I knew about the topic of this book from my high school years. I don’t know how many times I had to translate some of Caesar’s and Cicero’s passages as part of my Latin classes. Yet, reading Valerio Massdimo Manfredi’s version of the events that lead to Caesar’s assassination - enriched by details, characters’ insights and cultural references - was a real pleasure.
As usual, Manfredi’s books combine the competence of an expert and the skills of a talented novelist. A good way to learn history, especially if you are not keen on reading specialized textbooks.
The story: Caius Julius Caesar has recently pacified the state. He defeated his fiercest opponents, pardoned many of his foes and refused to be crowned king, a move that would have exposed him as a despicable tyrant. Yet, the freedom and social rights enjoyed by the citizens during the Republican era are gone. A good share of the population, including some of the most respectable senators, are not happy with the new situation and are planning their revenge. The leaders of the conspiracy are two of those Caesar’s enemies that were pardoned by him: Brutus and Cassius. Cicero, the great orator, who a few years earlier had managed to neutralize Catiline’s coup attempt, is on the side of the conspiracy, but doesn’t intend to get involved. Antonio, the best of Cesar’s generals and friends, as of late has had an ambiguous attitude. In the background a multitude of spies, soldiers and messengers are racing against time in order to back up either side.
Although we already know the final outcome, the author manages to keep up thrilled to the very last page.