One of my favorite readers and book commentators Katherine Powers, who suggested this book to me, observes:
Hindsight, foreshadowing, and, indeed, resonance with our own time, pervade the book. This, like the previous volume, is a fascinating treatment of brute politics, confounded civic virtue, and now, increasingly, demagoguery and the Dionysian convulsions of the masses. The Roman Republic is on its last legs; with its constitution stretched and tattered, governance is a dirty businessa necessarily dirty businessfor Rome’s citizens are not, as Cicero writes to his friend Atticus, living in Plato’s Republic, but in Romulus’s shit hole.Ms. Powers concludes:
I wonder, Harris has Cicero say elsewhere, what men will think of us a thousand years from now We have so muchour arts and learning, laws, treasure, slaves, the beauty of Italy, dominion over the entire earthand yet why is it that some ineradicable impulse of the human mind always impels us to foul our own nest? The answer here, nearly two thousand years on, is that when we think of Rome we think of our dismal, unraveling future. Still, that takes nothing away from the pleasure to be had from these witty, briskly written, historically rich novels.