Lepidus's legions go over to Antony, and then Octavian joins Antony as well, and the Republic is destroyed.
  • Human Sacrifice: Lustrum opens with the discovery of a boy slave who appears to have been butchered in a ritualistic human sacrifice. Cicero is appalled. It turns out that Catilina did it in order to bind together his fellow conspirators.
  • Impoverished Patrician: Catilina is bankrupt; Caesar is so far in debt he has to flee the city.
  • It's All About Me: Cicero becomes wildly egotistical after his consulship, comparing himself to Romulus and Pompey, attempting to write an epic poem about himself, and telling everyone how awesome he is. Tiro concludes that Cicero is doing this because he is wracked with guilt over the execution of five senators that were part of Catilina's conspiracy.
  • Kangaroo Court: Early in Lustrum Caesar arranges for the prosecution of an elderly senator for treason and gets himself appointed judge. He finds the Senator guilty and sentences him to be crucified without bothering to hear any witnesses. Rigging trials is a fairly regular occurrence, but this is blatant enough to shock even the harden practitioners.
  • Karma Houdini: Octavius, later Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus, later Augustus, never does face any comeuppance for betraying his word and overthrowing the Roman Republic, not to mention throwing Cicero to the wolves.
  • The Last DJ: Cato gains a lot of respect for his uncompromising old Republican ideals, but it doesn't mean anyone agrees with him or does him any favours.
    • He notes correctly that giving special commands to people like Pompey opens the pathway to military dictatorship (see Day of the Jackboot above). When Pompey has his triumph, Cato observes, again correctly, that Rome is invading and conquering far-flung areas that Romans have no business in, and that this expansionism is undermining the Republic.
    Caesar: Sit down, you damn sanctimonious windbag!
  • Last Stand: Catilina and the conspirators do this. After Catilina gives a rousing speech they charge the Senatorial army. Catilina is found surrounded by a group of soldiers that he killed
  • The Man Behind the Man: Crassus is this to many of Cicero's adversaries. Cicero increasingly becomes convinced that Caesar is this to Crassus.
  • Market-Based Title: Lustrum was released as Conspirata in the US and France.
  • Meaningful Name: Cicero comes from the Latin word cicer meaning "chickpea", Cicero keeps a bowl of chickpeas in his tablinum.
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name: Pompey upon taking up the authority bestowed on him by the Lex Gabinia; see Historical In-Joke above. The Lex Gabinia, concentrating as it did so much power in one man, is commonly regarded as a milestone in the collapse of the Roman Republic.
  • Non-Action Guy: As opposed to most other of the leading politicians of the era, Cicero is not a military man. He admits in Dictator that he is "too squeamish" to even watch others fight, much less fight himself. This sometimes makes him look bad and earns him a tongue-lashing from Quintus after Quintus, who unlike his brother fought at Pharsalus, learns that Cicero is giving up. See What the Hell, Hero? below.
    "What do you know of fighting," demanded Gnaeus Pompey, "you contemptible old coward?"
  • Not-So-Harmless Villain: Many characters, including Cicero, initially don't take Clodius seriously as a threat, assuming Lucullus will finish him off before he ever becomes a problem. This is a mistake.
  • Not So Stoic: Inverted with Cato's temper tantrums. Cicero jokes that he's always a perfect stoic until things go wrong. Yet after the disaster at Pharsalus he's the only one who remains perfectly calm and controlled.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Celer, as Tiro notes in his earliest appearance, is a lot cleverer than he seems. Pompey thinks he is cleverer than he seems, although it's not entirely clear whether he is.
  • Old Man Marrying a Child: Pompey (47) marries Julius Caesar's daughter Julia (14). Cicero is disgusted, and views it as Caesar prostituting his own child for the sake of maintaining an alliance, and yet Tiro notes that she seems to genuinely love Pompey and is happy with the whole arrangement.
    • Years later, Cicero himself marries a 15-year-old girl when he's 60, solely because she's from a rich family and he's in desperate need of money. Predictably, it's a complete disaster - unlike Pompey he's extremely uncomfortable with the arrangement, mostly ignores his young wife or tries to avoid her, and ends up quickly divorcing her largely because he finds the whole situation so painfully awkward.
  • Pet the Dog: Catilina congratulates Cicero on the birth of his son in such a way that, for a moment, he's almost likable.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Cicero gives two memorable ones—at Verres trial in Imperium and his speech in the Senate in Lustrum where he confronts Catilina. Both are based on historical record.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Most of Caesar's actions throughout Lustrum amount to this, from covering his co-consul in human excrement to prevent him from vetoing a bill to having Cato dragged bodily from the Senate during an attempted filibuster.
    • Crassus betrays Catilina to Cicero and almost without pausing for breath asks for the glory of the military command against him.
  • Rousing Speech: Averted in a big way in the third book. Cicero and the Senate recall the legions from Africa as their last-ditch defense against Octavian and Antony. Cicero gives a speech to the troops about Roman liberty and laws and freedoms. Tiro, watching the soldiers, observes that it has no effect on them whatsoever. The next day the African legions go over to Octavian, and the game is up.
    • There's a small amount of War Is Hell to explain this. Tiro notes the soldiers look half dead already and their indifference is portrayed sympathetically as a natural result of constant fighting both for and against the Republic.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Crassus pretty much defines this trope.
  • Self-Made Man: Cicero is this, which both makes him attractive to the plebs and earns him the resentment of the Blue Blood aristocrats who wield so much power in Rome.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Hortensius is supposedly the king of this trope.
  • Sexy Coat Flashing: When trying to seduce Cicero into defending her brother, Clodia drops her cloak and shows she has nothing on underneath.
