...the real triumph of Dictator is how successfully it channels what is perhaps the supreme fascination of ancient Rome: the degree to which it is at once eerily like our own world and yet profoundly alien.
Harris’s style is a curious blend of contemporary idiom with Latin vocabulary so precise it requires a separate glossary; while the modern language may jar with historical purists, the research underpinning it is so meticulous that the reader feels wholly absorbed into Cicero’s world, and this is Harris’s real achievement.
Harris seems to have mastered every telling aspect of the world and the conflicts he dramatizes, from the excitement occasioned by each new account of Caesar’s far-off triumphs ('whenever his Commentaries were posted .?.?. crowds would gather and remain there all day reading of his exploits,') to the strategy for conferring executive clemency (above all, make the grantor look good).
Those of us lacking in the specifics or even, at times, the basics, of the toga-and-sandals era need not fret. Harris-as-Tiro manages to be both an insider and a memoirist capable of providing context without sounding like an encyclopedia ... This is storytelling at its finest – and not to be missed.