Robert Harris is the best historical novelist on the scene today. He puts you in the time period. You come away knowing those people. Everything he writes is so readable.
Conspirata is a sequel to Harris’ novel Imperium, which chronicles the rise of Cicero in ancient Rome. He sticks to the facts and to the actual speeches of Cicero as much as possible, which is what make this so valuable. You feel you know these people afterwards.
Conspirata tells of Cicero’s consulship in which he ruled over the Roman Empire for a brief period, his work as a senator, and his brilliance as a lawyer and orator. It’s impossible to recommend this novel too highly; I loved it.
I was struck by the conditions in Rome at the time the story begins, which is 63 B.C. This was the most civilized and progressive society known to western man at the time. We still speak of “the glory that was Rome.” It was glorious, but only to a point and dependent on the strata of society you occupied. Not everyone had it good.
Into this world, Jesus Christ was born. Into this culture the gospel came. To these people, God sent a Savior.
Here is an excerpt. As you read it, ask yourself, “Man, did these people ever need a Savior?”
Such was the state of the city on the eve of Cicero’s consulship–a vortex of hunger, rumor, and anxiety, of crippled veterans and bankrupt farmers begging at every corner; of roistering bands of drunken young men terrorizing shopkeepers; of women from good families openly prostituting themselves outside the taverns; of sudden conflagrations, violent tempests….and scavenging dogs; of fanatics, soothsayers, beggars, fights. (p. 7)
And that’s only one paragraph!
Superstition pervaded every aspect of life. When the Senate convened, before any business was enacted, priests performed rituals to determine “the auguries,” or supernatural signs. Flights of birds or lightning flashes were interpreted as warnings or encouragements.