  • Shout-Out: Cassius is "pale and thin", according to Caesar. This is a shout-out to Julius Caesar and Caesar's description of Cassius's "lean and hungry look."
  • Shown Their Work: Harris wants you to know that the books are meticulously researched, although tries to work this in naturally. Occasionally he slips up.
  • Simple Country Lawyer: Crassus tries this in one Senate hearing. It works.
  • Slave Liberation: Tiro, himself a slave, buys Agathe's freedom in Lustrum. In Dictator, Cicero frees Tiro in recognition of his decades of service. It's an emotional moment for Tiro.
  • Smug Snake: Lucullus and Hortensius, at least at first. Pompey is painfully found out when battling Caesar in Greece.
    • Clodia as well. She is defeated very easily once Cicero decides to retaliate.
  • Stress Vomit: Often happens to Cicero before giving an important speech.
  • The Sociopath:
    • Tiro diagnoses Caesar as this after recounting how when Caesar heard of his chief engineer's death that he was relatively indifferent. Tiro remarks that he must have known the man for 10 years so he was appallingly cavalier and suggests that this "coldness of nature" was the reason for his success.
    • Catilina. He is a hot tempered aristocrat fond of human sacrifice and perfectly willing to kill women to cover up his conspiracies. His goals are ill thought out and haphazard and rely heavily on others doing the planning (weapons from Pompey, support from Crassus and Caesar etc.). He is also noted as very brave, possibly reckless, in battle.
  • Third-Person Person: Tiro reads from Caesar's account of the Gallic Wars, notes that Caesar refers to himself in the third person, and says "He writes of himself with wonderful detachment."
  • Title Drop:
    • Early in the first novel Tiro refers to "imperium", the power of life and death, given to men by the state.
    • And a "lustrum" is a Roman word for a period of five years; Lustrum deals with Cicero's consulship in 63 BC and the four years thereafter.
    • Lots of title drops in the third book as Caesar takes up the title of "dictator".
  • Took a Level in Badass: Several characters- Clodius, Rufus, Caesar, even Cicero himself, at the start of the first book.
  • Torches and Pitchforks: A torch-wielding mob goes on a rampage after Antony whips them into a fury with his speech at Caesar's funeral.
  • Unaccustomed as I Am to Public Speaking...: Pompey making his Cincinnatus speech, which has been written down for him by Cicero. It actually works.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: Pompey, who doesn't lift a finger to help Cicero get elected consul after Cicero got Pompey his special command under the Lex Gabinia. And again when Pompey does nothing to help Cicero avoid exile, after Cicero has been arguing for Pompey's bills in the Senate.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Played with. Tiro repeatedly points out that he's trying to be honest about Cicero, regardless of whether it shows him in the best light. He has no such restraint with a couple of the characters whom he dislikes.
  • Villain Ball: This seems to happen to Clodius. After his exposure at the rites of the Good Goddess, he quickly turns from an unpredictable but harmless figure into the new face of the mob - which ultimately ends in gang war and his death. If he'd just apologised and left Rome when Cicero advised him to, he'd probably have got away with it.
    • Caesar as well. Having achieved everything he could possibly want and defeated all his enemies, it promptly goes straight to his head. Declaring A God Am I and taking Cleopatra to Rome, appointing people to fixed roles in the senate for the next 5 years aggravating friend and foe alike and finally removing his bodyguards after a subtle quip from Cicero.
  • Villain Takes an Interest: Crassus blows Cicero away in Imperium by approaching him and offering him support in achieving everything he wants if he'll just take a leading role in altering Pompey's bill (to something probably more objectively reasonable). Cicero rejects him, firstly because it would mean breaking with Pompey, but mostly because he doesn't want to be obliged to Crassus for any positions he later achieves.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Verres starts out at this, bulletproof behind his influential friends and good name, while the only people prepared to speak against him are foreigners. Finding a way to expose him is what really launches Cicero's career.
  • Violence Really Is the Answer: After spending most of his career trying to be the voice of reason and prevent civil war, during the last year of his career Cicero is vehemently opposing any compromise with Antony and insisting he must be utterly destroyed.
  • Visionary Villain: Cicero at one point claims that Caesar wants to smash the world and rebuild it in his own image, whereas most of the others are content to rule it. Caesar tells Cicero straight up that he won't settle for anything less than being the top man in Rome. For all that, Caesar's policies are designed to address genuine problems in Rome that many other characters are content to ignore. It's never entirely clear whether Caesar genuinely cares about the people, or whether they're just a stepping-stone on his route to the top.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: A drunk Antony vomits in the Senate house before going on a harangue against Cicero.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Quintus launches into a righteously pissed speech at Cicero after finding out that Cicero has abandoned the cause of the Senate against Caesar, leaving Quintus hanging. They're estranged for some time, but eventually reconcile.
  • We Can Rule Together: Caesar offers Cicero a chance to become the fourth member of the Triumvirate. Cicero turns him down, and from then on is fighting a losing battle.
  • Women's Mysteries: The rituals of the "Good Goddess" (Bona Dea), which are female-only, to the extent that Terentia wears a cloak buttoned up to her neck to prevent Cicero from seeing her robe. A great scandal occurs when Clodius sneaks into the ceremony Disguised in Drag and is caught.
  • You Wouldn't Like Me When I'm Angry!: Caesar tries to dissuade Cicero with this. Twice.
  • Young Future Famous People: Mark Antony is introduced as an 18-year-old hellraiser who hangs out with Clodius. The second time Antony pops up, two years later, all Tiro can remember is how many pimples Antony had.


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